Hawkins Interviews Rove

I had no plans to purchase Karl Rove’s book, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. We’re trying to cut back on spending around here, for one thing, and Lent is leaving me reluctant to engage, for another. And after passionately defending Bush for so many years, I am also just sort of exhausted on the whole subject of his presidency, and feel like I need a little break.

But I may pick it up now, after reading Rove’s interview with John Hawkins, which is pretty good. With a brief set of questions, some of them tough, Hawkins piqued my interest. I was particularly struck by this:

One of the things that has puzzled conservatives about the Bush presidency, particularly in the second term — and I’ve heard this again and again and again — is they don’t feel like there was an effective communication strategy. The general feeling was that the Left turned George Bush into a punching bag and just beat him into the ground, while the White House really didn’t do much to stop it. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Well, I do think that there are instances, particularly on the issue of Iraq’s WMDs, where the administration didn’t punch back hard enough. I talk about that at length in the book.

It’s principally my responsibility because I should have seen it for what it was, which was a corrosive dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush Administration. But I would say this: in the last two years of the term, Bush was on the receiving end of daily blows from every Democratic presidential candidate and it was impossible for me to respond to those. The Republicans were disorganized, distressed, and didn’t come to his aid while others said the President can defend himself.

But when you’re receiving daily blows like that, you can either do your job or defend yourself, but you can’t do both every single day. It’s just the way life works.

I couldn’t help sputtering a little; Rove did not realize that the daily pounding about WMD was “a corrosive knife aimed at the heart” of Bush’s presidency? How could he not, when the rest of us saw it so clearly, did battle over it, and still -to this day- find ourselves having to answer the mindless, specious charge “Bush lied about WMD!” that has become so entrenched in our national narrative?

As to why Bush did not “hit back,” I have my own theories about that.

There are other interesting parts. Rove talks a little about minding the fact that while the press and the democrats had a free-for-all about him, his family and kids had to hear it. Politics is a rough game, but it has always surprised me, how viciously the press can let loose about politicians, without considering what it does to spouses and children -until they have to consider what their own kids are hearing about them. No one’s kids should have to be victims of politically expedient hate, but Rove actually helped a journalist not have to see his child upset, at one point. That journalist did not return the favor.

I am also struck by Rove’s defense of Bush’s run against John Kerry in ’04:

. . .the Democratic Party was united, the country was in an unpopular war, and I repeat, the Democrats outspent us by $124 million. Six or seven million dollars came from George Soros and an equal amount came from five of his friends. That’s the kind of disadvantage that we faced and we won.

Rove forgot something. He forgot that the Democrats not only outspent the GOP, they also had the press promising (by way of Newsweek’s Evan Thomas) to deliver 10-15% of the vote Kerry’s way, and the MSM did manage to do something like that. They carried Kerry’s water, called him “brilliant” while neglecting to look at his college transcripts (after the election, it was revealed Kerry’s grades were worse than Bush’s “gentleman’s ‘C’”) or demand to see his military records (even as they went through Bush’s with a fine-toothed comb and even made stuff up). They demonized the Swift Boat Vets who questioned Kerry’s fitness for office, and in all ways protected the Democrat candidate while beating daily on Bush.

Taken singly, it was sound and fury, signifying nothing, but taken all together, the daily pounding was effective.

The press understood how successfully they had enhanced the Kerry campaign, and I believe it is one of the reasons they were so bold about going “all in” with Obama. They repeated the strategy of protection; of not asking the candidate any tough questions, or looking at his history or his associates, all while administering daily beatings to the opposition. Admittedly, they had a more difficult time beating on McCain, who was a weak candidate, because they’d spent the last 8 years calling him the “good” sort of conservative, when doing so could hurt Bush. But then McCain brought Sarah Palin into the picture, and the press managed to savage her in an unprecedented manner, even before she made her own mistakes, to excellent effect. The press did not manage to win the presidency for John Kerry; they made sure they could deliver it to the “sort of God”, Barack Obama, using the lessons they learned during the Bush-Kerry campaigns. I have no idea if Rove talks about this in the book; I hope so.

