Want to understand the nefarious role Karl Rove has played in bastardizing our justice system--both in Alabama and beyond?
Then Scott Horton's interview with author Paul Alexander is must reading.
Alexander is the author of the just-released Machiavelli's Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove, and Horton interviews him at Harper's.org.
Some highlights from the interview:
* Alexander, on comparisons between the investigations of Jim Hightower in Texas and Don Siegelman in Alabama:
In the 1990 race for agriculture commissioner in Texas, Rove represented Rick Perry as he ran against incumbent Jim Hightower, a popular figure in the state. In the eighteen months leading up to the election, Hightower saw his office become the object of an ongoing investigation by Greg Rampton, an FBI agent based in Austin. During the campaign, no charges were filed against Hightower or anyone in his office, but there was a steady steam of negative news stories concerning the investigation. The Perry campaign—run by Rove—even used the fact that the FBI was investigating Hightower in its fundraising mail-outs. Was Rove involved in the investigation? “This summer,” Rove wrote in a 1989 federal questionnaire that would later surface, “I met with agent Greg Rampton of the Austin FBI office at his request regarding a probe of political corruption in the office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.” Perry—today Texas governor—won the race in a squeaker, by less than 15,000 votes.
Tellingly, there would be a similar investigation of Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama when he was running for re-election in 2002. In the run-up to that election, Siegelman was the subject of a combined federal-state investigation carried out by William Pryor, the state attorney general and a Rove client, and Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney and the wife of a former Rove business partner, William “Bill” Canary. Information from the investigation routinely ended up in the news, which was then used by one or more Republican candidates. The negative attacks—helped for sure by large sums of money spent to run ads against Siegelman—made the race close. In a disputed election (another story in itself), Siegelman was defeated by Republican Bob Riley by just 3,000 votes.The Rove forces didn’t let up. Ultimately, they would see to it that Siegelman was indicted. And how would that investigation lead to an indictment? “Don’t worry,” Bill Canary is reported to have said on a conference call concerning the matter, “I’ve already gotten it worked out with Karl. Karl has spoken with the Justice Department and they are already pursuing Siegelman.”
* Alexander, on the notion that, as White House strategist, Rove would be too elevated to worry about a gubernatorial race in Alabama involving Don Siegelman and Bob Riley:
When Rove headed with Bush to Washington after winning the presidency in 2000, Rove had one overriding goal, which he would state publicly over the coming years: to set up what Rove termed “a permanent Republican majority.”
“When Karl got to the White House,” Texas-based Republican strategists Mark Sanders told me, “he immediately started putting together a plan for what was essentially the Third Reich of Republican majority in this country. That was absolutely his plan, a Republican majority domination not just of the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, and the presidency, but also state legislatures across the country. This was not just a pie-in-the-sky dream that Karl had. He wanted to see the Republican Party rule for the next 30 to 40 years.”
To do this, Rove needed the South to remain solidly Republican, and of looming concern was Don Siegelman—a popular, effective governor in Alabama, and a Democrat. It is not surprising, then, that Rove targeted Siegelman as someone who needed to be defeated and then driven from the political scene so he would not be able to reappear in the future to pose a threat.
“So all roads lead to Karl Rove, who wanted me out of the way,” Siegelman told me, “because I was a threat not only in Alabama but also on the national level. I was the first Democratic governor to endorse Al Gore. Heading toward 2004, I had spoken out at a Democratic Governors Association meeting against Bush’s policy in Iraq and his education and economic programs, and I was ready to take that message to key primary states.”
To achieve this, Rove participated in a political prosecution of Siegelman that culminated with Siegelman going to prison which ended Siegleman’s political career—or so it appeared at the time.
* Alexander, on what Rove has done to the Republican Party--and the country:
Rove’s legacy will be based on the fact that he helped get Bush elected Texas governor twice and president twice. There is no denying that political achievement. However, Rove must also own the fact that his president has now chalked up the longest sustained sub-par approval rating of any president in modern times. According to the latest national poll I saw, Bush has a 23 percent approval rating, roughly the number Richard Nixon had when he resigned from office.
Republican leaders have described the Bush brand as “toxic.” Party insiders view Rove harshly. “I think the legacy,” Ed Rollins told me for my book, “is that Karl Rove will be a name that’ll be used for a long, long time as an example of how not to do it, as opposed to an example of how to do it….I think, at the end of this, the party will be weaker in numbers in the Congress, numbers of governors, numbers of state legislatures, and numbers of Republicans. He did little to attract young people to become Republicans. Anybody who’s a Republican today became a Republican during the Reagan era. Nobody who’s come of age during the Bush era will stand up and say, ‘I’m a Bush Republican. I’m going to spend the rest of my life being a Bush Republican.’”