“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
I could start with the war. But let’s begin with sexual orientation. War will always be available for discussion when Republicans abound. And we shall get to that directly.
This is about Karl Rove. He is called “Bush’s Brain,” (my nickname that became a title of my book), “The Architect,” which the former president dubbed Rove. W also referred to his political consigliere as “Turd Blossom,” a scatological reference to the fact that beautiful flowers are often seen rising out of cattle pies out in the desert. For the purposes of this present exercise, let’s not forget the flower that grows out of the excreted animal crap, while lovely, is far more transitory than the poop that remains and desiccates in the sun.
Thus, Rove lingers.
UT News, an information service of the University of Texas, is out with a new promotional piece attempting to look like journalism that is lionizing Rove, who has been teaching a class entitled “Modern American Political Campaigns.” The story extols the virtues of Rove’s connections and how he is introducing consultants from both sides of the political aisle to expose his students to opposing points of view. He connects the classroom with luminaries like former Secretary of State James Baker or Democrats with reputations like James Carville of Clinton campaign fame or David Axelrod, Obama’s strategist and manager.
And isn’t this just darlin’: The kids call him Professor Rove.
The article uses numerous quotes from the students, who love Professor Rove, and who praise him with a descriptive like “walking encyclopedia” and they marvel at what he has done and with whom he has worked in his long, and admittedly legendary, career. There are, however, a few topics they don’t examine during their study with Rove. These students were toddlers when Turdblossom was busy leading a campaign to lie America into a war and rob gay Americans of their rights just to get W re-elected. Fortunately, we can add to their curriculum here in Substack, and there will be no requirement for a test. A simple acknowledgement of Professor Rove’s evil will provide a teachable moment.
So, class, let’s begin.
Even though Karl had himself a war time president in 2003 after the invasion of Iraq, things never go precisely like the invaders want. This country had rallied around W after the attack on the Twin Towers, as we always do for a president managing a war, but publicity wasn’t all that great after a few years and a re-election was approaching. The race against Democrat John Kerry was going to be close, and Turdblossom needed an issue to push his candidate across the finish line. Only a percentage or two would decide the next president.
Research indicated gay marriage might move a few votes. Rove put together a plan to amend the US Constitution to outlaw gay marriage. Evangelicals loved the idea, and it worked across the aisle in black, fundamentalist churches, too. I was in a black church in Columbus the Sunday before the 2004 election as the pastor alluded to the ills of same sex unions, and ended his sermon with a command, “Come Tuesday, when you go into that booth, don’t you dare vote against God!”
Probably not much else would have gotten that Black congregation to put an X next to an R candidates’ name.
The amendment was at the top of the ballot in several key states, and if it could attract African American fundamentalists, Bush might be home free because it would certainly drive white Christian turnout. The idea was rife with hypocrisy and untoward meanness. If depriving people of legal rights to share their lives, which had already been codified in some states, meant Bush would win another term, Karl Rove did not care who got screwed. Of course, he never has. Rove’s credo in politics is best articulated by claiming there is no right or wrong in politics, there is only winning.
To push the anti-gay marriage amendment, Rove brought out Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee and later the campaign manager for George W. Bush’s re-election. Though he was not “out” at the time, Mehlman is gay, which made him an odd taskmaster for pushing anti-gay rhetoric. Mehlman later apologized for his hypocrisy parade and said he regretted the tone of the campaign, which he once ran. He could have told Rove to go to hell, or said, “Look, I’m gay. I’m not doing this bullshit.” But he did his damage, and young people struggling with sexual orientation had one more indication the country in which they were coming of age did not want them to have all the rights of heterosexual couples.
Nonetheless, Mehlman carried on because he was making big bank running a presidential campaign, and there would be more money and opportunity when W became president. His motivation was the same as Rove’s, and strategist Matthew Dowd, who came over from the Democrats and earlier this week withdrew from the Texas Lieutenant Governor’s race. Democrats did not appear to be expressing sufficient enthusiasm for his candidacy and Dowd said he was stepping aside to allow diverse candidates to run for the job. Of course, that sounded good but why did he bother announcing. Diversity was needed for the Democratic ticket before he announced, too.
During a research trip to Ohio, I met a reporter for a gay publication out of Cleveland who was angry Mehlman was hiding his sexual orientation while pushing the anti-gay marriage amendment. The Rove-designed wedge issue was certain to achieve the increase he predicted in turnout, based upon the news coverage it was generating and regular polling in swing states. After a speech, Mehlman was confronted and asked if he were gay, and if so, why was he hurting people like himself. His response was, “You have asked a question no one should ever have to answer,” and then walked off. As usual, he was wrong. No one’s sexual orientation should be relevant in public service, but if you are proffering policies that harm people who have the same issues as you, then you are a rank hypocrite and need to be called out.
I asked the president, at one point during the campaign, why he was supporting the amendment. His valet, who he was around every day, was gay, as were several of his friends, and he had never expressed a single homophobic perspective. His response to my question was, “It’s just politics, Jimmy,” which, of course, it was not. It was much more. Lives were being threatened and harmed by the potential change in the nation’s founding document. What Bush was trying to say was that he would put up with anything if it helped win him reelection.
