Monday, August 13, 2007

Final Rovian Thoughts

The Karl Rove chapter has come to a quiet, anti-climatic end in Washington. Instead of a historic realignment, he contributed to a Republican disaster in the latest mid-term elections, and the legacy of his most famous client -- George W. Bush -- remains enmeshed in the shifting sands of Iraq.

A brand-new postmortem (written before the announcement) by Joshua Green in the Atlantic summarizes the flaw as pursuing the permanent -- and divisive -- campaign into domestic politics:

Entitlement reform is a different animal. More important than reaching a majority is offering political cover to those willing to accept the risk of tampering with cherished programs, and the way to do this is by enlisting the other side. So the fact that Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress after 2002—to Rove, a clinching argument for confrontation—actually lessened the likelihood of entitlement reform. Congressional Republicans didn’t support Rove’s plan in 2003 to tackle Social Security or immigration reform because they didn’t want to pass such things on a party-line vote. History suggested they’d pay a steep price at election time.
Rove was without equal at hard-hitting, partisan campaigns that sought a governing majority of 50.1%; like much else in politics, his greatest strength became his greatest weakness.

Rove's departure brings a thematic end to the Bush Presidency. After tax cuts and 'No Child Behind', the domestic agenda is over. All that is left is the resolution of Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan, and -- perhaps -- Iran.

But Rove must have known that his departure will have serious consequences to the 43 Presidency. So we must ask: Why Now?

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