So this is the way the Rove ends, not with an indictment but with a "rambunctious" resignation.
Having dodged the Plamegate bullet and confident of executive privileging his way out of the U.S. Attorney firings scandal he no doubt masterminded, Rove is heading out the door the doughy personification of the Bush White House.
In his exit-announcing interview with WSJ editorial page editor Paul Gigot, the man dubbed the Boy Genius manifested all the worst traits of the administration he helped forge: he was delusional, fanatical, and deceptive.
The delusions are front and center. Gigot describes Rove as "relaxed" and "cheerful." So with Iraq an unmitigated disaster, Afghanistan slipping further into chaos (largely because of Iraq), Bush's popularity at an all-time low, his signature efforts on Social Security and immigration dead, and his dreams of a permanent GOP majority crumbling around him, Rove is relaxed and cheerful? The 2006 thumping must have left him positively giddy.
Rove also shows that he is not among the reality-based when he predicts that by Bush wielding his veto pen in the upcoming budget fight, the GOP will restore its reputation on spending restraint. Spending restraint? After six and a half years of watching a GOP-controlled Congress bloat the budget by 50 percent, and the promotion of a war that will eventually cost over a trillion dollars? What kind of pills is Bush's Brain popping? Or, after successfully selling the American people a double dose of Bush, does Rove believe he can sell them anything?
Rove's delusional thinking clearly extends to the times he looks in the mirror. In discussing the 2006 election, Rove tells Gigot that his biggest tactical mistake was not working soon enough to replace Republicans tainted by scandal. Uh, you mean scandal-tainted like yourself, Karl? Or have you forgotten all that stuff about leaking the name of an undercover CIA agent or your boss reneging on his promise to fire the leaker (unless of course that leaker turned out to be his right hand man)? And since "not working soon enough to replace Republicans tainted by scandal" was such a big mistake in '06, wouldn't it stand to reason that showing Alberto Gonzales the door now would be a good idea if the GOP wants to avoid another thumping in '08?
Then there is the full-throated fanaticism. Exhibiting the profound unwillingness to allow evidence to get in the way of unshakable belief that is the hallmark of a fanatic, Rove announces to Gigot that "Iraq will be in a better place" come the fall.
And like all fanatics, Rove can't admit mistakes. Remember how Bush famously couldn't think of a single mistake he'd made? Same with Rove. When Gigot asks about mistakes he has made while in the White House, Rove says, "I'll put my feet up in September and think about that." So with invading Iraq, forgetting bin Laden, and advising Bush against immediately visiting New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina all bobbing on the surface, Rove has to wait until he can kick back in September and wrack his brain before he can come up with a mistake? Wow.
As for being deceptive: does Rove really think that the old "I've got to do this for the sake of my family" line is going to fly? Is he that unaware of how ludicrous that sounds -- how spit-your-milk-back-through-your-nose mockable the cliché has become? Apparently, his underestimation of the intelligence of the American people knows no bounds. Why else would he gild the believability lily by saying that his resignation hand was forced when Josh Bolten warned senior White House staffers that if they stayed on past Labor Day they would be expected to serve through the remainder of Bush's term. Sure, Karl. Whatever you say.
My favorite tidbit in the WSJ interview is the "insider color" tossed in about how Rove and Bush talk politics every Sunday morning on the phone, and about the contest the two friends have to see who can read the most books. According to Gigot, "Mr. Rove is winning."
It's so emblematic of Rove and his relationship to Bush. After 14 years of diligently working to construct an image of Bush as a thoughtful leader -- Bush as bookworm? -- he has to toss another brick on the edifice, even as he's heading out the door. Rove says that after leaving the White House, he plans to write a book about the Bush years. Wonder if that will be part of the contest. Somehow I have a feeling the first line won't be, "Call me Turd Blossom."
For more on Rove, here are some of the columns and posts I've written about him through the years.
The Karl Rove Diaries (6-11-03)
Rove-Plame: The Word from Aspen (7-6-05)
Karl Rove's Big Easy (9-15-05)
Heck of a Job, Viveca? (12-18-05)
The Cocktail That Saved Karl Rove's Ass (6-18-06)