Rove blames himself for administration's response to lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
By Michael D. Shear
Copyright by The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 3, 2010; 12:30 PM
Former president George W. Bush did not mislead the nation about weapons of mass destruction as a way to "lie us" into war, his former top political aide, Karl Rove, asserts in a new memoir, "Courage and Consequence."
"The charge that Bush lied was itself a lie," Rove wrote in a chapter titled "Bush Was Right on Iraq." "Some who leveled the charge -- Al Gore, Senators Harry Reid, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy -- were hypocrites who had earlier said much the same as, or more than, what they later criticized Bush for."
While defending the administration's handling of Iraq, Rove concedes that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction damaged "the administration's credibility." And he blamed himself for failing to "set the record" straight.
"When the pattern of the Democratic attacks became apparent in July 2003, we should have countered in a forceful and overwhelming way," he writes. "We should have seen this for what it was: a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency."
He continued: "So who was responsible for the failure to respond? I was. I should have stepped forward, rung the warning bell, and pressed for full-scale response. I didn't."
Rove's full-throated defense of his former boss comes as little surprise. The strategist who engineered Bush's two victories and served as a senior adviser in the White House has publicly offered similar defenses in a Wall Street Journal column and as a Fox News contributor.
But the book, which has been much anticipated, takes Rove's defense of the Bush legacy to a new and more detailed level.
Rove admits in the book that during the early days of Hurricane Katrina, the White House failed to "seize control of the situation in Louisiana sooner. . . . We were too passive for too long. Louisiana's failures became our failures anyway."
But he also blames much of those failures on the Democratic leadership in Louisiana and New Orleans, not on the administration or the president. He writes that questions about who would take control and how to cooperate with the federal government were problematic.
"Behind the scenes, the White House staff engaged in a complicated, high-stakes legal and constitutional battle with Louisiana's governor -- which had huge ramifications for New Orleans and the administration," Rove writes.
Rove's memoir covers the sweep of his life, from growing up in the west to his days as a college Republican to the Bush campaigns that forever solidified his position as one of the nation's top political strategists.
He describes the first hours after the 9/11 attacks and the rapid departure on Air Force One with Bush. "The 747 shot down the runway with a force I had never experienced," he writes. "Once in the air, Air Force One then stood on its tail to get as high as possible, as rapidly as possible. I had not been in a jet at such a steep incline."
Rove praises Bush for a singular focus on terrorism after that day.
"He locked in on the struggle against terrorism with resolute focus," he writes. "He never looked away from it. The immediacy of that day never left him as he occupied the Oval Office."
As he has frequently done in his columns, Rove takes aim at President Obama, describing him as a person who frequently "plays fast and loose with the facts and his accusations."
"Another thing that has badly hurt President Obama is that his claims -- especially on health care -- are simply at odds with reality," Rove writes.
But most of the book is focused squarely on offering a comprehensive -- sometimes moment-by-moment -- defense of the campaigns he helped to direct and the conservative agenda he was part of implementing in the White House.
Rove describes being alone, watching news reports of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave Bush the presidency.
"It wasn't the moment I had envisioned for Election Night, with Bush in front of the Texas Capitol with tens of thousands of cheering supporters," he wrote. "Instead, I was standing in my pajamas, looking out a hotel window into a dark, deserted office park, having been hung up on by the man who would now be president."
And he lashes out at the Democrats on Capitol Hill, whom he accuses of not wanting to work with the new president. In a chapter titled "What Bipartisanship," Rove wrote as examples that "the way Democrats approached trade was unprincipled, but their treatment of judicial nominees was appalling."
Some Republicans did not escape his attention, either. In one passage, Rove accuses former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis of repeatedly trying to get Jeannemarie Devolites, a former state senator in Virginia, appointed to the board of Sallie Mae.
Rove writes that he finally gave in and recommended her appointment, only to discover through news reports that the pair were romantically involved -- even though Davis was married at the time.
"I decided I needed to ask Davis about it directly. Davis' answer was blunt, angry and dismissive about the allegations," Rove writes. "I told him I took him at his word. To this day, I have no idea whether Davis and Devolites were romantically involved at the time he proposed her for appointment. . . . From then on, my relationship with Davis was frosty and difficult."