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Posted by on Aug 13, 2007 in At TMV | 0 comments

Karl Rove Resigning: ‘The Symbolic Quit’ (for the family’s sake)

When key people resign ‘to spend more time with their families,’ this has become code, a euphemism to say: there’s trouble at Hamlet’s castle Capital T. Trouble. Something has gone very wrong.

Coach McCartney of the CU Buffalos, abruptly quit coaching ‘to spend more time with my family.’ It turned out that his unmarried daughter was pregnant for the third time. The father to the coming child, and the fathers of her previous children were different football players from Coach McCartney’s own team. It is surmised that his wife had had it with him appearing around the country in his Promisekeeper’s movement as the quintessential Godly man, while his family was falling apart, and his interest in his own family appeared to pale next to the fawning of his fans.

Too, it’s a time-honored strategy amongst many mammals to make a big display about disappearing down one hole with full intent to surface surreptitiously elsewhere. Some call this the weasel strategy. Machiavelli suggested a vizier ought make himself scarce during a turnover of courtiers who might implicate him in some heretofore hidden crime.

What does Rove’s Symbolic Quit really mean?

There’s a long tradition of moguls in trouble pretending something when the clang of iron bars seems near. Then, she or he suddenly states that they have, since forever, yearned to take a long trip out of the country, or inexplicably and highly uncharacteristically gives up profound power, saying they have been dreaming fpr years of flipping burgers on the BarbieQ in the backyard.

Wanting to ‘spend more time with the family’ is a desire many of us truly have; but also the psychology of a power-broker is that all else pales next to wheeling and dealing and ‘making homeruns out of the ballpark.” Kiddie days at the zoo and play dates and nattering around in sweats while watching American Idol feel like death to such a person. One can only hunt and fish for so long without longing to ‘do a deal’ for people who crave power and feel alive only because of their power over others.

Some “evaders’ have taken their subterfuges to the theatrical, duping the dedicatedly gullible in law and politics. Ezra Pound, the poet, entered a mental institution while quite sane, in order to avoid being tried for treason. Vincent (The Chin) Gigante, the legendary Mafia boss wandered for 7 years around Greenwich Village unshaven and wearing a bedraggled bathrobe, and pretending to be crazy… in order to try to avoid being brought to trial for racketeering and murder.

So, I think we can imagine the subtext is present in Rove’s assertion. It’ll be a matter of paying attention to the clues to see what Rove’s real strategy is… the real carom shot.

I think we’d progress in peering underneath the swale, by asking, ‘What would I, at the height of my power, have to be thinking in order for me to say, “I just think it’s time…”‘ ?

It could be as simple as Rove leaving his job to spend more time with his attorneys.

The BBC reports:

Top White House aide Karl Rove has said he will resign at the end of August.
“I just think it’s time,” Mr. Rove said in an interview for the Wall Street Journal, adding that he was quitting for the sake of his family.

Mr. Rove is a senior political adviser to President George W Bush and has worked with him for more than a decade.

As Mr. Bush’s chief strategist, he is seen as instrumental in delivering two presidential and several congressional election victories for the Republicans.

Read the WSJ article/interview with a friendly editor re Rove’s resignation:

‘The Mark of Rove’
August 13, 2007; Page A15

These are the days of Republican doubt, with President Bush fighting an unpopular war, Congress in opposition hands, and a 2008 presidential field trailing Democrats in nearly every poll. But don’t tell that to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political alter ego, who even as he prepares to resign from the White House after six and a half years sees recovery ahead.

Sitting in the book-lined living room of his townhome on Saturday afternoon, a relaxed, cheerful and typically rambunctious Mr. Rove hands over two sheets of paper on which he has tapped out a pair of outlines. One says “Up to Now,” and summarizes what he thinks are the achievements to date of the Bush presidency. The second, “Months Ahead,” lays out an agenda for the next year and a half.

“He will move back up in the polls,” says Mr. Rove, who interrupts my reference to Mr. Bush’s 30% approval rating by saying it’s heading close to “40%,” and “higher than Congress.”

Looking ahead, he adds, “Iraq will be in a better place” as the surge continues. Come the autumn, too, “we’ll see in the battle over FISA” — the wiretapping of foreign terrorists — “a fissure in the Democratic Party.” Also in the fall, “the budget fight will have been fought to our advantage,” helping the GOP restore, through a series of presidential vetoes, its brand name on spending restraint and taxes.

As for the Democrats, “They are likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate” by the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding the White House for a third term is always difficult given the pent-up desire for change, he says, but “I think we’ve got a very good chance to do so.”

If that quinella pays off, however, Mr. Rove will have to savor it from somewhere other than his West Wing office. He’s resigning effective Aug. 31 — 14 years after he began working with Mr. Bush on his campaign for Texas governor, 10 years after they began planning a White House run, and after 79 months in the political cockpit of a tumultuous presidency.

“I just think it’s time,” he says, adding that he first floated the idea of leaving to Mr. Bush a year ago. His friends confirm he had been talking about it with others even earlier. But Democrats took Congress, and he didn’t want to depart on that sour note. He then thought he’d leave after the State of the Union, but the Iraq and immigration fights beckoned. Finally, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten told senior White House aides that if they stayed past a certain point, they were obliged to remain to Jan. 20, 2009.

“There’s always something that can keep you here, and as much as I’d like to be here, I’ve got to do this for the sake of my family,” Mr. Rove says. His son attends college in San Antonio, and he and his wife, Darby, plan to spend much of their time at their home in nearby Ingram, in the Texas Hill Country.

