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Wasserman: What Matters About Rove Is He's Evil

What Matters About Guttermeister Rove Is That He's Evil ... And Soon Over

by Harvey Wasserman
June 25, 2005

The harder they come, the harder they fall.

The legendary reggae song says it all about the evil, soon over Karl Rove.

For years we've heard only of the GOP Guttermeister's "genius". But for all his alleged success, what matters most about Karl Rove's legendary career is that the world is a much worse place for who he is and what he's done. He leaves no legacy except pain and suffering, anger and devastation.

The gameplayers love Rove's uncanny mastery of the dirty trick and knife in the back, of the lowest common denominator and the perfectly timed smear. Gay marriage and flag burning, bigotry and fundamentalism, immigration and abortion....Rove's use of anything handy to divide and confuse has been peerless. No American better understands those ultimate fascist mainstays, the Terror Card and the Big Lie.

Rove began as a dirty trickster for Richard Nixon. He took the dubious George W. Bush and made him governor, then president, then "war president." He's engineered a near-absolute takeover of the American media and government in a ways without precedent.

He is kingmaker and coup master, the Prince of slime and sleaze.

But the substance of his legacy is unmitigated evil. His "genius" has produced only skyrocketing poverty and catastrophic deficits, a poisoned environment and a horrific war, a soiled global reputation and a twisted national psyche, a shredded Constitution and a polluted public soul. If Karl Rove leaves any enduring monuments at all, they are Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

And thus his fall, a tragedy in reverse, will be all the more catastrophic. He's now in the throes of its most predictable symptoms: hubris and overreach.

A true master of political intrigue stays behind the scenes and out of sight. Rove's scornful public nonsense about the Democrats being "soft on terrorism" was the classic misstep of a man who thinks he's invincible.

But his Bushtapo has roved well beyond the limits of public tolerance. From the excesses of the Patriot Act to the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan to the rape of the environment to the pillage of Terry Schiavo, the GOP juggernaut is now at war with the core beliefs of mainstream America.

Neither they nor Rove will go down tomorrow.

But his success has rested above all on a mastery of the media and of the polls, and both are slipping away. Raw power only gets you so far. And for a man who's built his entire career on contempt and scorn, hatred and cynicism, the slightest slip is blood in the water.

Since victory has been the only thing that matters, even the slightest loss means there's only one direction to go. Rove's friends are ciphers, his enemies legion.

Rove's two gutter gurus foreshadow his demise. The master manipulator Lee Atwater got Bush One elected in 1988 by equating the usual hapless Democrat---in this case, Michael Dukakis---with a petty criminal named Willie Horton, an African-American. It was the last time a Republican actually won the presidency with a legitimate vote count.

But Atwater later contracted brain cancer. On his death bed, he repented his racist stench.

Rove's father figure was Richard Nixon. In 1972 Nixon won 49 states. Amidst a ghastly, endless war, he seemed to have America at the brink of fascism. But less than two years later he became the first US president to resign in disgrace.

Unlike Atwater, Nixon never repented. Rove probably won't either.

But he's on his way down. And it's every American's patriotic duty to speed the process.


HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE US is available through He is co-editor, with Bob Fitrakis and Steve Rosenfeld, of DID GEORGE W. BUSH STEAL AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION?, available through

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