Election Section

Commentary: How Karl Rove Got Where He Is Today By ISAAC GOLDSTEINBy ISAAC GOLDSTEIN

Friday July 29, 2005

The past few weeks have yet again shone the spotlight on President Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove. It turns out that “Turd Blossom,” as the president so affectionately calls him, allegedly leaked the covert identity of an active CIA agent to strike back at her husband, Joseph Wilson, a political opponent of the administration while they were cooking intelligence to trick Americans into invading Iraq. While lawyers bandy questions back and forth over whether Rove actually broke the law, and operatives from both sides prepare to protect or decimate America’s most powerful political aide, we should remember that this isn’t the first time Rove got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 

Rove rose through the ranks of Republican operatives showcasing his brutality and willingness to “go all the way” for a candidate, to do what others did not have the stomach to do. In 2000 during the South Carolina Republican primary, Rove orchestrated the whisper campaign against John McCain that he had an illegitimate black child and was likely insane from his time in a North Vietnamese POW camp. Also, Rove likely had a hand in the 2004 version of the whisper campaign, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Though never directly linked to the group, Texan Home Developer Bob Perry donated the initial funds to the Swiftees as well as to George Bush’s campaign for President and their first media consultant, Merrie Spaeth, is Rove’s close associate. These are the more public examples of Rove’s brutality. The lesser known examples are even more appalling.  

To really understand Rove’s willingness to go to the edge of legality, and sometimes beyond, for a candidate, look at the Texas gubernatorial election of 1986. According to analysts, the even race between former governor and oilman Bill Clements (R) and the younger incumbent Mark White (D) would have to be decided at the upcoming debate, where White was expected to dominate Clements. Just before the debate, Rove called a Press Conference to announce that a bugging device had been discovered in the campaign offices. Rove would say to reporters, “There is no doubt in my mind that the only ones who would benefit from this detailed, sensitive information would be the political opposition.” FBI memos and records from the initial police investigation pointed the finger at Rove, who had hired the same firm to plant and discover the device. The tactic worked; Rove’s accusation stayed on the front pages of the states’ dailies until a week before election day and Clements won with 56 percent of the vote. Then, incredibly, the lawsuit against the Clements campaign was round-filed in the Reagan Justice Department. Rove possesses the crucial talent of a dirty trickster; he breaks the law and gets away with it, even after the facts come out. 

In 1980, the Alabama Court were packed with entrenched Democratic judges and Rove was hired to turn the court Republican. Rove handpicked, advised and got elected an entire bench full of Republicans, all along the way brutally stamping out the political opposition. In one indicative move for a seat on the bench, Rove drove up the negatives of the well-respected sitting Democratic Judge Mark Kennedy by circulating rumors that Kennedy was a child molester. It didn’t phase Rove that Kennedy was well-known in the state for his work on behalf of abused children: Kennedy had served with the Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama, founded the Corporate Foundation for Children and at the time of the whisper campaign, he held the position of president in the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. He convinced a number of students and professors at the University of Alabama law school that his opponent was a pedophile and these transmitters promptly relayed the message. According to a former Rove staffer, "It was our standard practice to use the university…to disseminate whisper-campaign information...The students at the law school are from all over the state, and that’s one of the ways that Karl got the information out—he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns and it would get out." Over a couple of weeks, the tactic worked; allegations of Kennedy abusing children were everywhere. Though he won the race, Kennedy refused to run for reelection to spare his family the hardship.  

In each of these scandals, Rove comes out on top. He changes the subject or the public gets bored. Now Rove is at the center of another political scandal. And he won’t go down without a fight.