A weekly roundup of the buzz from the Sunday talk shows

Monday, August 20, 2007

Days after announcing that he will depart the White House, Karl Rove appeared on three Sunday shows for goodbye interviews and practiced what he has long preached: sticking doggedly to his message, exuding confidence about the appeal of the Republican Party at every opportunity and defending his and the president's every decision.

"My critics think all kinds of bad things about me," he said. "I don't really care."

He confided that it was not even his idea to come on the shows. "Somebody else made the decision for me," he said, "and I'm just doing what I was instructed to do."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS's "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday," Rove rejected the suggestion that his departure signaled the end of Bush's domestic agenda.

"He is a bold leader who's going to be milking every single moment that he's got in this office," he said. "He knows the leverage that he's got."

And he dismissed the idea that a central element of his strategy has been to mobilize the GOP base -- a tactic widely believed to be a key to Bush's 2004 victory.

"I know the opposition talks about playing to the base, and I want them to keep thinking that's the right strategy. But you win elections like this president won in 2000 and 2002 and 2004 by broadening the coalition, by getting more people to register and to vote. . . ." he said. "You cannot win elections with your people only. You've got to get your share of the independents. You've got to get your share of the other side's party."

Rove has said he does not plan to get formally involved in the 2008 presidential race -- but that doesn't mean he has no opinions. He predicted, as he has before, that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will be the Democratic nominee but described her as a damaged candidate.

"She enters the general election campaign with the highest negatives of any candidate in the history of the Gallup poll. . . ." he said. "People have made an opinion about her. It's hard to change opinions once you've been a high-profile person in the public eye as she has for 16 or 17 years."

While the Rove interviews were being broadcast, the Democrats were debating in Des Moines [Story, Page A4], where Clinton responded, "I don't think Karl Rove is going to endorse me, but I find it interesting that he's obsessed with me."

Rove also addressed the Republican field, saying he does not have a favorite among the GOP contenders yet. "I look at their vision, and I have confidence that they're going to be able to carry this message to the American people," he said.

By Zachary A. Goldfarb

© 2007 The Washington Post Company