Karl Rove: Time For A Career Change?



Bush`s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush
Presidential


by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater, hardback, pp. 400



Boy Genius: Karl Rove, the Brains Behind the Remarkable
Political Triumph of George W. Bush


by Lou Dubose, Jan Reid, and Carl M. Cannon, paperback,
pp. 256

Humorist Dave Barry once

explained
why he is never comfortable in our
nation`s capital, "When I`m in Washington, I always
feel as though I`m the only person there who never ran
for Student Council."
Karl Rove, who was elected
class president in junior and senior high school, is
much more at home.

Still, Rove hasn`t run for any office himself since
getting elected national chairman of the College
Republicans in 1973 with Lee Atwater`s help. The chubby
and intense Rove lacks the looks and likeability an
ambitious politician needs. So, he`s a natural staff
man, one who understood his destiny early.

Apolitical, nonreligious Scandinavian parents raised
Rove in Utah. He fell in love with Richard Nixon when he
was ten. The more substantive of the two new Rove
biographies,

Bush`s Brain
by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater,

quotes
Mark McKinnon, Rove`s TV ad maker: "When
the President was growing up, he wanted to be

Willie Mays.
But when Karl was growing up, he wanted
to be senior adviser to the President.
"

Similarly, according to

Boy Genius
, a quickie biography of Rove by
Lou Dubose, Jan Reid, Carl M. Cannon: "Once, during a
panel discussion, … the moderator asked Rove when his
obsession with being on the inside of presidential power
and history began. Rove`s comeback was unhesitating:
`December 25, 1950.` It was the day he was born."

Neither book does a good job of bringing to life Rove`s
human side. Whether that`s because both authorial teams
are biased against Republicans like Rove, or because
Rove simply doesn`t have much of a human side, remains
an open question. Still, both books furnish quite
similar pictures of Rove`s career and character.

Ever since he moved to Texas in 1977 to help George H.W.
Bush`s 1980 Presidential bid, Rove has displayed the
perfect attributes for a consigliere to the Bush
Family. He is intelligent, well read, organized,
determined, no more truthful than he needs to be, and
obsessively competitive. His second wife, Darby,

told
a reporter, "Even in croquet he`d be hitting
my ball so far I was crying on vacation."

One
Texas lobbyist who has been both an ally and adversary
of Rove down through the years remarked, "It is in
Karl`s nature to engulf and devour and control and to
rule."
A Republican friend and staunch Bush ally
observed, "The problem with Karl is that his enemies
list never ends. Once you`re on it, it does not end."

Rove is especially vindictive toward fellow Republicans
who get in his way. Rep.

Tom Tancredo
, head of the Congressional Immigration
Reform

caucus
and the main opponent of Rove`s so-far failed

amnesty proposal
for Mexican illegal aliens, is
clearly a

brave man
.

The
authors of both books act as if they have been cruelly
disillusioned by their discoveries about Rove. More
objective readers, however, won`t be terribly shocked to
discover that this crafty political operator isn`t a
nice guy.

Rove comes across in both Boy Genius and
Bush`s Brain
as a valuable dynastic retainer, but
not somebody you`d care to pal around with. And that
seems to be exactly the way he is treated by George W.
Bush. One of the President`s most useful attributes is
his hereditary aristocrat`s confidence that he just
plain deserves to have more talented people than
himself slaving away on his behalf. When Rove gets a
little above himself, as he occasionally does when

giving interviews
to admiring reporters, Bush is
quick to slap him back down into his place by switching
Rove`s nickname from "boy genius" to
"turd blossom."

Here at VDARE.com, our primary objection to Rove`s
influence has revolved around a single issue —
immigration. We`ve no doubt spent far more time thinking
about the subject than he has, but how can we be right
and Rove be wrong when he`s a "genius"?

The
assumption that Rove is an infallible megabrain largely
rests on the presumption that Bush is such a moron that
only a genius could have made him what he is today. In
reality, Bush`s people skills in small settings are
outstanding. Further, he absorbed and retained a lot
from his

Harvard Business School courses
on structuring and
managing organizations. And, he likes making decisions
and doesn`t appear to lose sleep over them. People want
that in a leader.

