The Bush ship is sinking without strategist Rove
November 1, 2005
It’s a sad joke whenever you go to a party or a gathering with sharp people present, and the subject of George Bush’s intelligence comes up. Everyone laughs rather sadly because everyone in the room is smarter than George Bush, and everyone knows it. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens – it doesn’t matter, most people who are somewhat successful in the world are smarter than our president.So how did a former drug and alcohol abuser with a sketchy military record get into the White House?Karl Rove – that’s how.Years ago, when George Bush was running for the governorship of Texas, Karl Rove hitched his team to George W. Bush’s wagon and went for the long ride. Rove has forsaken most everything to be where he is – the closest advisor to the most powerful man in the world. He’s not married and he has no great assets. Karl Rove has not made a fortune in business – he makes $157,000 a year working in the White House. Despite having attended several different colleges, he has not earned a college degree. He has sacrificed greatly for the most intoxicating of all drugs – power.The two remind me of the characters in “Thunderdome,” where the angry little midget sits atop a massive armor-clad beast of a man who turns out to be a Mongoloid with a beatific, childlike face – an idiot.Rove has been brilliant as the architect of Bush’s ascension to power. As mastermind of two presidential campaigns, one of which was won through political sleight of hand, Rove was masterful. His bag of dirty tricks and behind-the-scenes manipulations will be the handbook of political campaigns for years to come.With Bush in the White House, Rove took on the role of policy advisor, blurring the lines between political strategist and government wonk.While Rove was formerly a freelancer in the Bush White House, with the title of “senior advisor to the President,” in February Rove was appointed deputy chief of staff, with official duties of overseeing the National Security Council, the Domestic Policies Council, the National Economic Council and the Homeland Security Council.For someone who has to do all of George Bush’s thinking at the same time, that’s a big job. And now he’s blowing it. He’s losing his political grip.The Bush Administration response to Hurricane Katrina was pitiful, and it was a bad political move to seem callous to all those black voters – many of whom are now settling in Tom DeLay’s district. Then, of course, milestone numbers always grab public attention, and though more people die each year falling off ladders, 2,000 dead soldiers in Iraq means a great deal – in a personal sense to the families of the fallen, but more importantly in a political sense to George W. Bush. White House counselor Harriet Miers, of course, was a disastrous Supreme Court nominee. What was Rove thinking? Democrats questioned her qualifications and conservatives didn’t think she was conservative enough. Conservatives were supposed to be happy with the “wink-wink” endorsement offered by James Dobson, founder of the religious-right group Focus on the Family; Rove obviously had a heart-to-heart with Miers and then passed Miers’ views on abortion to Dobson. It didn’t work.But the biggest issue for Rove is the fallout from one of his routine nasty tricks, the like of which he has done a thousand times before: blowing the cover of Valerie Plame. When you’re trying to drum up any available excuse to attack another nation and install a new government, the specter of a despot building nuclear weapons is pretty scary. It’s a good excuse to roll the tanks. We sat in our living rooms watching Colin Powell point to satellite photos of supposed mobile biological weapons labs and listened to stories of Iraqi agents trying to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger, and it all turned out to be lies. Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador who was dispatched to Niger at the request of the Bush administration to check out the rumors of the supposed sale of yellowcake to Iraq, could verify nothing of the kind and reported the same back to the government. When his report was ignored and the uranium story was trumpeted as fact in the drumbeat to war, he wrote an opinion in The New York Times disputing it.”Ach, nein!” said Rove, who then searched for a way to retaliate. He settled on classified information in his files – Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent. He spoke with Robert Novak, who dutifully leaked the information in his nationally syndicated column. While outing Valerie Plame would certainly put her life in danger, a sinister act, she also stood to reap the rewards of honoraria and royalty advances on books that she would write, ultimately making her a martyr for the cause. But Rove just couldn’t resist. He also overlooked a big detail: Disclosing the identity of a CIA agent is a felony. Lying about it to a grand jury is another felony. This particular dirty trick has come back to bite Rove in the ass.As an aside, Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s closest advisor, actually got indicted for the same act, has resigned, and is taking his whipping like a man. Harriet Miers withdrew from consideration for the Supreme Court, not because she and Bush didn’t want her at the job, but because, as chief White House counsel, she undoubtedly huddled with Rove and Libby about the Valerie Plame affair, and because Rove and Libby were not technically her clients, their conversations were not protected by attorney/client privilege and she might have to disclose what she knew in confirmation hearings. Politically, it was a huge blunder.As an aside, Saddam Hussein sits in an Iraqi courtroom and argues his innocence of charges of genocide because his country, he says, was illegally invaded by the United States, and the government prosecuting him has no legitimacy. Given the Bush administration’s false justifications for going to war, he may just be right.One thing Bush cannot bear is to lose Karl Rove. He has been called back to testify before the grand jury on four occasions. No doubt he’s been dissembling and equivocating and saying “I might have” and “I don’t exactly recall,” taking a page from Bill Clinton’s book, irony of ironies.Defending one’s self against criminal indictment for several felonies takes a lot of time and focus. It’s a big job to defend against felonies, retaliate against enemies, run a war, run the country, and think for George W. Bush all at the same time. That’s why the Bush ship is sinking.Gary Hubbell is a freelance writer and photographer, and native of Carbondale.