"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
When I first started reporting on Karl Rove in the late 1970s, I was impressed by his singularity of purpose and his willingness to say or do whatever was necessary to succeed. This amorality, a complete lack of concern for right or wrong or harm done, will be his legacy in the American political process. Lives and careers might be destroyed, great institutions compromised, the truth sullied until it is unrecognizable, but all of that will be acceptable collateral damage to Karl as long as he and his party and candidates have won the day.
Nothing has ever mattered to Karl Rove beyond the accumulation of political power. And every move he has made during the political ascension of George W. Bush has been about gathering the kind of influence that is necessary to build a political dynasty. While it is too easy to call him a liar and a cheat, the narrative evidence and the facts leave the conclusion unavoidable. If we were to stipulate that Rove did not conduct the purge of US attorneys or organize and execute the leak of Valerie Plame's name to his old friend Robert Novak, we are left with the question of who in Washington might have put together those schemes. Isn't he the most likely suspect?
The latest suspicions that Rove wasn't just dumping politically incorrect US attorneys but was also indulging in selective prosecutions like the one of former Alabama Governor Don Seligman prompted memories of what happened here in Texas late in 1980s. Two employees of the Texas Department of Agriculture, Pete McRae and Mike Moeller, were drawn into a federal court because a contractor they had hired was, unknown to them, raising political money at the end of his work day while traveling at the state's expense. Of course, that only happens about a thousand times a day in Texas and every other state in the union and nobody has done a better job than Karl Rove of arranging to have his candidates and officeholders travel on taxpayer money for government work and then turn the trip into a fundraiser. Is there a better tool for churning up donations than Air Force One?
Although he has thus far managed to avoid charges, Rove will always be connected with the treasonous act of leaking the name of a CIA agent. People who buy into the notion that it was an accidental slip by Richard Armitage in a conversation with Novak are perpetuating the kind of naiveté that makes Rove's work easier. Armitage had the expertise, political convictions, connections to Novak, and the separation from the White House to make him the perfect person to deliver the information about Ms. Plame. Rove developed the plan and used the zealousness of Vice President Dick Cheney, his myopic attorney David Addington, and Scooter Libby to execute the scheme. While our nation is in a war that is largely a product of Rove-designed deceptions, he leaked the name of an agent who has put her life at risk to protect our country from weapons of mass destruction and he did so for no other reason than silence future critics of the administration and exact revenge. The fact that Karl Rove has not been tried for sedition and treason ought to trouble every American who still believes in those things that have long been held to be good and right and true about our country.
Rove's great mind might have been put to great use. Instead, he has decided to view as an enemy any fellow citizen who doesn't think like him and his party. All of the institutions of our government, like our judicial system, which used to be considered politically sacrosanct, have now been polluted by his political ambitions. Changes in environmental regulations allowing the clear-cutting of forests have been renamed The Healthy Forests Initiative while deregulation of factories discharging dangerous particulates into the air has taken on the Roverian brand of The Blue Skies Initiative. He hides our own complicity in his disgusting work through the manipulation of language and we are comforted and less resistant. We all ought to be ashamed; not just Karl.
People wonder what his future will be and I'd like to think there will be a moment of atonement for Karl but he has not shown a shadow of conscience. He will command great fees for public speaking and is likely to be on retainers to dozens of corporations seeking his influence and insights. Of course, he will write a book and offer his perspective on the Bush administration; he cannot stop himself from spinning. I, however, still believe in the truth and its survivability and am confident history will condemn Rove and view him as a man who divided his own country to win and cared not a scintilla about the consequences of his actions beyond political victory. I have been accused for more than 25 years of overstating Karl's importance and his influence but I am certain history will judge him the most profoundly disturbing political force our country has seen in almost 100 years.
The image I see of Karl Rove as he leaves Washington is of a man carrying a gas can and a box of matches as the city burns behind him and yet no one has thought to blame him for the great blaze sundering our democracy. In his parting news conference with the president, Rove readily invoked the name of an Almighty but even this act was hypocritical. He told his friend Bill Israel years ago that he was agnostic and that "he wished he could believe, but he cannot." Karl Rove, though, can turn even religious agnosticism into a political advantage. Were he to eventually confront a judgmental deity, that may be the one place where he will finally discover the justice he has long managed to avoid.