Not a bad little interview, although I was surprised that Hawkins began it with a question about Palin. Really? First question, out of the box, about Palin? For me that betrays a bit of GOP-obsession on Palin that worries me. I am afraid some are building too much on that lady. Like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when Palin is good -as before a crowd- she is very very good. But when she is bad, she is horrid.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mark L

    Quick question:

    Have you considered borrowing the book from your local public library instead of purchasing it?

    Particularly with political books — which have a very short life — libraries are a cost-effective way of reading a book you want to read, but which you know you will not be re-reading in the future.

    [You're right, of course. I have all but STOPPED buying political books because they tend to be 40 pages of exposition, surrounded by hundreds of pages of nothing, and the 40 pages all get covered in the promotion tour. Libraries and me...we're problematic. I go, I stay for hours. I drink coffee and look at the bride magazines. I go to the kids section and re-read stories my kids loved. I get lost in the stacks. Then I am forever late returning everything. My husband winces when I head to the library, because it usually means late fees and late supper. :-) admin]

  • Greta

    I purchased this book and found it so far a very good read. Lot of great information I was not aware of about Rove, Bush, and others.

  • mrp

    “Like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when Palin is good -as before a crowd- she is very very good. But when she is bad, she is horrid.”

    Sarah Palin is a grown woman, Elizabeth. Infantilizing her isn’t very becoming.

    [Oh, give me a break, I'm not "infantilizing" her. But you make my point for me. Palin's supporters are extremely defensive; that is understandable to an extent, given the initial savaging of her by the press and the dems, but it's only going to make her weaker, not stronger, in the end, if you are all going to insist that every critique of her is either "sexist" or "demeaning" or "infantilizing," or "insensitive." Palin has a solid (and healthy) brass pair and victimhood doesn't become her; enabling a victimhood mindset is not going to advance her politically. In fact, I suggest that the needless, kneejerk defense of Palin against even the mildest criticism does much more to "infantilize" her than my calling her a girl. Which is what she is, just as I am. I'll stand by my thoughts. She is excellent before a crowd; she is instinctive and brilliant and natural. She still doesn't pass a serious one-on-one interview, particularly not with antagonists, and if she wants to run for high office, she needs to pass that test -ala Reagan and Bush- without seeming brittle, touchy, edgy or defensive. Those things I admire in here do not yet compel me to want to vote for her. And her adoring, unquestioning fans -who put me too much in mind of a cult or personality- reassure me even less. -admin].

  • brooklyn

    The Bush Administration did it’s best. It continues to be revealed it was a professional, researched, prepared, serious, competent, and helpful. There would have been no winning effort in combating the overt, unethical slander of the Partisans out to undermine the Bush Administration. The day the Conservatives foolishly ran away from the Bush Presidency, based on some truly emotive sophistry, was the day the Democrats won.

    We all lost.

    It is a tough call, try to be professional and lead in an ethical manner, or fight Domestic Political battles. The Bush Administration wisely focused on the priorities. No President or any political team will do it alone. The day Conservatives debased their own interests after 2004, growing reactionary about everything, primarly due to fears about Iraq, was the loss for all.

    Rove’s interviews with Limbaugh, Powerline, etc., reveal more evidence of a quality we desire in Our Nations Leadership. We have so much to be thankful for the Bush Administration, and we see the folly of today as an ugly reminder of the opposite – the true disgrace and enabler of the very worst.

  • mrp

    ” Those things I admire in here do not yet compel me to want to vote for her. And her adoring, unquestioning fans -who put me too much in mind of a cult or personality- reassure me even less.”

    A cult of personality. That’s cute.

    No, it’s not a cult, Elizabeth – it’s the hard, naked truth that in the brutal political landscape in which we all dwell, Sarah Palin is the only conservative with executive political experience who is fighting in the arena. I would end my interest in anything Palin if she should suddenly endorse taxpayer-funded abortion, gun-control measures, single-payer universal health care coverage (with mandates), unemployment benefits without end, etc., etc. She has been unwavering in her support of the positions I hold dear.

