Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rove in the Rear View Mirror

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With all of the speculation on Karl Rove’s abrupt resignation, there seem to be three schools of thought developing as to why it happened now, and none of them have to do with his need to spend more time with his “off-to-college” son!

The mainstream media version has Bush realizing that, in the long run, Rovian politics were a mistake, and deciding to cut him loose by sending him back to Texas to write a book. I’ll call this version, “Bush Realizes Mistake.”

The other two “blogosphere” versions are 1) that one or more of the corruption investigations are very close to nailing him with either an indictment or some particularly damaging revelations for the Bush administration, or 2) he is leaving to focus on (fixing) the 2008 elections, because he can be more effective at his brand of dirty tricks from outside the White House. I’ll call these versions, “Nailed by Corruption,” and “Fixing 2008 Elections.”

There is plenty of evidence to support either of the last two versions (and very little to support the first version), so I’m not going to pick a side right now. Instead, I’m going to simply reflect on the point that Left-Over brought up earlier – the calling of an emotional press conference announcing Rove’s departure.

If there is one thing we know for sure about Rove, it’s that everything he does is political.

So why would he participate in a teary-eyed press conference if not because he wants people to think he is sad to leave the White House? He certainly wouldn’t do it to give his detractors something to laugh about as they mock his tears! As secretive as he has been, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t have chosen to simply slink away in the dead of night if that were the best political strategy for the Republicans.

So how does this fit with the three leading theories about his resignation?

First of all, I can see no political reason for Rove to want people to see him sad about leaving under “Bush Realizes Mistake.” Even if it were psychologically possible for Bush to realize a mistake, the political choice would be to downplay the sadness angle. Rove could cry all he wanted behind closed doors, but there would be no political reason to put it on display!

Under “Nailed by Corruption,” there could be a political benefit to Rove of starting to cultivate sympathy among the base on whom he has relied for so long. Crying could be a part of that effort. If he is indicted, one would expect a defense similar to that of Scooter Libby, with an intense effort to build sympathy among a core group of supporters who could then be trusted to bolster his character and loudly cheer a Bush pardon or commuted sentence, if necessary. (Of course, under this version, I am quite curious to know how the neighborhood soccer moms and Little League dads feel about Karl, and whether James Carville’s kids looked forward to seeing Mr. Turdblossom as much as they looked forward to seeing “Mr. Scooter!”)

Under “Fixing 2008 Elections,” there is also a political benefit to Rove of having people think he’s too sad about leaving the White House to be thinking about the next stage of his political career. It would be a smokescreen that might dissuade critics from following his every move after he leaves DC, when he would suddenly be able to use his private Blackberry without risk of subpoena.

So which is it? If I were a betting man, I’d go with “Fixing 2008 Elections” - under the guise of writing a book about how sad he was to leave the White House!

Then again, I might take a flyer on the possibility that he really does want to spend time with his college-aged son – in the hope of getting into some good College Republican parties with guys like this!

[Update] Carville has now chimed in with his views on Rove. I don't think he will be co-signing a glowing letter of support, based on the closing line of his piece:
If the trends hold, the one thing that we can be sure of is that Mr Rove’s political grave will receive no lack of irrigation from future Republicans!

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