Post-Rovian Thinking

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, August 14, 2007; 2:10 PM

Karl Rove's surprise resignation yesterday as senior adviser to President Bush has prompted an extraordinary wave of analysis about Rove's tenure, Bush's presidency, presidential politics and what's ahead for the White House.

White House: On Defense

Peter Baker and Michael A. Fletcher write in The Washington Post that Rove's resignation opens "a new phase of the politically battered Bush presidency as it heads into its final months without some of the central players who shaped it. . . .

"The wave of departures signals a broader transition as Bush shifts away from the sweeping domestic initiatives on taxes, education, Social Security and immigration that Rove favored, and refocuses his presidency to a more defensive posture in the face of an opposition Congress and sunken poll ratings. . . .

"The White House labored to dismiss the sense that Rove's resignation underscores a lame-duck presidency, even as it felt like an era was coming to an end on the South Lawn yesterday morning.

"'Karl Rove is moving on down the road,' Bush said as the two appeared together for an emotional coda to their 14-year political partnership. A few moments later, he turned to Rove and added: 'I'll be on the road behind you here in a little bit.'"

Massimo Calabresi writes for Time: "At his emotional goodbye with George W. Bush on the South lawn of the White House Monday, Karl Rove painted a portrait of a presidency made of strong vision and epochal goals. . . .

"As the country heads into the 2008 election, the public's verdict on Bush and Rove's vision may not be nearly as kind. With poll numbers stacked against the GOP nationwide, 2008 could become as great a rejection of signature Bush policies and his party as the 2006 mid-term election was. Thanks to that threat, the post-Rove White House already finds itself preoccupied with extracting itself from the shoals where Bush and Rove's grand visions have foundered. In that sense, the Bush administration has already begun repudiating the grandest ideas, and the legacy, of the man who was its chief architect."

John Whitesides writes for Reuters: "The resignation of Karl Rove, architect of President George W. Bush's election triumphs and a crucial behind-the-scenes policy guru, is the latest sign of the White House's diminished agenda and shattered dreams of a Republican super-majority, analysts said. . . .

"'At this point all they are trying to do is save some of the signature items from their first term and hand off the war in Iraq to the next guy in better shape than it looks today,' . . . said Cal Jillson, a political analyst at Southern Methodist University in Dallas."

Dave Montgomery and Marisa Taylor write for McClatchy Newspapers: "Karl Rove's imminent departure as President Bush's closest White House adviser is the latest and most dramatic signal that Bush himself is heading toward the exit as Americans prepare to choose his replacement next year."

An Opportunity?

Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe is an outlier in raising the possibility that Rove's departure could lead to a course correction: "The departure of Karl Rove, the longtime adviser to President Bush who announced yesterday that he is leaving at the end of this month, could provide an opening for the White House and the Republican Party to move away from Rove's signature policy of relying on the party base and appeal more to independents who will probably determine the outcome of the 2008 election, analysts said yesterday."

But, as Kranish himself notes: "It is not clear, however, that Bush will forge a new path away from the influential adviser and friend of more than 30 years."

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