And it was Professor Rove who turned him on to the stop gay marriage lust of the right, which, is ironic as hell since Rove’s dad was also gay. During an interview with Wayne Slater and me, Rove shared a sad story of his father returning home on Christmas Eve, the night before Karl’s birthday. (The universe has a hilarious sense of humor bringing Rove into the world on Christmas Day). Lou Rove told his wife he wanted a divorce and was leaving. The part of the story Karl omitted was that his dad’s motivation may have been the fact he was gay. Lou Rove was not Karl’s biological father, but he had raised him as his son. Tragically, Karl’s mother later committed suicide, for reasons unknown, and Rove, for many years, was estranged from his gay father. They later reunited and often took road trip vacations to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Professor Rove was not bothered by his hypocrisy related to his father’s sexual orientation, nor has he ever been. Even as Rove’s father was dying from lung and heart disease, his son was out campaigning to stop people like his dad from getting married to each other.
A lack of conscience also helped him engineer the lies and deceptions that led the U.S. to invade Iraq. Everyone in the Bush administration, regardless of their protestations to the contrary, knew the intelligence was flawed on WMD. Hell, it wasn’t flawed; it was cooked, picked up off the floor, polished, and pushed through a stovepipe to the vice president’s office, who executed the plan to sell the war. Rove took it to the public. The U.S. invasion was an act of vanity based on oil, and a misdirection to make Americans think Saddam was involved in the 911 attack. He was not, but he had made the mistake of being a dictator in a country, which the former Deputy Secretary of State said, “Simply floats on a sea of oil.”
Professor Rove, though, had what he wanted. He was the political consultant for a war president, a no-lose deal. Americans love their war presidents. Not supporting them is unacceptable. Never mind that the Iraqi people suffered casualties that are still being counted but there are certainly at least a half million dead, mostly innocent bystanders. That does not, however, count the follow up casualties that are occurring in areas like Basra, which Rove, and his president bombed with depleted uranium and left a radioactive dust over the region, which continues to deliver regular birth defects to hopeful mothers.
One could not expect Professor Rove to make mention of such dirty dealings. The University of Texas, however, is another matter. The “World Class” education allegedly delivered is missing most of the truth in Rove’s classes, regardless of how many bipartisan greats he invites to lecture and tell tales from the campaign trail. What UT is presently doing with Rove, in my view, is an iconic example of why our country is in a ditch. History is being vetted, and the conmen are doing the vetting. The students were barely out of diapers when their country invaded Iraq. How can they expect to know or understand the economic and geopolitics that were taking place during that time? They can’t, and Rove sure isn’t going to tell them he and the rest of the Bush Administration knew they were feeding Americans horseshit to scare them into supporting a war. But they were doing precisely that.
If history repeats itself, it’s because places like UT let teachers like Rove omit the whole truth. And if a university doesn’t feel any sense of obligation to get things right, who will? Bush’s Brain gets to stand in front of a room full of young people and talk to them about campaigns but not the obvious effects of campaigns. How are they supposed to learn the consequences of politics if we don’t tell them about what harm was caused by our decisions? Would the students listen to Rove with a more critical ear if they knew the full extent of his background? It’s possible, probably even likely, that UT is failing its students by letting Rove pontificate without perspective. I wonder if they even looked at the curriculum he was offering.
We live now in a nation where a defeated former president runs around and talks about how the election he lost was stolen. He developed a plan to challenge Electoral College results and try to keep control of the White House even as voters resoundingly told him to leave. In the modern era, though, he was not the first to try to challenge vote totals. Professor Rove took up that task in 1994 while managing campaigns for Republican candidates seeking seats on the Alabama Supreme Court. When they were about to lose, he dispatched his operatives across the state telling them to file suits to hold up vote counts and challenge the behaviors of precinct chairman, county sheriffs, probate judges, circuit clerks, and do anything necessary to call into question the vote totals of the Democratic winners. Sound familiar? He had his lead candidate hold a news conference to claim the election was being stolen. A legal fight went on for over a year because Rove did not believe in the accuracy of the democratic process and called it into question, an early and invigorating step in the process of destroying our confidence in what happens in our country. He did not care. Winning is what matters, and whatever might get destroyed to get Professor Rove his victory is the least of his concerns.
These types of failures by the university and our political culture ought to concern more than just activists. History is not just written by the victors, it’s distorted as hell, and now it is being drafted by the liars and the cheats. If a once great institution like the University of Texas feels no obligation to give its students the full truth and lets a professional liar like Karl Rove talk to them about politics, we have little hope of owning the truth and our history, and I do not see a country that survives, much less thrives, without an accurate understanding of its past.
The hard truth here is that Professor Rove has been a key player in distorting and even ruining the American political process by polluting it with corporate money, torturing the truth, turning lying into a tactic instead of a liability, and sacrificing the republic for the sake of electoral victory.
So, as my guest lecture ends, class, let me offer you up a more accurate perspective. There are many more titles that are more accurate for Rove than professor. And I’d start with war criminal.