It takes a whole awful lot for me to get down on America. I don’t have a “Love It or Leave It” bumper sticker or anything, but even when things are going badly and the country is guilty of serious failures of our national character, I don’t fall into that intellectually lazy “Blame America First” cacophony that always seems to erupt. I find that kind of conspicuous self-flagellation distasteful, disingenuous, and often self-serving. In other words, I think Barbara Streisand has a fine voice, and singing “Second Hand Rose” is the only thing she ought to be doing with it.
So when I say that I actually fear for the health of this republic, the best damn country on the planet, I’m not just saying that to ingratiate myself with the nation’s self-congratulatory liberals and hang out at MoveOn.org headquarters, where people pass the time swapping vegan recipes and french-kissing Arab terrorists. I’m saying it because I mean it – and folks, when Karl Rove was pulling the strings as Puppetmaster-in-Chief, I was damn scared. And believe me…if you can make me doubt America, you are some kind of asshole, my friend.
“Bush’s Brain” as Rove was called in some circles (some days, a backhanded compliment indeed), personifies that unique brand of rot lately infecting Washington – the pursuit of power for its own sake, and then the piggish wallowing in it. When our systems works like it’s supposed to, candidates who represent a spectrum of ideological as well as practical philosophies of government appeal to the people, the electorate, for the privilege to apply that philosophy to the issues facing the country. That element of our democracy alone might make an election sound like a “winner take all,” where getting more than 50% of the vote means you get to do whatever you want for your term in office because the people must want “your philosophy.” However, the very fact that we have regular elections negates that premise of power. Implicit in the idea of an election is the idea of fallibility: we are electing humans to govern us, and no human is perfect, no human is all-knowing, no human gets everything right. Our elections therefore provide the citizenry with the power to remove those officials who keep getting it wrong or abuse the privilege of their office. It follows, then, that being put into office by the people comes with the responsibility to acknowledge to yourself and your constituents that you are there to do your best, not that you always know best. Good governance means compromise, listening to alternative points of view, and bringing the opposition into your circle. Karl Rove didn’t do that.
Under Rove, national politics became a zero-sum game. Rove aggressively, subversively, dishonestly, pursued a single-minded agenda that seemed to thrive on excluding all ideas but those of the Bush administration. The risibly Christian-dominated “faith-based” agenda of Bush’s foreign aid policy and Rove’s role in the attorney firings scandal are but two examples of Rove’s West Wing direction, the philosophy of which can be described as “We’re right, they’re wrong, let’s call it a day.”
He’s gone now. The circumstances of his departure give me some hope, as I hope they serve as an example to future power-brokers. For in October of 2001, the administration’s leadership after 9/11 made it worthy of the building that housed it:
In 2007, Rove is leaving, with his tail between his legs, out the back door of something a little more like this:
Probably not the gleaming structure that “The Architect” had in mind. Hope you’ve been paying attention, Representative Emanuel.
Filed under: Politics