Skip to main content

Why does Karl Rove have a newspaper column?

I don't begrudge anybody who makes the move from politics and into the realm of journalism. James Fallows and Hendrik Hertzberg both did time as speechwriters for Jimmy Carter, and I'd dare say our national discourse these days would be a bit less smart if they weren't making regular contributions. (A conservative example of this phenomenon is Bill Safire, whose language column for the New York Times was beloved by nerds everywhere.)

But I still don't understand why Karl Rove has a regular newspaper column

Don't get me wrong: I don't object to Rove's "journalism" career here because of the quality of his analysis, or because the man can't write. The problem is that Rove is still an active participant in the political realm. And that means readers can't know if they're getting his real analysis of a situation -- something you'd normally expect on the op-ed page of a prestigious newspaper -- or his on-message analysis of a situation that might not be honest, but serves to advance the GOP's interests. 

I got to thinking about this today after the final paragraph in Rove's latest contribution to the Wall Street Journal: 

Mr. Obama's best chance of success 22 months from now rests on reclaiming his image as a reasonable, bipartisan and unifying figure. It won't be easy, given his track record as president. That can't be airbrushed from history. But the selection of Mr. Daley as chief of staff indicates that Mr. Obama is willing to give it a try. It makes sense. After all, what he was doing nearly wrecked his party and has imperiled his presidency.

Now. Rove might be right that Obama abandoned his efforts to be a bipartisan and unifying figure. He might not. All I know is that in the recent mid-term election, Rove led the American Crossroads group that raised tens of millions of dollars to defeat Democratic candidates for Congress. Rove isn't just rooting for the GOP team, in other words: He's still very much trying to advance the ball up the field. 

I guess you could make the case that most op-ed writers are trying to advance one party's fortunes at the expense of another. And that's true. But this seems different to me. Eugene Robinson (say) or Michael Gerson or most other writers you name don't still have skin in the game. The idea is that they may be biased, but they're free to be honest within the bounds of those biases. They don't always have to hew to the party line if their viewpoint takes them somewhere else.

But Rove's "other" job is to get Republicans elected. And we know that in the course of doing that job, his modus operandi has been to take an opponent's strength and turn it into a weakness. Ergo, President Obama -- the national leader who is still regarded as trying the hardest at bipartisan -- has "abandoned" that effort in office. And Rove says this not as somebody who is rooting against Obama, but whose "other" job is to actively defeat him. What are the chances that he'd ever call President Obama a unifying figure, no matter how much it could (hypothetically) be deserved?

And, incidentally, the "about Karl Rove" box on the WSJ page makes no mention of Rove's current activities. 

This stuff happens. Bill Kristol keeps finding newspapers to let him make regular commentary, and he's in pretty much the same situation. But unless you want to know what the GOP message du jour is, I can't imagine how this situation serves readers. If you want to write about politics, write about politics. If you want to play politics, play politics. Karl Rove might benefit from his current arrangement, and so might Republicans. Do readers?


Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…