The Washington Post previews an upcoming book that may change a few minds about Karl Rove and his supposed puppetmaster role in the Bush administration. Rove's advice did not always get followed as most imagine, but rather George Bush mostly kept his own counsel on larger policy and personnel decisions:
Karl Rove told George W. Bush before the 2000 election that it was a bad idea to name Richard B. Cheney as his running mate, and Rove later raised objections to the nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court, according to a new book on the Bush presidency.
In "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush," journalist Robert Draper writes that Rove told Bush he should not tap Cheney for the Republican ticket: "Selecting Daddy's top foreign-policy guru ran counter to message. It was worse than a safe pick -- it was needy." But Bush did not care -- he was comfortable with Cheney and "saw no harm in giving his VP unprecedented run of the place."
When Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, expressed concerns about the Miers selection, he was "shouted down" and subsequently muted his objections, Draper writes, while other advisers did not realize the outcry the nomination would cause within the president's conservative political base.
It was John G. Roberts Jr., now the chief justice of the United States, who suggested Miers to Bush as a possible Supreme Court justice, according to the book. Miers, the White House counsel and a Bush loyalist from Texas, did not want the job, but Bush and first lady Laura Bush prevailed on her to accept the nomination, Draper writes.
According to Chief Justice Roberts, he didn't suggest anyone for Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement. That tends to ding the credibility of the other revelations, but the Post account makes clear that Rove did not run the White House. In fact, Josh Bolten made sure that Rove did not get more involved in policy after Bolten's ascension to chief of staff, pushing Rove towards his specialty of political organization instead.
At least in the case of Harriet Miers, however, Rove's instincts appear sharper than the rest of the administration. Both Bushes apparently had their minds set on Harriet Miers despite Rove's warnings of disaster. Regardless of who suggested Miers -- and it seems much more likely that the suggestion came from the inner Texas circle than from Roberts -- it was clearly George and Laura Bush who championed her nomination.
His radar was less effective when it came to Donald Rumsfeld. Rove voted with the minority to keep Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense in April 2006, as the midterm elections approached. Condoleezza Rice and six other advisors voted in an informal dinner poll to replace him as a liability to the administration. Bush and Stephen Hadley voted with Rove to keep him, but in the end Bush had to let him go after the midterm debacle.
Those inclined to see Karl Rove as some sort of puppetmaster will likely be disappointed by this new look at the administration. It turns out that Bush is his own man, responsible for his decisions and unafraid to dismiss advice when he thinks he's correct, for better and worse. Draper's book will be worth a read -- but it will be Rove who will probably write the definitive insider account of this administration, and it will be interesting to see how the two eventually match or dissent.