Was Rove really Bush’s brain?

In my never-ending quest to glean information from many parts of the world, I was reading the Web site of the Sydney Morning Herald when I happened upon the story announcing the resignation of President Bush’s longtime friend and political guru, Karl Rove.

“‘Bush’s Brain’ Steps Down,” the headline said.

The Aussies have a talent for cutting through the nonsense, but the notion that Rove has served as the president’s brain has currency in this country, too. More than a few writers have expressed the same idea and a book and a documentary film have been devoted to “Bush’s Brain,” a/k/a Karl Rove, a/k/a the Evil Genius.

Of course, the idea that presidents have aides serve as individual body parts is absurd on its face, although it does have some appeal. Imagine how much trouble could have been avoided had then-President Bill Clinton subcontracted his libido to an aide less attractive to interns.

Although elementary logic suggests that Rove couldn’t really have been Bush’s brain, I think it is necessary to emphasize the point today. We can’t have people in Australia — or in Alabama — thinking that the White House is some sort of brain-transplant clinic.

The reason that Rove has not been Bush’s brain is that the president does not need a brain. Under the Constitution, he is the commander in chief, not the cerebrum in chief. He has been able to get by without one.

Fortunately for him, his supporters have been very undemanding. The true believers are content with a president who is just like them — i.e., suspicious of all intellectual effort except the making of money. As they might say in Texas, if they were thoughtful, once a man cottons to excessive thinkin’, he hardly knows which way to saddle his horse.

In Bush, they have found the perfect leader to ride tall and think shallow. Yes, he stands for certain things, but these are hardly thoughts as you and I understand them. They are more like finely bred instincts — keep taxes low, keep pants up, never change your mind, dig deeper when in a hole, avoid reality and always make a speech when you see more than two people in military uniform because they are under orders not to boo.

This simple prescription for action has brought success after success (note to self: check this before putting it in the paper).

If Bush really needed or wanted a brain, he could simply borrow Vice President Cheney’s brain, which works so hard that it frequently has to be taken to an undisclosed location to be iced down.

It may be that Cheney’s steaming brain will decide that we need to teach those Iranians a lesson and Bush may well agree. But if this happens, it won’t be because of brain transferal but instinct reinforcement — to wit, the core Bush principle, stubbornness is leadership (when in a hole, dig deeper).

But is Rove an evil genius for recognizing the young George W. Bush as potential presidential timber when the thought of this sapling character being in the White House would have inspired hysterics in any normal person?

Genius, yes, but “evil” is such a theological term that it should be avoided. Just because a political witch doctor gives off a strong smell of sulfur, and every issue he touches is left with the telltale mark of a pitchfork, we can hardly call such a fellow evil. As for me, I respect Rove and wish him well as he makes ready to return to private life and embrace his family with his cloven hooves.

To say less is to invite allegations of partisan sour grapes — that dislike of Rove is rooted in disappointment that he made his life’s work the destruction of Democrats. But I am not a Democrat and the truth is that the Democrats are the passenger pigeons of politics, easily snared as they fly hopelessly about. For me, it was the types of snares he laid that were the problem — sweet words laced with poison, DDT tactics that will live on in the political environment to the detriment of everyone.

Why, aren’t we all glad that in the last presidential election, in the midst of a war on terror, Rove and Co. sought to decide the race on the issue of gay marriage? I don’t know about you, but I felt safer for being treated like a moron.

Rove was not Bush’s brain. It was worse than that. For too many Americans, he was their brain, which he expertly stimulated with base impulses for political gain. As Pogo might have said: We have met the enemy’s brain and it was ours.

(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com.)


  1. JoshuasGrandma

    Jury Still Out On Morality

    Many people want some authority to tell them what’s wrong in their lives and who’s to blame. And it is that desire that Rove’s political strategy tapped and exploited. Some have called it strong, relentless and admirable to get votes that way and exploit weakness, for a ‘larger’ purpose. But that’s just another way of saying ‘the ends justify the means.’ That was the Nixon administration’s view, and it’s still popular. I don’t think the American people yet have singular opinion on the morality of that view. The jury is still out, and that’s one reason this country is still so divided.

  2. allan hirsh

    mr. hirsh:
    When Rove is referred to as Bush’s brain, the suggestion is symbiotic and has nothing to do with how the brain has affected commoners, such as liberals or columnists who have not yet been downsized and will experience a shock to the system when the time comes. Here I’ve been a good Republican all these years and now I’m downsized, you say. Well golly, I thought it only happened to the downtrodden. Last time I ever believe in a John Ford western!

  3. JudyB

    Fact: GWB & Rove used each other!

    Bush has been indulged, quick-tempered, and spiteful for most of his life. He has made many bad choices but has always managed to come out unscathed by those bad choices, do to the help of his wealthy father and his fathers vast list of “friends” who were in high places… who were ready, willing and able to help him, in hopes of political payback of some sort. This particular choice of GWB’s (choosing Rove)most likely occured because Rove knew that if nothing else he could benefit financially from his associaton with GWB and believe me,he has. As it turned out, they both became wealthy. Personally, I have always considered crooked Cheney as the big brains behind Bush, and deflamitory Rove as the man who would create the scenerios for Bush’s lies to eminate from. No..Rove was not Bush’s brains, but another one of his assholes !

  4. marti oakley

    This article was hysterical! The comments that followed are just as good….especially the next one up!

  5. NorthrupP-61

    Did Bush even NEED a brain?

    “…when the field is nationwide…all the odds are on the man who is most devious and mediocre – the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H. L. Mencken, 1926