Mr. Rove doesn’t say, though others do, that this timing also allows him to leave on his own terms. He has survived a probe by a remorseless special counsel, and lately a subpoena barrage from Democrats for whom he is the great white whale. He shows notable forbearance in declining to comment on prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who dragged him through five grand jury appearances. He won’t even disclose his legal bills, except to quip that “every one has been paid” and that “it was worth every penny.”

What about those who say he’s leaving to avoid Congressional scrutiny? “I know they’ll say that,” he says, “But I’m not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob.” He also knows he’ll continue to be a target, even from afar, since belief in his influence over every Administration decision has become, well, faith-based.

“I’m a myth. There’s the Mark of Rove,” he says, with a bemused air. “I read about some of the things I’m supposed to have done, and I have to try not to laugh.” He says the real target is Mr. Bush, whom many Democrats have never accepted as a legitimate president and “never will.”

It is his long and personal relationship with Mr. Bush that has made Mr. Rove arguably the most influential White House aide of modern times. The president calls him to chat about politics on Sunday mornings, and they have a contest to see who can read the most books. (Mr. Rove is winning.) I’ve known Mr. Rove for 19 years and spoken to him hundreds of times. Yet I can’t recall a single instance where he disclosed how his views differed from Mr. Bush’s. Mr. Bolten hasn’t decided on a replacement, and Mr. Rove’s duties may yet be divided up.

Mr. Rove’s political influence has been historic, notwithstanding the rout of 2006. His crucial insight in 2000 was recognizing that Mr. Bush had to be both an alternative to Bill Clinton’s scandalous behavior and “a different kind of Republican.” In 2002, the president’s party gained seats in both the House and Senate in a first midterm election for the first time since 1934.

And in 2004, for only the second time in history, a president won re-election while helping his party gain seats in both houses of Congress; the other time was 1936. Much has been made of John Kerry’s ineptitude, but the senator won some eight million more votes than Al Gore did in 2000, and Mr. Rove claims Democrats outspent Republicans by $148 million thanks to billionaire donations to “527” committees. Yet amid a difficult war, Mr. Bush won by increasing his own vote by nearly 25% over 2000, winning 81% of U.S. counties. The Rove-Ken Mehlman turnout effort was a spectacular achievement. If it did nothing else, that 2004 victory put John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

A big debate among Republicans these days is who bears more blame for 2006 — Messrs. Bush and Rove, or the behavior of the GOP Congress. Mr. Rove has no doubt. “The sense of entitlement was there” among Republicans, he says, “and people smelled it.” Yet even with a unified Democratic Party and the war, he argues, it was “a really close election.” The GOP lost the Senate by its 3,562 vote margin of defeat in Montana, and in the House the combined margin in the 15 seats that cost control was 85,000 votes.

A prominent non-Beltway Republican recently gave me a different analysis, arguing that the White House made a disastrous decision to “nationalize” the election last autumn; this played into Democratic hands and cost numerous seats.

“I disagree,” Mr. Rove replies. “The election was nationalized. It was always going to be about Iraq and the conduct of Republicans.” He says Republican Chris Shays and Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman survived in Connecticut despite supporting the war, while Republicans who were linked to corruption or were complacent lost. His biggest error, Mr. Rove says, was in not working soon enough to replace Republicans tainted by scandal.

What about that new GOP William McKinley-style majority he hoped to build — isn’t that now in tatters, as the country tilts leftward on security, economics and the culture? Again, Mr. Rove disagrees. He says young people are if anything more pro-life and free-market than older Americans, and that, despite the difficulties in Iraq, the country doesn’t want to be defeated there or in the fight against Islamic terror. He recalls how Democrats thought driving the U.S. out of Vietnam would also help them politically. “Instead, Democrats have suffered ever since on national security,” he says.

Mr. Rove also makes a spirited defense of this president’s policy legacy, sometimes more convincingly than others. On foreign affairs, he predicts that at least two parts of the Bush Doctrine will live on: The policy that if you harbor a terrorist, you are as culpable as the terrorist; and pre-emption. “There may be a debate about degree,” he says, “but it’s going to be hard for any president to reverse that.”

He’s less persuasive on Medicare, where he insists that market reforms and health savings accounts are building a “critical mass” of popular support that will make them unrepealable. Yet Democrats are even now trying to kill Medicare Advantage, blocked only by the promise of a veto. If Mrs. Clinton wins in 2008, the Medicare drug expansion may prove to have been all spending and no reform.

He also insists that Social Security reform was worth the failed effort, and that Mr. Bush’s ideas will be adopted inevitably by some future president. I ask if, given Mr. Bush’s falling approval ratings in 2005 due to Iraq, he shouldn’t have pushed for something less ambitious. Not a chance. “You cannot advance on the fronts you want to advance if you’re playing mini-ball,” he says, once again sounding like Mr. Bush.

As for 2008, he says, Americans “do want change,” but “every election is a change election”; even in 1988, when Ronald Reagan was popular, the Gipper famously said at the nominating convention for George H. W. Bush that, “We are the change.” Adds Mr. Rove, “I don’t want to be Pollyanish about it, but if we keep our nerve and represent big things, we’ll win.” He won’t cite a favorite, if he has one, among the GOP candidates, though he has friends in the various campaigns. He’ll offer advice, if asked, but at 56 years old says he is done with political consulting.

He’d like to teach eventually, but he has no specific job plans, save to write a book on the Bush years, which “the boss,” as in Mr. Bush, “has encouraged me to do.” As for what his own White House mistakes have been, Mr. Rove winces and says, “I’ll put my feet up in September and think about that.”

And what about Jeb Bush in 2012? Mr. Rove first says with a tone of skepticism, “Ask Jeb.” Then he adds, “You better get a younger man. My wife would kill me.”

Mr. Gigot is editorial page editor of the Journal.