Karl Rove should stay.
The White House confirmed on Monday morning that George W. Bush’s master strategist will be leaving Bush’s side at the end of August. “I just think it’s time,” Rove told The Wall Street Journal‘s Paul Gigot. His reason for bailing on Bush: “There’s always something that can keep you here, as much as I’d like to be here, I’ve got to do this for the sake of my family.” At a White House ceremony, Bush issued a brief farewell to Rove, saying little about the man who made Bush president and whom Bush reportedly nicknamed “Turd Blossom” (for Rove’s ability to grow flowers in dung). Rove, visibly holding back tears, praised Bush for his “integrity, character and decency.” He vowed to be a “fierce and committed advocate [for Bush] on the outside.” Neither said anything explicitly about the Iraq war.
Certainly, a White House aide who has engaged in the sort of political and policy chicanery that Rove has perpetuated ought to lose the right to collect a paycheck from U.S. taxpayers. Take your pick: the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. attorney scandal, the Valerie Plame leak, inaction on global warming, injecting politics into federal agencies to a new degree, suppressing government science, the stem cell veto, tax cuts for the wealthy, politicizing the war on terror. But leaving is too good for Rove. He was Bush’s partner in the Iraq war, yet he (like other Bush aides, including, most recently, Dan Bartlett) are abandoning ship before the fight is done. Rove has argued that the Iraq war is essential for the survival of the United States (that is, for all of our families). So how can he walk away with the war not won?
In June 2006, Rove gave a speech to New Hampshire Republicans and blasted Democrats for advocating “cutting and running” in Iraq. He said of the Democrats, “They may be with you for the first shots. But they’re not going…to be with you for the tough battles.” But isn’t Rove now doing the same on a personal scale? He is departing the White House when the going in Iraq is as tough as it ever was.
In an earlier 2006 speech, Rove exclaimed, “America is at war….To retreat before victory has been won would be a reckless act.” He was, of course, talking about a military retreat. But look at it this way: Rove helped Bush start a war, and now hundreds of thousands of American GIs (and millions of Iraqi civilians) have no choice but to live with the consequences of that decision. Why should Rove–and not they–be allowed to say, Sorry, now I have to bug out to spend more time with my family? How nice for the Roves that he can walk away from the war.