June 17, 2006


Fall Elections Are Rove's Next Test (Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz, June 17, 2006, Washington Post)

Most Republicans and Democrats interviewed for this article said Rove's White House stature has been diminished only slightly, and perhaps only temporarily, by Bush's political problems and the leak probe. Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman, struggled to find the right superlative. "He is, he is, he is, well, Karl Rove," Gillespie said. And Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler called him the "shrewdest of his generation -- and the toughest."

The record, they say, speaks for itself: Rove was the architect of a series of victories for Bush -- the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, as well as the 2002 midterms -- that left Democrats demoralized and divided. While it might be Washington myth that Rove is responsible for all of Bush's wins -- after all, it was the president who executed the plans and earned the vote -- the balding Texan with the mischievous grin gets much of the credit in the eyes of Republicans and Democrats alike.

He also gets the blame when numbers go down. "Karl is rightly called a genius, and, like any genius, his can be big mistakes," said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). He said that Rove is the smartest political mind in the party today but that his efforts to "buy votes" from independents by expanding the education system and creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit in the first term are hurting Republicans badly today. "Those issues turned off the base," Feeney said.

The Social Security debate, however, was probably his biggest blunder, Republicans inside and outside the White House said. Fresh off the 2004 victory, Rove convinced Bush that an in-depth analysis of past second-term presidents showed the only way to succeed was to act quickly and boldly. Internally, Rove championed a plan to restructure Social Security by allowing younger Americans to put some of the their Social Security taxes into private accounts in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed benefits.

Rove gambled that Bush could bend Congress and a skeptical public to his will. He was wrong.
Mr. Feeney, of course, has it exactly backwards. What he counsels is buying the votes of the Right -- which the GOP obviously already has -- by playing up pointless hot button issues and ignoring the kinds of sweeping entitlement reforms that are transforming government. There is a class of Republicans like this, who have made their peace with the Second Way and prefer a status quo they can blame on seventy years of Democratic control of Washington to making serious change if it means that the resulting big government will be a Republican project. In effect, they're stuck in a minority mindset and unwilling to assume the responsibilities that come with the power they want to hold.

Karl Rove Laughs Last: Why his non-indictment is such good news for the White House (Fred Barnes, 06/26/2006, Weekly Standard)

On Social Security reform, I suspect the president would not have made it his top domestic priority in his second term without Rove's urging. In fact, he might not have broached the subject at all, despite having raised it in his 2000 campaign. But Rove was convinced the public was ready to accept sweeping reforms of Social Security. So Bush stepped front and center.

The conventional wisdom is that Bush's failed pitch for Social Security reform in 2005 was a political and substantive disaster. It surely didn't help Bush's job approval rating. The president moved the ball, though, making partial privatization far more publicly acceptable,
but probably leaving the job of achieving it to a successor. Conservatives should be thrilled with Bush on Social Security since he boldly went where Reagan feared to tread.

On immigration, Rove has reinforced Bush's instincts, which are to seek the maximum--stiffer border enforcement, a temporary worker program, and earned citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States. This irritates conservatives who favor enforcement only, but matches the view of Reagan, the conservative standard-bearer.

Immigration affects the Hispanic vote, a long-term obsession of Rove and Bush. In 2004, Bush lifted the Republican share of that vote to 44 percent, a record for a Republican presidential candidate. Left to their own devices, conservatives and congressional Republicans would enact an enforcement-only bill that might drive away Hispanics and deny Republicans a lasting majority in America. Rove and Bush are eager to prevent that by saving conservatives from themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 17, 2006 9:21 AM

--On immigration, Rove has reinforced Bush's instincts, which are to seek the maximum--stiffer border enforcement,---


Posted by: Sandy P at June 17, 2006 1:54 PM

Rove may well have gotten some SS reform were it not for Katrina, which threw a massive Monkey wrench into everything.

But even there, he deserves some blame. The American penchant for adding a layer of corrupt bureaucracy (DHS, NCLB, Medicare Part IV, 9/11 Commission recommendations) will be the downfall of our civilization.

Rove has been behind many of these massive Bureaucratic Expansions, all for electoral expediency - all when one highway or farmbill veto would have held the base even better (A CFR veto fits this as well).

Sometimes it just pays to do what's right.

Posted by: Bruno at June 19, 2006 1:08 AM

Katrina didn't matter. When none of the Democrats would support SS Reform it meant you need 60 GOP senators.

Homeland Security didn't matter either, just the civil service reforms he got.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 6:44 AM