“Courage and Consequence” is a book both intricate and simple. Karl Rove manages to fill its pages with recollections from his time in politics, as well as expound upon some of his philosophy about elections and the body politic itself. All too often, Bush remained silent and above the fray while his critics raged on unanswered. In this book, Rove takes the occasion to set the record straight. He also takes time along the way to puncture some of the myths that have surrounded him and give us a glimpse of the man that he is.
The book is packed with details, insights, and glimpses behind the curtain. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the narrative. I was taken back to the disquiet and unease that I felt during the Florida recount. I saw again the sense of national pride that suffused the country immediately after 9/11, and then the slow descent into partisan rancor and liberal surrender that followed. I felt the sense of relief when the flawed exit polling that led to false exuberance among the media in 2004, once and for all proved that you have to count the actual votes before you know who wins. It was all a powerful reminder that history is happening around us all the time – we just need to make sure that we take the time to appreciate it.
More than anything, for me, this book helped to humanize Rove. Those that hate Rove hate him with a fire and passion that is not rooted in rationality. Those that love him ascribe to him unreasonable, almost god-like powers. All too often it’s easy for people – both friend and foe – to get caught up in the memes that have sprung up around Rove. He’s not the devil. He’s not Yoda. He’s just a man; and what this book does best is show you the man behind the caricature the media has created. You see his earnest belief in Bush and what he did for this country. You see his genuine fear of being unjustly indicted by Patrick Fitzgerald. You see him live through 9/11 and the emotional toll that it took on him. He says it best in the book when he describes a scene just after President Bush addressed the nation from the Oval office on 9/11:
I tried to discreetly wipe away my tears and followed the president into his private study. His eyes were red; he was nearly overcome with emotion. I, on the other hand, was completely overcome. Nothing could stop my tears. We briefly hugged as I mumbled a few words about how powerful the scene had been in the Oval Office, and we each did our best to pull ourselves together. There was a lot more work to be done and grieving had to be set aside. He was embarrassed when he returned to the Oval. He didn’t need to be.
Rove is clearly a very talented and successful man. It’s not for nothing that he’s called the “Architect”. What I enjoyed most about the book, however, was the simple and matter-of-fact way that he dealt with his critics and their attacks on him. Rove did not spend an inordinate amount of time extolling his own virtues. If anything, he spent more time debunking some of the bigger myths about things he “accomplished”, than he did touting the significant achievements that he did have. If you’ve seen Rove talk, you know that he is a sometimes quiet, sometimes robust, but ultimately reasonable man. That voice was evident here. The book was more a calm recitation of the facts than it was a firebrand defense of his years in the Bush White House. If anything, I think that added more weight to his story than any over-the-top, stem-winding speech ever could.
As I said, this book sets the record straight on who Karl Rove is – at least to any open-minded person willing to give it a fair reading. Still, the Bush and Rove haters will find little here to like – much as they find little to like in the men themselves. Rove has moved on to political commentary and is out of government. Given that, you have to ask yourself, why does the Left still continue to hate and revile him so much, even today? The answer to that is really quite simple – he is right. And he was able to beat them. Twice. On the big stage. With style. Guess it still stings a little…
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