    Should Palin compromise on any of the major issues that matter to conservatives, her support would evaporate, quickly.

    For the last five months, I have, at least twice a day, visited the news.google.com site and word-searched “Sarah Palin”. Doing so has been very instructive. There is a constant, un-relenting campaign in the media and the left-side of the blogosphere to destroy Sarah Palin. The same blogs, the same authors churn out the same stuff on a regular schedule. I compare the Palin speech transcripts with the distorted representations from The Gawker, HuffPost, Kos, and others. The anti-Palin propagandizing never stops.

    There is a war going on, Elizabeth. It is very real war, it is not going away, and the conflict will go on to its end. Sarah Palin is in the middle of that struggle, with all of her faults, with all of her quirks, and with all of her guts, and her love for America.

    After the battle of Shiloh in April, 1862, the Northern newspapers called for the dismissal of Ulysses S. Grant, claiming that he was drunk while his soldiers were bayonetted in their tents (Grant wasn’t drunk, but the Confederate attack was a complete surprise), and jealous Union generals schemed to replace Grant.

    Lincoln took it all in, he reasoned that, despite his personal faults, Grant’s work to date at Paducah, Belmont, Ft. Donelson, and the Confederate retreat from the Shiloh battlefield weighed in Gran’ts favor, particularly when compared to the military efforts of his rivals. Lincoln drawled “I can’t spare this man – he fights!”

    And for the moment, Elizabeth, we can’t spare Sarah Palin.

    [You know, I'm not much like the lecturing tone or the use of my first name as a familiar, and in such a condescending manner. Palin may be your preferred pol based on her stands on the issues, but those stances do not mean a thing if she is considered unelectable by the majority (as she is), and if she gets a deer-in-the-headlights look about her whenever she is facing an antagonist from the press (as she does). Her stand on the issues does not necessarily mean she can do the job of running the country. I concur with you that the press has treated (and continues to treat) Palin abominably; that does not mean that -because I am sympathetic- I will close my eyes to her genuine weaknesses, or not become discouraged when it seems to me that she is coasting on her celebrity, rather than hunkering down and boning up on issues, as even John Zeigler (whom I think you will agree is a Palin fan) acknowledges is happening. I also agree with you that there is "a war" going on. Palin may be enjoying a few tussles, but if she actually wants to lead (as you seem to want her to) then she's going to have to broaden her appeal to more than her base; she is going to have to transcend the fakery of the press and show people that they can trust her intellect just as much as they can trust her patriotism. I frankly think Palin has the potential to be a very able and inclusive leader...but she is not there, yet, and she will not get there by being a "star."

    I have not in any way suggested that we "can spare" Palin. I have only suggested -and I believe the passionate defenses of Palin that I must deal with whenever I dare to do other than praise her give evidence to the truth of it- that Palin is appealing to people on an emotional level, and that is just too much "cult of Obama" for my taste. That is not being "cute." That is an absolutely legitimate concern that is based on my email, the "our darling Sarah" notices I see on social media, and in the reactions of her base. We have one president put into office by the machinations of the press and the hysterics of people who wanted cry and faint, and feel good. That's not working out well, so I think I have a legitimate right to be concerned that we not allow emotions to drive our next election. Lincoln also said "we must disenthrall ourselves from our passions if we are to rescue our nation." We're under siege right now. I do not believe we will emerge the victor without some leadership that is both "good on the issues" but also able to be taken seriously. It goes without saying that the press will not take any conservative seriously. But the American people will...provided they are given a reason to. -admin]

  • Manny L.

    This was a very good blog Anchoress. I too am a big admirer of GWB. Frankly I think his presidency will hold up over time. I only wish he had gotten social security reform through. That would have made it an historic presidency. But the middle east will be infinitely better for his invasion of Iraq. And he’s retty much demolished Al Qaeda and this threat of islamic terrorism defeated. the world will be far better off from his initiatives.

