All Rove, all the time

Maybe he leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press. Maybe that was treasonous. Maybe he'll do hard time for it. Maybe we'll even know for sure sometime soon. But in the meantime, Karl Rove is still the man to be in politics.

Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff has a Rove biography of sorts that charts the man's steady rise from the nerdy college Republican-slash-Nixon worshipper to the most powerful Republican in Texas, to quite possibly the most powerful man in national politics (it's up for debate whether Bush himself is more powerful than Rove; you decide). Along the way, Wolff contemplates how the junk-mail king has been able to confound and debilitate political opponents at every step.

Here's another thing that's confusing to liberals about Rove (actually, I think, to all political professionals).
Political consultants, when they win the ultimate prize, tend to be freed from politics -- and freed from their candidate. The sideman gets an identity. Post-victory, James Carville, Clinton's Rove, revealed himself to have his own media ambitions. Lee Atwater, Bush Sr.'s Rove, became a happy bad boy with country-music stars in his eyes. Michael Deaver, Reagan's Rove, tried profitable influence peddling. Carter's Rove, Hamilton Jordan, plunged into the nightlife. Even Karen Hughes, as solid a Bush citizen as you get, got restless, wanted her independence.
Rove hasn't stepped out. He isn't claiming something for himself. He's burrowing in deeper. He now has the title of deputy chief of staff for policy (in other words, all policy is politics). But forget the title, he's the White House C.O.O. -- the inside operator; everything reports up to him.
On the one hand, this makes Rove a new kind of historic figure: he has extended the consultant's reach and turned presidential politics into a much more ambitious, global-branding-and-marketing operation. But, on the other hand, there's something creepy about his personal investment.
Also Rove-related, though tangentially so, is Hanna Rosin's amazing (and somewhat fear-inducing) profile of Patrick Henry College in the New Yorker.

Part of the ever-expanding plan for Republican dominance, Patrick Henry College is a unique school:
Patrick Henry is a Christian college, though it is not affiliated with any denomination, and it gives students guidelines on "glorifying God with their appearance." During class hours, the college enforces a "business casual" dress code designed to prepare the students for office life -- especially for offices in Washington, D.C., fifty miles to the east, where almost all the students have internships, with Republican politicians or in conservative think tanks.
So you've got 300 students being groomed not only to take conservative politics to the next level, but also to run for office themselves one day. Even more amazing are these students' backgrounds:
[Student Elisa] Muench, like eighty-five per cent of the students at Patrick Henry, was homeschooled, in her case in rural Idaho. Homeschoolers are not the most obvious raw material for a college whose main mission, since its founding, five years ago, has been to train a new generation of Christian politicians. Politics, after all, is the most social of professions, and many students arrive at Patrick Henry having never shared a classroom with anyone other than their siblings. In conservative circles, however, homeschoolers are considered something of an élite, rough around the edges but pure -- in their focus, capacity for work, and ideological clarity -- a view that helps explain why the Republican establishment has placed its support behind Patrick Henry, and why so many conservative politicians are hiring its graduates.[...]

He founded the school after getting requests from two constituencies: homeschooling parents and conservative congressmen. The parents would ask him where they could find a Christian college with a "courtship" atmosphere, meaning one where dating is regulated and subject to parental approval. The congressmen asked him where they could find homeschoolers as interns and staffers, "which I took to be shorthand for 'someone who shares my values,' " Farris said. "And I knew they didn't want a fourteen-year-old kid." So he set out to build what he calls the Evangelical Ivy League, and what the students call Harvard for Homeschoolers.
Muench interned for the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives, of which Karl Rove is the boss, and being so close to the center of power made her something of a player on the Patrick Henry campus as well. Since, as Rosin notes, Muench has aspirations for office herself, it seems inevitable that Rove's legacy will live on, whether or not he goes up the river.

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