Karl Rove, interchangeably known as “Boy Genius” or “Turd Blossom,” has left the White House. The press conference announcing his decision to resign has been given front-page treatment by most major media outlets, but the fact of the matter is the buzz surrounding Rove’s departure is much ado about nothing, especially in terms of coming to grips with the remaining 16 months of the worst presidency in the history of the United States.
Rove is a domestic political marauder, the personification of a conservative movement which lacks a moral compass and has a complete disregard for facts. The master of exploiting mainstream America’s predilection for news-as-entertainment, under which the likes of Rupert Murdoch can manufacture headlines out of thin air, Rove helped turn “fair and balanced” into a national joke which everyone laughs at but few actually comprehend. Rove served as the maestro of a political-smear orchestra composed of such intellectually challenged muckrakers as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, manipulating the NASCAR/professional wrestling crowd’s addiction to seedy gossip in an effort to maintain the all-important 51 percent majority needed to win elections.
Perhaps if the Democratic Party had possessed a semblance of organization and cohesion (not to mention a post-Clinton message that could be sold to a majority of America), then Rove would be but a footnote in history, known simply as the man who helped the worst governor in the history of Texas get elected. Even the self-destructive campaign run by Al Gore in 2000, in which he distanced himself from a sitting president who, despite all of his faults, would have defeated Bush in a landslide if the Constitution permitted a third term, was enough to deny Rove his beloved 51 percent—it was Gore, not Bush, who won the majority of votes in that contest. It took a Republican governor of Florida, backed by a compliant Supreme Court, to put George W. Bush into the White House, not any genius on the part of Rove.
“Bush’s Brain” may claim that it was his careful manipulation of fiction over fact that carried the 2004 election, in which the term “Swift-boating” became synonymous with political character assassination, but it was the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq which sank the Democratic Party and its candidate for president, John Kerry. It is very difficult to unseat a president in a time of war, especially when so many Democrats voted in favor of the concept, first by buying into every post-9/11 policy put forward by the Bush administration (find me one Democrat who actually read the Patriot Act in its entirety before it was voted into law) and second by rubber-stamping the lies that led to Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. Remember, it was Kerry’s inarticulate defense of his decision to vote in favor of granting war powers to the president that sank his election hopes, not his Vietnam War record.
Certainly, Karl Rove played a significant behind-the-scenes role in supporting Bush’s war policies. The perjury trial of “Scooter” Libby forced the collective of deaf, dumb and blind pseudo-journalists who populate what is known as the mainstream media in America to recognize how pathetically duplicitous and petty the Bush administration could get when it came to defending the policies propping up the so-called Global War on Terror and the awful tragedy of Iraq. Rove’s fingerprints were all over the decision by Vice President Dick Cheney to leak CIA officer Valerie Plame’s name to the media in an effort to thwart the truth-telling of her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.
But that is about as deep as Rove’s involvement in the two issues that will define the presidency of George W. Bush gets. While Rove might be the “genius” behind the kind of winner-takes-all dirty politics that won the Republicans a majority in Texas (and brought down the likes of Tom “The Hammer” DeLay), he was way out of his depth when it came to the reality of national security policy. Unlike unsubstantiated rumors of wrongdoing which can stain a political opponent’s record for the brief moment needed to gain political advantage, regardless of what the actual truth is, the never-ending flow of dead American service members from a war based on a foundation of lies cannot be overlooked indefinitely, even by the most subservient of media outlets.
Try as Rove and his political operatives might, one cannot forever suppress the images of flag-draped caskets, row upon row of white grave markers sprouting up in cemeteries across America, or the thousands of wounded veterans left to rot in hospitals, forgotten by an administration that, with few exceptions, never knew war and used the military as an electioneering prop. Eventually, those patriotic Americans who were fooled into believing there was actually some coherent planning behind the global conflict Bush had dispatched their youths to fight and die in were bound to get wise. Rove never had the depth needed to navigate such serious waters.
Being the Brain of the most vapid, intellectually shallow president ever creates an apt epitaph for Rove’s tenure at the White House. The Bush administration has never won accolades for its substance. Its best frontman, Colin Powell, self-destructed in front of the U.N. Security Council in February 2003. Powell’s nemesis, Donald Rumsfeld, followed suit shortly thereafter, unable to coherently explain where Saddam Hussein had hidden all those WMD we went to war for, and ultimately telling the average foot soldier to pound sand when it came to the lack of adequate equipment needed to fight and survive in occupied Iraq. Bush’s singular appeal has been the impression of steadfastness in the eye of the storm, even if the storm is for the most part self-created. For this we must look not to “Bush’s Brain,” but instead peer deep into the dark recesses of the White House, where we can glimpse the awful “soul” of the president—Dick Cheney.