  • Rand Careaga

    Count me in with mrp, Anchoress (note, though, that I do not presume to the familiarity of using your Christian name) as one who ardently believes that “we can’t spare Sarah Palin.” If I were given to imploring the Almighty for intervention in American politics I would address a supplication every night to that inscrutable entity for her to receive the GOP nomination in 2012.

    Of course, mrp and I have different purposes in view for the indispensable former governor.

    [Yes, I know Rand. You "can't spare" Palin because you think her an easy foil. In that you are as mistaken as those who over-praise her. She's not the pushover you think she is; if she were, she would not have struck the heart of the left with such cold fear. Camille Paglia, who is no idiot, understood Palin's strengths and called her "the most natural politician since Reagan." It's one of the reasons the left has set out to destroy her. Time will tell what happens, there. Palin will either hunker down and put herself through a sort of "grad course" in current events and history or she'll continue to be an affable burr in the butt of the left, or she'll burn out...but she will never be the irrelevant weakling you want to pretend she is. Just as we watched the left decry Bush as the "moronic super genius," we're watching them try to construct Palin into an "lightweight pushover" but she'll be like Bill Clinton; punch her down, she'll bob up. You pretend to jeer and laugh, but there is fear behind all your eyes. I think mrp, and Kensington and I are all in agreement about that! -admin]

  • mrp

    “[You know, I'm not much like the lecturing tone or the use of my first name as a familiar, and in such a condescending manner."

    Anchoress, I apologise for the use of your name in a familiar way. Nor did I intend to be condescending. I've visited this blog from its earliest days and I've always considered you to be an outstanding patriot and a devout and articulate defender of our faith. And informative. Today I learned that there is a Byzantine Rite Discalced Carmelite order.

    As for Sarah Palin, time will tell.

    [I apologize if I mistook your tone or meaning; that is easy to do in these forums. I'm simply not used to anyone using my name three times in a comment. I'm not even used to my husband using my name. He doesn't call me Anchoress, though. He calls me "dear." Which I guess "could" sound condescending, now that I think of it! Check out my response to Rand, with which I think you will agree. ;-) -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Whatever the faults of Sarah Palin, they pale in comparison — by a wide margin — to the faults of the likes of McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Algore, John Edwards, and um, um, um, Barack Hussein Obama, et al., in all of the areas that really count the most.

    And you’re right — it is for that very reason that she is unelectable and, if elected, ungovernable. Not because of her, but because of her enemies — they would not, they will not let her succeed. Were she president, they would do everything in their power to torpedo her on a daily basis.

    Like it or not, we will have to find someone that the other side is willing to place nice with.

    Of course, come 2012, perhaps the left will be so discredited and bloodied that they will no longer have the strength or power to do any substantive damage to their opponents.

    [I am not sure there is anyone from the right that the press and the dems is "willing to play nice with." That was my point about McCain. He was the "admirable conservative" for 8 years -the "conservative democrats could work with." He was the guy who got the magazine covers and the accolades about being a "real" hero...until he was the GOP nominee, at which point he became a "doddering old fool with a temper; mentally unstable from those years in prison." Palin definitely gave the press and the dems their opportunity to go full-hyena on the ticket (and I agree with Michael Barone that a large part of their hatred for her -aside from the fact that she did not go to an Ivy League school is that she dared to give life and love to Trig), but never forget how they turned on McCain, too. If they were not willing to "play nice" with the author of the McCain-Feingold travesty (one of Bush's REALLY BIG ERRORS, btw) and the founder of the "gang of 14" then they proved themselves unable to "play nice" with anyone who does not have a D after his/her name. But this might all be academic. I am not even sure we'll have a real election in 2012. I still maintain that Bush was the last demonstrably American President. Obama and Pelosi are rushing to "remake America" as quickly as they can, to prevent anything like a Bush, a Reagan etc from ever happening again. They're doing it by making the fed bigger than the private sector, and by making the nation dependent. -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    I still prefer to labor under the illusion that the Anchoress is still anonymously removed from society in her cell.

