Call me naïve but I actually believe that people around the world like American people and would like to like the American government and the American president. As soon as the next US president takes office and shows that he or she has a sense of compassion and humility and understanding for the world around him, the world will respond.
James Carville, the former chief strategist to Bill Clinton, recently took place in an online question and answer blog about Carl Rove with an audience from the Financial Times. Here'e what took place.
What qualifications do you have for giving a balanced, non-partisan, assessment of Karl Rove’s legacy?
Ted Willi, Atlanta GA
James Carville: I praised his strategic abilities rather effusively in Time magazine in April 2005. To the second, I found very few people who disagreed with my op-ed in the FT. My basic conclusion was that the six-and-a-half years he spent as a high-level government official were an utter disaster. He was at the helm of immigration, social security, Katrina response, and general and widespread breathtaking incompetence throughout the government. Not even the most loyal and partisan Republican can draw any other conclusion.
Regarding his legacy as a political consultant, I am more than willing to give him credit for two victories, 2000 and 2004, that were accomplished under the most difficult circumstances. What I do contend, and quite accurately, is that as he leaves the Republican party is in the worst shape of any modern political party in the polls. If these trends hold up, Mr. Rove’s political career will be considered a disaster comparable to his governmental career.
Considering Rove’s role was chief political advisor, what do you feel about the argument that he was a total failure in that he advised the president to historically low approval ratings? In other words, how good could his advice have been?
Travis Hampton, Virginia
James Carville: He won two big, difficult elections in 2000 and 2004. Any rational observer has to give him enormous credit for these wins. However, today this political party is lower than any modern political party has been in US history, due in a large part to Rove’s base-first strategy. If current trends hold up over the next two election cycles, historians will in all likelihood conclude that Rove was the most disastrous Republican ever. The biggest story in American politics is the almost complete collapse of the Republican party among young voters.
James, what makes Mr. Rove’s embedding of political operatives at every level of government, to be...well... political operatives different from the Politburo of the Soviet Union that did exactly the same thing for exactly the same reason.......to allow the party to maintain power? Have we become what we detest?
J.W. Mast, Greensboro, NC
James Carville: One of Carville’s life rules is, never compare anything to Nazis or the Soviet Union, so I’ll leave that particular comparison alone. Having said that, the stories that one hears about the embedding of right-wing operatives in the civil service are truly frightening. The next president might want to order a review of hold-over appointees and civil service appointees to make sure that competence and not ideology was the basis upon which these people were selected.
What were the most distinguishing characteristics of Karl Rove as a political consultant?
James Carville: First, a strong foundation. Rove was, bar none, the single-best cultivator of the press. He also had near complete power over his candidate in campaigns. Second, you get the sense that it wasn’t just that Rove didn’t care about the truth. There’s an old saying in Louisiana that’s applicable to Rove. He’d rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stay on the ground and tell the truth. In his exit interview on the Rush Limbaugh Show, he said worked for a president that always wanted to unite the country – then in the same interview called the president’s opponents a bunch of effete snobs
Can Karl Rove continue to advise GOP presidential candidates? Would any of the candidates hire him and would they keep it a secret if they did?
James Carville: Yes, and yes. Any GOP candidate would love to have Rove’s advice, but he would prefer to keep it out of the public. Rove’s involvement in any campaign would be too strong an indication that the Bush administration was playing a big role, which would mean almost certain defeat in the general election.