Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine speaks with Craig Unger, contributing editor at Vanity Fair, about “Boss Rove,” Unger’s new expose of the unofficial godfather of the Republican Party and perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, Karl Rove.
The headline over an article by Unger in the September online edition of Vanity Fair sums up Rove: “Not long ago, Karl Rove seemed toxic: the brains of a disastrous presidency, tarred by scandal. Today, as the mastermind of a billion-dollar war chest—and with surrogates in place in the Romney campaign—he’s the de facto leader of the Republican Party. But in Rove’s long game, 2012 may be just the beginning.”
Five years ago, Karl Rove left the Bush White House in disgrace, narrowly escaping criminal charges over his role in outing a covert CIA agent. But at the Republican Convention in Tampa, he could be seen in the box of casino-gambling kingpin and G.O.P. megadonor Sheldon Adelson watching Mitt Romney, Rove’s chosen candidate, accept the G.O.P.’s presidential nomination. How do you assess Rove’s position within the G.O.P. today?
My book is titled Boss Rove because he is now the party boss. He has created an unelected position, with no term limit, in which he controls the money. In the Eighties, in Texas, he created political action committees that were responsible to him—not the Texas Republican Party—so he would have control of the party. Now he has done this on a national level. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and a new breed of billionaire donors—Adelson, the Koch brothers—Rove already has about $1 billion in his coffers for the 2012 campaign. The danger, of course, is that that money will buy up all the airtime for the G.O.P. in the battleground states and pervert the electoral process. Talk-radio host John Batchelor, a Republican, put it best. “America is a two-party state,” he said. “There are the Democrats. Then, there’s Karl Rove.”