    Besides, if anyone ever learns her secret true identity, a whole army of supervillains and archenemies will come out seeking to destroy her.

  • http://dailywoof.wordpress.com Kensington

    I still can’t think of a single moment of Palin’s that I would ever call horrid.

    She doesn’t always hit it out of the park, sure, but horrid? Really?

  • http://runswithangels.wordpress.com/ Bender’s Cheerleader

    a whole army of supervillains and archenemies will come out seeking to destroy her.

    Like we’re gonna let that happen to her.

  • http://dailywoof.wordpress.com Kensington

    And again with the Palin “cult” nonsense. Just today we all got to see the latest in Obama worship: the Obama symphony. When the Palin symphonies debut, then I’ll take cult accusations seriously. In the meantime, it’s all just a bit hyperbolic.

    Has anyone even fainted yet at a Palin appearance?

    Also, “horrid” is *not* a mild criticism.

    [It's an old poem, do you know it? "There once was a girl/who had a little curl/right in the middle of her forehead/And when she was good/she was very,very good/and when she was bad, she was horrid." My Auntie Lillie used to tease me with it and we'd both laugh. It is, yes, the mildest of criticisms; it is a fond tease. Again, the Palinites need to lighten up. I pack my comments with plenty of appropriate praise; this is hardly a mudball I am throwing, and some are still having a very hard time dealing with the fact that there is criticism at all. And no, no one has written an orchestral piece...yet...but you and I both know there already a video to "Sarah Smile" and doubtless someone, somewhere, is strumming an Ode to Sarah, on a guitar, and dreaming of future conventions! :-) -admin]

  • J

    Pres. Bush made a choice….to fight the enemy that had attacked us, repeatedly, and, on 9/11 on our homeland, or to fight with the petty dems. As usual, Pres. Bush loved and fought for my country and, as usual, the dems fight to destroy the USA. It has never been more clear as the last 10 years and I’m afraid, with the election of obama and a congress full of dems, the left will win in the destruction of the USA.

  • Elaine

    I will always respect President Bush. He did what he thought was right in regard to protecting the country. I always felt he had the country’s best interests at heart and it was not all about him. Someday I pray we will look back at President Bush and realize he was a true gentlemen and kept us safe which I think was the main focus of his presidency.
    Sarah Palin does have great skills but she will have to get in there and mix it up with the big boys and must be able to articulate her views. I do hope she can overcome all the viciousness of the press but that is her cross to bear. If she is defensive then forget it. I hope she rises to the occasion and gets over the abuse she has gotten and will get and prevails. We shall see.

  • Doc

    Anchoress, thank you for reinforcing my point that the corporate media is primarily responsible for Democrats’ electoral success. The key to crippling the Leftist agenda is putting as many of those SOB’s out of business as possible.

    Does anyone here still pay for a daily newspaper or Time, Newsweek, or another liberal magazine? If so, and if you are conservative, why?

  • T Harris

    War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support.

    -Collin Powell

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    I am not even sure we’ll have a real election in 2012.

    Why the hell should we??

    We’ll just “deem” Obama to be re-elected.

    I’m telling you, we are about a millimeter away from being a f@#$&* dictatorship, when a handful of people simply declare by fiat that something is law, especially when that something is the government takeover of matters of life and death.

  • Trump

    Based on how everyone goes after Palin, I’ll defend her to the ends, even if she is “horrid”

    Can’t allow them to get away with it, or they’ll do it again and again

  • susan

    [Ma'am, you're done here. - admin]

  • Unsupervised

    It irritates me that Rove (and many others on the right side of the line) continue to refer to the Iraq war as “unpopular.”
    The American People, in my estimation, didn’t find the *war* unpopular, they found the thought of *not winning* to be unpopular. And the the responsiblity for working to “not win” the war, since it would seemingly benefit the Republicans if we did, sits squarely on the Democrats’ shoulders.
    But that’s new. They did the same thing in ’68.