Washington is all buzzing with the publication of Karl Rove’s new memoir, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. In it, Rove lifts the curtain on the Bush presidency and aims for a clear-throated defense of his former boss’s policies. The revelation gaining the most scrutiny is Rove’s defense of Bush’s prosecution of the Iraq War (see Chapter 21: “Bush Was Right on Iraq”).
More fun, however, is finding out that Rove thinks John Kerry’s wife is a “nightmare” or that the architect of Bush’s two presidential victories was doing the terrorist fist jab before Barack and Michelle had picked it up. We also find young Karl Rove losing his first political fight—to a girl!
The Daily Beast presents highlights from the Beltway’s newest doorstopper.
Little Rove Gets Beat Up—By a Girl
Rove writes, “At the age of 9, I decided I was for Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election. I got my hands on a Nixon bumper sticker, slapped it on my bike’s wire basket, and rode up and down the block, as if that alone would get him the vote. Instead it drew the attention of a little girl who lived in the neighborhood. She had a few years and about 30 pounds on me and was enthusiastically for John F. Kennedy. She pulled me from bicycle and beat the heck out of me, leaving me with a bloody nose and a tattered ego. I’ve never liked losing a political fight since.”
John Edwards Was Too Pretty, Lawyer-y
“I worried most about Senator John Edwards,” Rove writes about the 2004 presidential campaign. “He was a fresh face, articulate and engaging, and attractive to the point of being almost too pretty…. I also thought he was completely unprincipled—he could change his views like leaves change their colors. He came across at times as shallow and opportunistic and, like the trial lawyer he was, too slick.”
The relationship between Karl Rove and former Secretary of State Colin Powell was notoriously strained. Rove writes that on occasion Powell, a retired four-star general, would command him to do push-ups. “I admire Powell’s many years of service to our country and I think he was a fine secretary of State,” Rove writes. “But I sense he never felt comfortable around me because he looked down on me as a ‘politico.’ According to news reports, Powell was ‘put off’ by me. My impression was that Powell was a fairly effective political infighter himself, but it was something he liked to keep hidden from view. I could tell when Powell was annoyed at me, because he would address me as ‘Private Rove’ and order me to drop and give him 20 push-ups.”
John Kerry’s Wife: Not So Dreamy
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry campaigned against Bush in 2004. Rove knew Kerry’s wife Teresa Heinz from when she was married to Sen. John Heinz. Rove writes, “Teresa Heinz was a nightmare: I once saw her throw a water bottle at a staff assistant who had angered her over nothing. I was told that behavior was routine.”
The Moneyball Campaign
• Matt Latimer: The Karl Rove You Don’t KnowWhere exactly did the Bush campaign of 2004 get their idea to “microtarget” voters, tallying up 225 pieces of information about each household? From a bestselling baseball book, of course. Campaign manager Ken Melhman, according to Rove, “summed up how it all worked for us by suggesting we read Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book is the story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager, Billy Beane… His players didn’t hit as many home runs or put up gaudy stats that got public attention. But each team member’s talents knit well with the rest of the team and made them formidable.”
Rove and Dubya Fist Bump
During the 2008 campaign, one greeting shared by Barack and Michelle Obama was dubbed by Fox News a “terrorist fist jab.” (Most people would call it a fist bump.) It seems Karl Rove was familiar with the maneuver. He captions one photo in the book, “On September 2, 2004, backstage at Madison Square Garden in New York City, I give President Bush a first bump before he goes out to deliver his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention.”
Obama: ‘Rove Hates Me’
In 2005, Rove and then-Senator Barack Obama first met in the White House. Rove asked Obama about a passage in The Audacity of Hope, Obama’s memoir, where Rove and others had been described as saying, “We are a Christian nation.” Three years later, Rove found himself sharing a table with Obama’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “At the dinner,” Rove writes, “Jon [Meacham, the editor of Newsweek] sat between me and Valerie Jarrett… During the dinner, Jarrett emailed Obama on her BlackBerry to let him know she was breaking bread with Satan himself. He emailed her back and Jarrett made the mistake of showing Jon and me his reply, which was ‘Rove hates me.’ I knew Senator Obama was alluding to our run-over the passage in his book. I asked Jarrett to tell him I wasn’t in the habit of hating people.”
Rove says he never heard of Joseph C. Wilson IV before reading his Op-Ed in The New York Times. Wilson’s opinion piece contradicted George W. Bush’s famous declaration that Saddam Hussein had sought nuclear materials in Africa. When it was eventually leaked that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, served in the CIA, Rove and other members of the administration became embroiled in a federal investigation.
What’s Wrong with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell
In the heat of the Wilson-Plame affair, Rove found himself watching Don Imus on TV. “He was talking with NBC’s State Department correspondent Andrea Mitchell about how I was going to be raped in prison and theorized how that fat little porker—me—would squeal. It was a tasteless, disgusting, and disturbing comment that elicited no reprimand from Mitchell. She simply laughed and a few titters later was on to the next subject. Mitchell embodied an attitude many of her media colleagues shared: They don’t exhibit a cynical detachment from the events and the people they cover, they actually enjoy the misery of others.”
Behind the Mask
Rove writes that he was shaken by press reports that he leaked Plame’s CIA status. He says, “I felt my concerns and stress were becoming visible to colleagues and affecting my work. I talked to [his then-wife] Darby, who said I needed to give this all over to a Higher Power. It was good advice—but hard to do. I obsessed about all the White House stuff, but out of everyone’s view. I was determined not to let White House colleagues, the press, the public, or anyone else—up to and including Darby—see me suffer. Stiff upper lip, soldier on, all that. Illegitimis non carborundum: Don’t let the bastards grind you down. But behind the mask, the whole thing was scaring the hell out of me.”