Karl Rove's memoir takes to the defense of the Bush legacy

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Former president George W. Bush did not mislead the nation about weapons of mass destruction as a way to "lie us" into war, his former top political aide, Karl Rove, asserts in a new memoir, "Courage and Consequence."

Rove writes that some who leveled the charge, including former vice president Al Gore, had earlier made claims similar to those for which they later criticized Bush.

While defending the administration's handling of Iraq, Rove concedes that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction damaged the administration's credibility. And he blames himself for failing to set the record straight.

"When the pattern of the Democratic attacks became apparent in July 2003, we should have countered in a forceful and overwhelming way," he writes. "We should have seen this for what it was: a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency."

Rove's full-throated defense of his former boss comes as little surprise. The strategist who engineered Bush's two victories and served as a senior adviser in the White House has publicly offered similar defenses in a Wall Street Journal column and as a Fox News contributor.

But the book, which has been much anticipated, takes Rove's defense of the Bush legacy to a new and more detailed level.

Rove admits in the book that during the early days of Hurricane Katrina, the White House was "too passive for too long. Louisiana's failures became our failures anyway."

But he also blames much of those failures on the Democratic leadership in Louisiana and New Orleans, not on the administration or the president. He writes that questions about who would take control and how to cooperate with the federal government were problematic.

Rove's memoir covers the sweep of his life, from growing up in the West to his days as a College Republican to the Bush campaigns that forever solidified his position as one of the nation's top political strategists.

He describes the first hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the rapid departure on Air Force One with Bush. "The 747 shot down the runway with a force I had never experienced," he writes. "Once in the air, Air Force One then stood on its tail to get as high as possible, as rapidly as possible. I had not been in a jet at such a steep incline."

As he has frequently done in his columns, Rove takes aim at President Obama, describing him as a person whose claims on health care are "simply at odds with reality."

But most of the book is focused squarely on offering a comprehensive -- sometimes moment-by-moment -- defense of the campaigns he helped to direct and the conservative agenda he was part of implementing in the White House.

Rove also lashes out at the Democrats on Capitol Hill, whom he accuses of not wanting to work with the new president. Rove writes as examples that "the way Democrats approached trade was unprincipled, but their treatment of judicial nominees was appalling."

Some Republicans did not escape his attention, either. In one passage, Rove accuses former Virginia congressman Tom Davis of repeatedly trying to get Jeannemarie Devolites, a former state senator in Virginia, appointed to the board of Sallie Mae.

Rove writes that he finally gave in and recommended her appointment, only to discover through news reports that the pair were romantically involved -- even though Davis was married at the time. He said that he confronted Davis, who denied the allegations, and that their relationship was difficult from that point on.

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