Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Rove Mindset

Joshua Green's article "The Rove Presidency," which is just coming out in the September issue of Atlantic Monthly, provides a detailed look at the mindset that has led to what might be the most disastrous presidency in American history.

It also provides a look at the mindset that shaped Alabama's Republican-dominated state courts. Corruption in those courts, which took a major ideological turn thanks to Karl Rove and Bill Canary's campaign efforts in the 1990s, is at the heart of our story here at Legal Schnauzer.

If you were to see how Alabama courts operate, as I have over the past seven years or so, you would not be surprised to see the mess Rove has made at the White House.

Green's article, which is currently available on the Web only to Atlantic subscribers, paints a vivid picture of a conservative guru who is adept at attaining power but has no idea how to govern. Green's article is in the Atlantic, but it could just as easily be in Psychology Today.

It essentially is a case study of political and personal dysfunction. Arrogance, deceit, disrespect, selfishness, and much more are on ample display. A few highlights from Green's article:

* On Rove's insecurity: "A large part of his self-image depends on showing that his command of history and politics is an order of magnitude greater than other people's. Rove has a need to outdo everybody else that seems to inform his sometimes contrarian views of history. It's not enough for him to have read everything; he needs to have read everything and arrived at insights that others missed."

* On Rove's misguided notion that America was ready for a realignment in 2000 that would put Republicans in charge for roughly 40 years, similar to the one led by his hero, William McKinley: "The subtext seemed to be that Rove, too, recognized something everybody else had missed--the chance for a Republican realignment--just as he recognized the overlooked genius of William McKinley. . . . Like his hero McKinley, he alone was the true visionary. Everyone else looked at the political landscape and saw a nation a rough parity. Rove looked at the same thing and saw an emerging Republican majority."

* On his lack of respect for others, including those in his own party: "He never appreciated that his success would ultimately depend on the sustained cooperation of congressional Republicans, and he developed a dysfunctional relationship with many of them."

* On Rove's misguided determination to push for Social Security reform: "Had Bush decided not to pursue Social Security or had he somehow managed to pursue it in a way that included Democrats, his presidency might still have ended up in failure, because of Iraq. But the dramatic collapse of Rove's Social Security push foreclosed any other possibility. It left Bush all but dead in the water for what looks to be the remainder of his time in office."

Green conducts a fascinating interview with Republican Dick Armey, the House majority leader when Bush took office. Armey talks about a tradition he and Bill Clinton developed when they met in the White House. Armey would take the name tag he received as a White House visitor and ask Clinton to sign it. Without saying a word, Clinton would sign and date it, and when Armey left the White House, he would give the card to the first schoolkid he came across. "Bill Clinton and I didn't like each other . . . " Armey said. "But he knew that when I left his office . . . some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president's autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it." When Armey tried to continue the routine with Bush in the White House, Bush declined and Rove said the card probably would wind up on eBay. "If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with?" Armey said

Finally, Green adds a touch of historical irony. While Bush has come to be bogged down in Iraq, Rove's hero (McKinley) saw much of his presidency consumed by a foreign adventure--the Spanish-American War. McKinley launched the war at the urging of his future vice president, Teddy Roosevelt, and other hawks. And Green notes that after American forces defeated the Spanish navy in the Philippines, the U.S. occupation encountered a bloody postwar insurgency and allegations of torture committed by U.S. troops. Does that sound familiar?

Bruce Reed, domestic-policy chief under Clinton, may have summed it up best: "I think the larger, deeper problem was they never fully appreciated that long-term success depended on making sure your policies worked."

Alabama courts have suffered from a similar affliction for quite some time now. History suggests that Rove just wanted his side to dominate Alabama courts, which they have done. But small items like due process, equal protection, the rule of law? Those are rather important to the functioning of a court system. But did Rove and his conservative brethren care about such operational matters (not to mention matters of right and wrong)? Evidently not.

The mindset outlined in Green's article will be very much on display as our tale unfolds here at Legal Schnauzer.

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