April 1, 2007
The Rovian Era
Turn over a scandal in Washington these days and the chances are youll
find Karl Rove. His tracks are everywhere: whether its helping to purge
United States attorneys, coaching bureaucrats on how to spend taxpayers
money to promote Republican candidates, hijacking the White House Office
of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for partisan politics, or helping
to organize a hit on the character of one of the first people to publicly
reveal the twisting of intelligence reports on Iraq.
Whatever the immediate objective, Mr. Rove seems focused on one
overarching goal: creating a permanent Republican majority, even if that
means politicizing every aspect of the White House and subverting the
governmental functions of the executive branch. This is not the Clinton
administrations permanent campaign. The Clinton people had difficulty
distinguishing between the spin cycle of a campaign and the tone of
governing. That seems quaint compared with the Bush administrations far
more menacing failure to distinguish the Republican Party from the
government, or the state itself.
This was, perhaps, the inevitable result of taking the chief operative of
a presidential campaign, one famous for his scorched-earth style, and
ensconcing him in the White House not in a political role, but as a key
player in the formation of policy. Mr. Rove never had to submit to Senate
confirmation hearings. Yet, from the very start, photographs of cabinet
meetings showed him in the background, keeping an enforcers eye on the
proceedings. After his re-election in 2004, President Bush formally put
Mr. Rove in charge of all domestic policy.
In that position, as David Kirkpatrick and Jim Rutenberg reported in The
Times, Mr. Rove took a lead role in selecting federal judges and the
hiring and firing of United States attorneys. Mr. Roves staff
maneuvered to fire the prosecutor in Arkansas and replace him with a Rove
protégé, and also seems to have been involved in the firing of a United
States attorney in New Mexico who refused to file what he considered to be
baseless charges of election fraud against Democrats.
Mr. Roves efforts to maintain one-party rule go deep into the government.
Last week, we learned about a meeting set up by Mr. Roves staff with
officials of the General Services Administration that was wildly
inappropriate and perhaps illegal. The aim, as outlined by Mr. Roves
deputy, Scott Jennings, seems to have been to take advantage of the
billions of dollars in contracts put out by the agency every year to
return Republicans to the majority in Congress in 2008. It included
PowerPoint slides on vulnerable House and Senate seats.
This sort of behavior should not be all that surprising. It was not that
long ago that the Bush White House embraced the priorities of the
Republican governor of Mississippi and virtually ignored the far greater
needs of Louisianas Democratic governor after Hurricane Katrina.
Mr. Rove retreated a bit from the public eye in the heat of the Lewis
Libby trial, but after avoiding indictment, he seems to have regained his
confidence. Take a look at YouTube to see his bizarre, humor-challenged
gyrations as MC Rove at an annual media dinner in Washington the other
The investigation of the firings of the United States attorneys seems to
be closing in on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who should have been
fired weeks ago. But Congress should bring equal scrutiny to the more
powerful Mr. Rove. If it does, especially by forcing him to testify in
public, it will find that he has been at the vortex of many of the biggest
issues they are now investigating.
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