Now Who's Behind The Curtain?

This week presidential advisor Karl Rove announced he will soon depart from the White House. It is unclear at this point who will take his place as the power behind the throne.

Clearly Rove was one of the most powerful staffers in American history. It's no exaggeration to say that Rove won the presidency for Bush twice. Many disagreed with his tactics, of course. History will judge whether Rove truly served the nation well. My own view is that he won short-term victories but may well have destroyed any hope of reaching long-term conservative goals. The Bush Administration's relentless expansion of executive power will come back to haunt us.

Rove's abrasive attitude wasn't helpful, either. Crunchy Con has an interesting story about Rove and Bush, taken from a recent article in Atlantic Monthly.

Dick Armey, the House Republican majority leader when Bush took office (and no more a shrinking violet than DeLay), told me a story that captures the exquisite pettiness of most members of Congress and the arrogance that made Bush and Rove so inept at handling them.

“For all the years he was president,” Armey told me, “Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we’d do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn’t like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president’s autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it.”

Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. “Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, ‘It would probably wind up on eBay,’” Armey continued. “Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It’s stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it’s stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office.”

George W. Bush came into office promising to be a uniter, not a divider. Was Karl Rove helpful in that regard? Apparently not.

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