Finally, when it comes to raw IQ, Bush is in the
mid-range of American Presidents. In 1999,

Charles Murray
and I

calculated
, based on Bush`s SAT score of 1206
(old-style scoring system), that his IQ was probably
about 125 or a little higher, which would put him at
least at the 95th percentile. In contrast, Gore was
tested at 134, Nixon at 143, and Kennedy at 118. The
late historian Jim Chapin told me during the 2000
campaign that he estimated Bush would rank in the second
quartile of all Presidents on IQ, and Gore in the third
quartile.

On
the downside, Bush doesn`t exercise his brain much by

reading
, as both books document. For somebody
reasonably smart, he`s embarrassingly ignorant. My guess
is that Bush feels that he must not strain himself
mentally to the point where he might slip off the wagon;
but I don`t know for sure: it`s hard to learn anything
at all definite about the President`s

battle with the bottle
.

For
example, Rove probably cost Bush the popular vote
victory in the 2000 election by not demanding that his
candidate reveal early on in the campaign that he was
arrested in 1976 for drunk driving. Instead, the
Democrats unveiled it at the perfect time: just before
the election, when Rove was publicly predicting a
six-point victory.

The
evidence that Rove is more than just highly competent is
thin. Rove`s ascent benefited from a hole opened up in the
top ranks of Republican Party campaign management by the
tragic death at age 40 of his mentor

Atwater
, a legendary wild man who seems far more
deserving of the "genius" title. Once Atwater was gone,
Rove`s competition among Republican operators wasn`t
that stiff. Why? Perhaps because Burkean conservatism is
fundamentally about defending some

non-politicized space
where a person can have a
life. Thus, there`s something more than a little
contradictory about being both a conservative and a
168-hour per week political cadre like Rove.

Rove did manage quite a few Republicans to victory in
Texas, but he was definitely being helped along by the
political and demographic winds in the Lone Star State.
About all you can say about his management of Bush`s
2000 race against Al Gore was that the Constitution
mandates that somebody had to win. Rove`s decision to
spend about $20 million in California was a particularly

bad call
. Rove had relatively little to do with the

post-election
legal maneuvering that eventually made
Bush the President.

Much of Rove`s recent sky-high reputation, like his
master`s, stems from the aftershocks of 9-11. Yet, while
Rove has a finger in every pot in the White House, he`s
less important on national security, which has been by
far the most important engine of Bush`s popularity.

The
odd thing is that 9-11 made much of the Rove`s agenda
politically obsolete. For example, the first round of
tax cuts had been justified as handing back to the
public the budget surplus, which vanished along with the
World Trade Center.
Bush`s second round of tax cuts
has taken a

beating
from Congressional Republicans because they
make little political sense at this time when the White
House has simultaneously stoked war fever so high that
the public is in a mood to pay more.

Bush`s faith-based initiatives weren`t moving fast
before 9-11, and then the Wahhabi terrorist attacks
meant the taxpayers were in no mood to subsidize
programs run by

mosques
. Similarly, the

alliance
between Rove and

Grover Norquist
to pander to Arab and

Muslim voters
, which led to

Bush calling for relaxing anti-terrorist laws
during
the second presidential debate in 2000, didn`t survive
9-11.

Most spectacularly, Rove`s

plan
to reward Mexicans who had illegally crossed
the border into America was dead in the water after
9-11. It had been

listing severely
even before then, as many
Congressional Republicans, led by Rep. Tancredo, turned
against it by August of 2001.

As
I wrote on

September 10, 2001:

"Bush`s unofficial point
man on immigration in the House, Rep. Chris Cannon,
R-Utah, has signaled that he doesn`t want to try to
introduce a bill until 2003, saying, "I don`t even know
if we can get a bill in this Congress…

"It`s easy to see why
Congressional Republicans lack enthusiasm [for the
Administration`s amnesty plan]. The short-term benefits
to the Republican Party appear trivial at best, while
the long-term costs could be substantial. As United
Press International revealed in July, unpublished Census
Bureau data shows that the size of the Mexican-American
vote is much smaller than is widely imagined: only 3
percent in 2000. Moreover, 72 percent of
Mexican-American voters live in California and Texas,
two states whose electoral votes probably won`t be up
for grabs in 2004. In the rest of the country,
Mexican-Americans cast 1.1 percent of the votes. The
overall Hispanic vote comprised 5.4 percent of the
national total. While growing, it probably won`t exceed
6 percent by much in 2004. Not surprisingly,
Congressional Democrats quickly met the president`s bid
and raised it by offering to extend amnesty to all
immigrant groups, not just Mexicans. Democrats have been
more thrilled by amnesty than have Republicans because,
in the long run, putting Mexican illegal aliens on the
road to becoming American voters appears likely to help
Democrats more. Over the past 40 years, no GOP
presidential candidate has won more than 40 percent of
the Mexican-American vote…

