02-19-2017  1:09 pm      •     


Karl Rove, the presidential advisor dubbed "George Bush's brain," has announced he will resign at the end of this month. Washington pundits and poobahs will be ladling out memories of his brilliance and praise for his accomplishment as the architect of the Bush presidential victories.

Well, hold the applause. How will Karl Rove be remembered? A skilled practitioner of the back alley arts of politics, Rove was architect of the worst administration in America's history. George Bush was never interested in history or in domestic or foreign policy; he was interested in politics. And in Karl Rove, he found his instrument, a man who ensured that political calculation overruled morality, policy or even the national interest.

At home, Rove thought he could forge a ruling majority for conservatives, yoking the wealth of the multinationals with the troops of the religious right. His calculation led directly to the most corrupt administration and congress in memory, to an economic policy that enabled the wealthiest few to capture all of the rewards of economic growth, to Gilded-Age inequality and an unprecedented corporate crime wave. His calculation ended up discrediting the conservative movement, and he leaves a president isolated and unpopular because of his failed course.

In Rove's Washington, political calculation was all. Bush trampled conservative principle to support the "No Child Left Behind" federal intervention into public education so he could appeal to parents concerned about the public schools. And then he walked away from his own reforms, breaking his promise on adequate funding, and allowing his appointees to mismanage the whole effort. Bush signed onto the prescription drug benefit to counter an appealing Democratic program, but then allowed the drug lobbies to write the legislation, squandering billions on subsidies to the insurance and drug companies. He moved to "privatize Social Security," endangering the one secure retirement benefit people have, in the political hope of creating a generation of [Republican] investors. That folly was the beginning of the end.

Abroad, Rove stood with the neo-cons who scorned the "reality based community." The United States was so powerful militarily it could create its own reality. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were used to turn the president into a "commander-in-chief." The vital reconstruction in both countries was botched, starved of funds and troops, even as Rove was having the president declare "mission accomplished." The triumph of spin and ideology over reality helped create the worst foreign policy debacle in our nation's history.

Worse, Rove immediately used the Sept. 11 attacks for partisan political purpose. He pushed for trampling the laws and Constitution of the country to show that the president was strong and Democrats were weak on security. He had the president charge Democrats with being weak on security because they tried to protect the basic rights of workers herded into the gargantuan Department of Homeland Security. He turned 9/11 and posturing on the war into a partisan instrument at the Republican convention in 2004 and the re-election campaign. He helped re-elect the president at the price of dividing the nation and embittering our politics. A president who should have brought the nation together ended driving us apart.

Characteristically, after Katrina and the shame of New Orleans, the president belatedly named a special advisor on the crisis. That man was Karl Rove. And Rove's policy was to disperse the displaced -- the poor, largely African American and Democratic voters -- to 50 states, with no plan to bring them back home. The administration made provision for Mexicans in the United States to vote in the Mexican election and for Iraqis to vote in the Iraqi election, but it made no provision for special voting booths for those dispersed from New Orleans. For Rove, even the tragedy of New Orleans might be turned to parochial political purpose.

Bush and Rove largely had their way. And the result was catastrophic -- Iraq, Katrina, the attempt to privatize Social Security, the starving of vital investments at home, the plundering of billions by contractors in Iraq, the posturing over Terri Schiavo's tragedy, the failure to address catastrophic climate change, energy dependence, skyrocketing trade deficits, growing inequality, a broken health care system, soaring college costs. The list can go on.

Rove was successful. He helped steal elections in 2000 and 2004. He helped engineer conservative control of every institution in Washington. He and his president had their way and they failed. And we will pay the cost of that failure for decades to come.


Jesse Jackson is the president/founder of the RainbowPUSH Coalition and longtime civil rights activist.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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