- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Soon after his arrival in Washington with the newly minted President Bush, I joked with Karl Rove, “Don’t worry about buying silverware for your house. Just turn your back in this town and a whole new cutlery set will be plunged into it.”

Since announcing his resignation, Mr. Rove has pulled enough knives out of his back to supply a large-sized Texas barbecue. If the group pile-on being inflicted upon him by the media, Democrats and even Republicans were happening in sports, the whistle would have long ago been blown and penalties assessed.

I pretend no friendship with Mr. Rove. At best, we are “good acquaintances.” I got to know him during the 2000 presidential campaign when I was former Sen. Bob Dole’s press secretary. I did some low-level writing for that campaign, helped a bit with the post-election recount, was a surrogate spokesperson for the 2004 campaign and offered the occasional thought thereafter.

As people continue to blame Mr. Rove for everything from global warming to the D.C. version of dogfighting, I’d like to make a couple of observations. The first being that in my almost two decades in this town, Mr. Rove has to be the best political strategist I have ever met. At least on the Republican side. James Carville could certainly give him a run for his money. But since James is beloved by two-thirds of groups now mugging Mr. Rove, common decency dictates that Karl be allowed to hold the trophy as the tar and feathers are applied.

The second point being that while in agreement with this White House most of the time, I disagreed strongly on two issues: Immigration and the Iraq war. And no matter the disagreement, Mr. Rove continued to return my calls, answer my e-mails or send the occasional hand-written note.

To his lasting credit, Mr. Rove was desperate to hear contrarian views. He felt challenge was beneficial to the White House. His only caveat always being, “Don’t just tell me what we are doing wrong, offer me a viable option.”

With regard to immigration, I have been told that Mr. Rove was less than pleased with my observations. Little wonder. In past columns, and as I said on the air, I stressed that the “guest worker” program offered by the White House was nothing more than amnesty and a slap in the face to my legal Hispanic-American wife and the millions like her who stood in line and did all the paperwork requested of them by our country. I further stated that while it was the plan of the White House to build on the 34 percent of the Hispanic-American vote they got in 2000 and the 40 percent they got in 2004 by at least one million votes in 2008, that because of their flawed and failed “amnesty” plan, the Republican candidate for president in 2008 would get below the 34 percent then-Gov. Bush received in 2000.

On the subject of Iraq, I pointed out that while I always supported this president’s decision to go into Iraq, former colleagues of mine at the Pentagon felt that the invasion was rushed. It was their belief that the then-advisors at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Steve Cambone — all non-military-serving, ivory-tower academics — gave the president false or incomplete information which caused him to order the invasion before all possible scenarios could be understood and war-gamed.

I called into question the two “legacy” issues of this White House, and yet, not a hint of blackballing by “The Architect.” The credit he deserves far outweighs any blame. Real or imagined.

And the credit is substantial. The aforementioned Mr. Carville recently lauded Mr. Rove for his strategy regarding the historic 2002 Republican midterm victories and the 2004 presidential election. At the same time, James can’t bring himself to give props for the 2000 election which he, most Democrats and most in the media still believe Bush “stole.” They need many more hours of couch time to get over it. I’m more than happy to give Karl kudos for that win as well. On election night, he basically shamed the networks out of their bias, and by intellectual firepower alone, forced them to take Florida out of the Gore column.

Hypocrisy, as always, is the coin of the realm in Washington. Democrats, the media and the Republican party all decry the “hate” in politics and yet have no problem attaching such loathing to a man they blame for their shortcomings, use to fill their political coffers or vilify for ratings.

If Karl is not the genius some suggest, then he is still much smarter than me. For while I will continue to labor in this poisonous town, Mr. Rove will be long since gone, drawing fresh breaths of air as he puts pen to paper.

Should make for an interesting book.

Douglas MacKinnon was press secretary for former Senator Bob Dole and a former official at the White House and Pentagon.

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