Karl Rove, “The Architect” of George W. Bush’s campaigns and domestic policy, has been one of the central figures of this puzzling century. No single adviser has been more closely linked to a President since Henry Kissinger served Richard Nixon. For most of the last decade, Rove defined the official Republican line, stomping alternative conservative viewpoints into obscurity. And it all ended in catastrophe.
So, is Rove’s autobiography, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, the first memoir from a true Bush insider, enlightening about what went wrong?
Answer: yes—but mostly in an unintended way. ...
Rove devotes a moderate amount of space to describing his feelings, which are mostly hurt. People have said a lot of unkind things about Karl Rove over the years, and—he wants you to know—they’ve left him feeling sorry for himself. ...
Thus, we are informed that Rove has been hurt:
* by his unstable mother (who never got around to telling him that her husband wasn’t his biological father);
* by pit bull prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (who investigated him for years in the rather exiguous Valerie Plame case);
* by Democrats; and
* by the Main Stream Media.
Among the MSM’s many transgressions, it accused Rove’s beloved adoptive father of being gay. Rove pushes back against this notion by telling us more than I, personally, cared to know about his mom and dad’s sex life.
Perhaps the best anecdote in the book concerns Rove’s first (and last) marriage counseling session with his first wife (p. 53):
“The assistant rector of Palmer Episcopal Church turned blandly to Val to ask if she would like to say anything. She said, ‘Yes.’ She then looked at me and blurted out, ‘I don’t love you. I’ve never loved you. I never will love you. And I don’t see any purpose in this.’ With that, she walked out. The room seemed frozen in silence. Then the assistant rector exhaled deeply, looked at me, and said, ‘Well, that about says it all,’ and closed the portfolio holding his pad and pen.”
(There’s no hint in Rove’s manuscript, which presumably was finished several months ago, of his December 29, 2009 divorce from his second wife.)
Rove’s feelings appear to have been hurt most frequently of all by George W. Bush.
There’s something a little creepy about Rove’s glowing memory of the first time he laid eyes on W. on November 21, 1973 (p. 39):
“George W. Bush walked through the front door, exuding more charm and charisma than is allowed by law. He had on his Air National Guard flight jacket, jeans, and boots. I introduced myself and we chatted about nothing for a few minutes.”
In Courage and Consequence, Rove vociferously eulogizes the greatness of George W. Bush. And yet Rove slips in dozens of small examples of Bush being hurtful, such as nicknaming Rove “Turd Blossom”.
A recurrent drumbeat in the book is Bush’s peevishness when tired (and he seems to tire quickly). Rove’s memoir has a bit of the flavor of a battered wife who ostentatiously defends her husband, partly out of affection and partly to draw sympathy to herself.