"So why did Karl Rove
and the rest of the Bush braintrust misread the
political situation? Why did the White House fail to
anticipate Congressional Republicans` concerns that
amnesty would undermine the GOP? The Bush team appears
to have been the victims of residing in an echo chamber
with a mainstream media corps that — for reasons of
innumeracy, fashion, self-interest, self-image and fear
— failed to challenge the Bush advisers` sloppy
thinking about immigration."

In
summary, the tragedies of the next day saved Rove from
the massive public embarrassment of having Republicans in
Congress openly revolt against the White House over
amnesty. Instead, the Administration was able to quietly
drop active support of the plan, leaving it to the
hapless Democrat Dick Gephardt to imprudently introduce
an

amnesty bill
just before the 2002 election.

So,
Rove is indeed fallible, especially on immigration.

What was behind his politically misguided thinking?
Unlike most journalists, Rove no doubt knew just how

insignificant
the Mexican-American vote is, and how
crucial the white vote is. (In 2000, there were 27
non-Hispanic white voters for every Mexican voter!) When
the crunch came at the end of the 2002 campaign, Rove
didn`t waste effort on Hispanics. Instead, he rolled out
a huge

get-out-the-vote drive in white neighborhoods
. The
non-appearance of the VNS exit polls deprived us of
national demographics, but from my study of the results,
I think it`s highly likely that, despite all the
Bush-Rove blather about minority outreach, a

lower percentage
of the GOP`s vote came from
minorities than in any recent election. Rove knows that

Republicans win
when whites (1.) turn out and (2.)
vote Republican. Minority voters are essentially
trivial. The Iraq issue excited whites last year, while
leaving minorities, whose numbers at the polls

declined
, bored.

Judging from these two books, Rove, a man with a lot on
his plate, spends almost no time thinking about
immigration. When he does address it, it is mostly for
disingenuous Dick Morris-style symbolic purposes.
(Morris became famous for having Clinton endorse
socially conservative "micropolicies" like uniforms for
public school students.)

Moore and Slater quote an illuminating 1985

memo
Rove wrote to his candidate Bill Clements, an
ex-governor of Texas planning a comeback.

"The purpose of saying
you gave teachers a record pay increase is to reassure
suburban voters with kids, not to win the votes of
teachers. Similarly, emphasizing your appointments of
women and minorities will not win you the support of
feminists and the leaders of the minority community; but
it will bolster your support among Republican primary
voters and urban independents."

It`s easy to see how Rove similarly visualized his
amnesty for illegal immigrants as a way to reassure nice
people that Bush was nice. The problem with Rove
amnesty, though, was that immigration is not a
micropolicy like school uniforms. Immigration is a
macropolicy, one that has as much long term impact on
the nation as anything. It`s not suitable for political
manipulators like Rove to play games with.

In
conclusion, how could Rove`s undeniable talents be best
put to work in the future in service to his country and
party?

Strangely, the Bush Administration, since conquering its
new Iraqi satrapy, has been acting towards it with a
timid indecisiveness disturbingly reminiscent of the
Carter years. Rather than declaring martial law and
immediately demonstrating to Iraqis who is in charge,
the White House adopted a hands-off, laissez-faire
policy. This

"Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom"
approach seemed to be
based on the assumption that Iraq`s looting louts,
clamorous clansmen, mad mullahs, and café conspirators
were as ready for self-government as would be, say,
American Republicans. Conversely, under Rove, the Bush
Administration has

treated
American Republicans as if they were a

treacherous conquered tribe
that must be ruled with
an

iron rod.

Clearly, the ideal solution would be to ship Karl Rove
to Baghdad–to serve as the First Viceroy of
Mesopotamia.


[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]