[media id=7485] Karl Rove was on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News show yesterday and complained about the Obama White House's decision to target Rush Li
March 5, 2009

Karl Rove was on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News show yesterday and complained about the Obama White House's decision to target Rush Limbaugh, which he decried as an evil "plot" cooked up by Carville and Co.:

ROVE: Well, first of all, yes, they are making a target. Think about this. They have assigned a senior aide to President Obama is heading this up inside the White House, an unnamed aide. This has clearly got Carville, Begala and Rahm Emanuel, who talk literally every day -- they have an early morning phone call. This is clearly something that they've concocted.

And the question that we -- there are two questions we ought to ask. First of all, is this appropriate? The idea that the White House is devoting all this time and energy and effort when we've got all this myriad problems facing the country, that they've got senior aides in the White House gaming out how they can make Rush Limbaugh the headline in the evening news seems to me to be a little petty, small, and really inappropriate.

Bigger question is why are they doing this. And I think the answer is, is that they decided they don't want to have a debate about the budget. They don't want to have a debate about the stimulus bill. They don't want to have a debate about the omnibus spending bill, the $410 billion bill with 8,500 earmarks and it. They don't want to have those kind of conversations with the country or with the Republicans in the Congress, so they want to go out and phony up a fight with somebody and devote the time and energy and effort to that.

This is misdirection. They're trying to draw attention away from the things that the country wants to talk about and that they know they've got a vulnerability on in order to have a conversation about Rush Limbaugh, and hopefully, delay or postpone or maybe even kick off some of the discussion that they would otherwise have on these three big issues.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, it's possible that this could backfire big-time against them because the American people are focused on the economy. I mean, you know, it's, like, every poll that people are looking at the economy, the Dow is going down -- went up, of course, today. But everybody's worried about that and -- and you know, at some point, they -- I would think tactically, they'd worry that everyone would sort of turn on them and say, you know, Forget Rush Limbaugh, whether you're a fan or not a fan. How about -- how about the economy?

ROVE: Yes. It's petty and it's small on the part of the White House. I mean, didn't President Obama come to Washington saying, I'm going to change the tone? And here he has unleashed his attack dog in Rahm Emanuel, and he's got Carville and Begala out there beating up on Rush Limbaugh, and for what purpose? I mean, you know, what's to be served by that?

And it's clear that this is -- that this is the same old style politics that we grew to really dislike in the 1990s, when the White House thought everything through from a political perspective, road-tested it by running polls and focus groups and did everything with a very keen eye towards the politics of the matter, not what was in the best interests of the country.

How does this serve the country for us at this point when we're discussing these big, vital things like the budget and health care and the stimulus bill and the omnibus spending bill -- how does it well serve the country for this little sideshow concocted in the chief of staff's office in the West Wing? Not very -- not very useful.

There really is no hypocrisy like Republican hypocrisy.

There have been many discussions about the level of Machiavellian politics in the Bush White House under Rove, of course. Some of my favorite examples:

John Dean discusses Rove's position:

Rove's unique role is that he is a political guy making policy decisions for political reasons. Decisions in the Bush White House are made not based on what is best for the public interest, rather what will get the president the most mileage with his base, and best political advantage. Not since Nixon's so-called responsiveness program -- which was uncovered during the Watergate investigation -- have we had such overt political decision-making.

... Both Haldeman and Ehrlichman saw the world through a political lens, and what was most likely to help Richard Nixon get reelected. So does Rove. Haldeman was involved with procedure (broadly speaking, I mean who was doing what at the White House, arranging the presidential travel and appearances for maximum political benefit, and constantly mindful of the president's image and making him look good), and Ehrlichman was the substance guy (who developed domestic policies, but accounting for the political impact). Rove controls both.

Nicolas Lemann's profile of Rove:

Every White House has a political operative, but Rove has a much bigger charter than his predecessors. He appears to have supervisory authority over the Republican National Committee. Inside the White House, after Karen Hughes, the primary keeper of the Bush image, left, last year, her role was taken over by a protégé and former employee of Rove’s, Dan Bartlett. The head of the White House domestic-policy operation, Margaret Spellings, is another Rove associate from Texas. She sees him almost every day, and Rove plays a much heavier role in domestic policy than any previous occupant of his position. (This is not a White House in which the “policy shop” constantly tussles with the “politics shop,” as has usually been the case.) He functions as a national personnel director for the Republican Party, hand-selecting candidates for governorships and seats in the Senate and House. His people are widely scattered around the executive departments. He closely supervises political fund-raising. And, of course, the President is someone whose entire political career Rove has masterminded, beginning, if not at that memorable first meeting, then certainly years before Bush’s first successful race for office.

... Rove is both a fox and a hedgehog. He is the detail man of all detail men, but he also makes a point of doing more long-term strategic planning than other political consultants. For especially important campaigns, he produces written plans far in advance, mapping out the race in its entirety, and he’s famous for sticking precisely to the plan no matter what. Rove’s main goal over the next year and a half is making George W. Bush what his father wasn’t, a reëlected President—when I asked if he had mapped out the campaign, he said, “Don’t expect me to answer this question”—but he is too ambitious to want only that. The real prize is creating a Republican majority that would be as solid as, say, the Democratic coalition that Franklin Roosevelt created—a majority that would last for a generation and that, as it played itself out over time, would wind up profoundly changing the relationship between citizen and state in this country. “I think we’re at a point where the two major parties have sort of exhausted their governing agendas,” Rove told me. “We had agendas that were originally formed, for the Democrats, in the New Deal, and, for the Republicans, in opposition to the New Deal—modified by the Cold War and further modified by the changes in the sixties, the Great Society and societal and cultural changes. It’s sort of like the exhaustion of two boxers fighting it out in the middle of the ring. This periodically happens. This happened in 1896, where the Civil War party system was in decline and the parties were in rough parity and somebody came along and figured it out and helped create a governing coalition that really lasted for the next some-odd years. Similarly, somebody will come along and figure out a new governing scheme through which people could view things and could, conceivably, enjoy a similar period of dominance.” Karl Rove clearly wants to be that somebody, and his relentless pressing for every possible specific advantage is in service of the larger goal.

... Every time I interviewed someone close to Rove, that person first checked with him to make sure it was O.K. to talk to me, and then, in the interview, made a point of offering a testimonial to Rove’s deep and sincere interest in public policy. It’s true that Rove is far more knowledgeable about the details of government than most other political consultants. But the idea that he performs Brookings Institution-style policy evaluations, never sullying himself with considerations of the politics of an issue, is probably a stretch; it would perhaps be better to say that Rove is unusually adept at using government policy as a political tool—in the same way that he is unusually adept at using books as a political tool.

And last but not least, the entire U.S. Attorneys firing scandal, at which he is the epicenter -- possibly the apotheosis of the Bush/Rove White House's politicization of every aspect of policy.

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