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2007-08-14

Bush’s Brain Steps Down: Facing Subpoenas, Karl Rove Resigns

Guests

Wayne Slater, senior political reporter for The Dallas Morning News and co-author of two books about Rove: Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential and, more recently, The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power.

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President Bush’s top adviser Karl Rove announced on Monday he will step down as White House deputy chief of staff at the end of the month. The move comes while he is at the center of several congressional investigations. We speak with Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater, co-author of two books on Rove, "Bush"s Brain" and "The Architect." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to President Bush’s top adviser, Karl Rove, the man nicknamed Bush’s Brain and the architect, who announced on Monday he’ll step down as White House deputy chief of staff at the end of the month.

Bush and Rove have known each other for over three decades. Rove helped guide Bush to the Texas governorship and later to two terms in the White House. They appeared together yesterday on the South Lawn to address reporters. Bush began by thanking his longtime adviser.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We’ve been friends for a long time, and we’re still going to be friends. I would call Karl Rove a dear friend. We’ve known each other as youngsters interested in serving our state, and we worked together so we could be in a position to serve this country. And so, I thank my friend. I’ll be on the road behind you here in a little bit. I thank Darby and I thank Karl for making a tremendous sacrifice and wish you all the very best.

KARL ROVE: Today I submitted my resignation as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser, effective the end of the month. Mr. President, I’m grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve our nation and you. I’m grateful for being able to work with the extraordinary men and women that you’ve drawn into this administration. And I’m grateful to have been witness to history. It has been the joy and the honor of a lifetime.

I’ve seen a man of far-sighted courage put America on a war footing and protect us against a brutal enemy in a dangerous conflict that will shape this new century. I’ve seen a leader respond to an economy weakened by recession, corporate scandal and terrorist attacks by taking decisive action to strengthen the economy and create jobs. I’ve seen a reformer who challenged his administration, the Congress and the country to make bold changes to important institutions in great need of repair.

Mr. President, the world’s turned many times since our journey began. We’ve been at this a long time. It was over 14 years ago that you began your run for governor and over 10 years ago that we started thinking and planning about a possible run for the presidency. And it’s been an exhilarating and eventful time. Through it all, you’ve remained the same man. Your integrity, character and decency have remained unchanged and inspiring.

Through all those years, I’ve asked a lot of my family, and they’ve given all I’ve asked and more. And now it seems the right time to start thinking about the next chapter in our family’s life.

AMY GOODMAN: While Karl Rove says he’s resigning in order to spend more time with his family, the move comes while he’s at the center of several congressional investigations. Last month, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy subpoenaed Rove to testify about his role in the politicization of the Justice Department in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. So far Rove has ignored the subpoenas, refused to testify, citing executive privilege. In addition, two weeks ago, Rove skipped a congressional hearing on the allegedly improper use by White House aides of Republican National Committee email accounts. Leahy has vowed to continue the investigation. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Rove said, "I’m Moby Dick, and they’re after me."

Rove previously escaped indictment in the CIA leak case. While then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan initially publicly denied Rove had anything to do with the leak, the special prosecutor’s investigation later determined he had in fact divulged or confirmed undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

Wayne Slater is the senior political reporter for The Dallas Morning News and co-author of two books about Rove: Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential and most recently The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power. Wayne Slater joins me now on the phone from Texas. Welcome to Democracy Now!

WAYNE SLATER: Great to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to this news?

WAYNE SLATER: Well, the first thing, of course, that comes to mind is when anybody in Washington says they’re resigning to spend more time with their family, the thing you know for sure is they’re not resigning to spend more time with their family. But, you know, it was the time to go. The truth is this administration is over. There will be no more big initiatives. There are no more re-election races. And with respect to the campaigns they had, the Republican candidates for president are trying to distance themselves from George Bush, not associate themselves. It was time for Rove to go.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the way in which he made the announcement, The Wall Street Journal — no, not the news pages — to Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor?

WAYNE SLATER: But, of course. You know, that’s not unusual. That’s who he was talking to. It’s a friendly newspaper, by and large, certainly the business-minded newspaper. I mean, what Karl has done is prepared the way for the next step. And on the positive side, from Karl’s point of view, what he intends to do — and he really indicated that; if you listen to, you know, the statement that you just played, the remarks he made yesterday on the South Lawn, he will become the fiercest advocate for George Bush and the Bush years, the Bush legacy, and by extension the Rove legacy, by writing books and by speaking for the next few years. He’s an historian. He sees himself as an amateur historian. And he knows that this is a disaster of a presidency. This is absolutely a debacle. And he knows that in order to either explain or, as others would say, redefine and resurrect this disaster of a presidency, he’s got to get in there and be part of the early historical record. That’s his hope. It’s a long, long shot.

AMY GOODMAN: What does this mean for George Bush? You have written in The Dallas Morning News just today the resignation of Rove means the last and most important member of George W. Bush’s Texas inner circle is gone.

WAYNE SLATER: You know, the thing about George Bush is — and one of the things Karl said yesterday — I’ve seen a man who hasn’t changed. That’s true. George Bush is very much the same person I remember talking to in the early 1980s here in Texas with the strengths that he has and all the flaws that he has. And one of the flaws is that he surrounded himself then, and more dangerously in the White House, with a few people, a few loyalists. Among the early group of loyalists were these Texans who were super loyal to Bush and whose advice and counsel he trusted. But one by one, they’ve all left. Karen Hughes has left, Joe Alba has left, and on and on down the line. Karl was the most important and the closest adviser to the president. He wasn’t just a political consultant. He’s the guy who basically put together in an effective way the politics of division and raised the politics of division, of exploiting polarization, exploiting the wedge issues of gay marriage, of fear of terrorism, in a politically efficient way in order to win 2002, 2004. But those principles, that approach, came back to haunt him and sent the house of cards — contributed to the house of cards going down, falling down in 2006.

AMY GOODMAN: Wayne Slater, what does this mean for the congressional investigations in which he’s invoked executive privilege? He didn’t show up at one. Does he still remain at the center of them? Is he less protected stepping out?

WAYNE SLATER: Well, he remains very much the same. There are two things here, Amy. One is that he still very much is the focus of an investigation in Washington on this matter, not simply by members of Congress, but, more importantly for him, the Justice Department. And so, he remains there. But all the associations that he has with the president, the effort and the claim of executive privilege, stays, even if he leaves for private life. So he will try to do and Bush will try to do what they’ve done in the past, and that is to try to wait this thing out.

The only question is now whether an indictment or other charges could come in the future or the near future. Frankly, my experience with Karl is that he always escapes. And so, looking at the history of the guy, from the late 1980s through the current situation, tells me he most likely will escape this latest round of both political inquiry and federal investigation. I could be wrong. Only time will tell.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Wayne Slater, for joining us. Wayne Slater is with The Dallas Morning News, senior political reporter and author of two books, co-author with James Moore, Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential and The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power. Thanks for joining us.

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