Karl Rove, Iraq War Marketer, To ResignAugust 13, 2007
Well, everyone is talking about it, so I might as well post something too. Rove is resigning. My gut tells me that this is a sign that this is more about Bush’s hopeless lame duck status than anything else. I’m sure Rove won’t be too far out of the game though. He’s only a phone call away, after all. There’s plenty he can do without having to physically be in the White House.
While perusing through the reaction on memeorandum, I came across an interesting Newsweek piece that reminds us just how influential Rove’s role has been in the topic of the decade: The Architect and the War
In fact, Rove had already begun to shape the political environment to help make the war possible. That January, he had given an important speech to the Republican National Committee where he signaled that the White House planned to politicize the terrorism issue in the upcoming fall election campaign. “We can go to the country on this issue,” Rove said, because the American people “trust the Republican Party to do a better job of … protecting Americans.’’ In June, Rove prepared a PowerPoint slide for GOP donors on his strategy for the 2002 races. “Focus on war,” it read in part.
Rove, the political strategist first and foremost, saw all this as a political opportunity. Exploiting 9/11 and the hard push to get the public behind an Iraq invasion wasn’t about what was good for America, this was about what was good for the Republican Party. History will judge Rove and his band of salesmen on this, and I don’t think they’ll be too kind (I’m sure historians would kill to get their hands on that PowerPoint file, ’cause I know I’d be interested to see what it had on there).
OK, so how did he get the country behind this?
But it was still necessary to link Iraq to the public’s legitimate security fears–and there again Rove played a key part, just as the president wanted. That summer, the former White House chief of staff Andrew Card created the White House Iraq Group – a collection of senior advisers, including Rove, who met regularly in the Situation Room to craft a public relations strategy that would play up pieces of intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and supposed connections to international terrorism.
It was this group that seized on reports that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear program – reports that were highly disputed and the subject of significant internal debate–and then approved the memorable phrase crafted by chief speechwriter Michael Gerson: “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun— that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
The imagery of the nuclear mushroom cloud become a centerpiece of the White House’s sales campaign, first leaked anonymously to The New York Times, repeated on Sunday talk shows and finally enshrined in a major speech by Bush that October.
This is modern marketing. Lay out a plan in a PowerPoint presentation, come up with slogans, use the media Now all one needs is to get the weak-kneed Democrats to start thinking about political expediency.
The rush to vote on a critical issue of war and peace troubled then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Why the rush? He pressed Bush at a Sept. 4, 2002, meeting. Daschle saw the hand of Rove—an attempt to box in Democrats and dare them to vote against a highly popular president on a big national-security issue. Vote against the resolution and Democrats would be hammered mercilessly by the White House during the election campaign for being “soft on terrorism,” just as Rove had suggested in his January speech.
“Daschle was right,” one former top White House official later told Corn and me in an interview for “Hubris.” The campaign calendar indeed drove the timing of the Iraq War vote. “The election was the anvil and the president was the hammer,” said the official, who declined to be identified publicly talking about internal matters.
The war resolution passed in mid-October 2002, right before the Congressional elections. The rest is history.
Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Rove.