Rove didn't invent "wedge" politics, but he was an adept practitioner of that sordid art. When Bush was campaigning in 2000, he proclaimed himself "a uniter, not a divider." But the Bush-Rove theory of politics and governance has been divide, divide, divide -- either you're "with us" or "against us," either you're right or you're wrong, either you should be embraced or attacked without quarter.Exactly. Bush, with Rove's guidance, decided to use the 9-11 attacks to divide us further, not build some kind of bridge. And the odd thing is that I truly believe he could have been far less divisive and far more effective at building the Republican majority he so badly wanted. Imagine the power of Rove or Bush had he seriously reached across the aisles and pulled America together for more than a week. Instead, Rove decided it was better to demonize those of us who disagreed as "soft on terror."
Yes, politics is about winning -- they don't give style points for graceful failure. But the us-or-them brand of politics that Rove mastered and that Bush practiced has been a disaster for the nation and its standing in the world.
Yesterday, in remarks on the White House lawn, Rove praised Bush for putting the nation "on a war footing" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But that's precisely what Bush failed to do. Rather than try to foster a spirit of national solidarity and shared sacrifice, he persisted with tax cuts designed to please his wealthiest supporters. Rather than engage critics of the war in any meaningful dialogue, Bush accused them of wanting to "cut and run." Rather than actually practicing the bipartisanship he disingenuously preached, Bush governed with a hyperpartisan political agenda.
Rove said he was leaving so he could spend more time with his family -- the standard reason in Washington for leaving any job. Bush said Rove will continue to be "a dear friend," and I don't doubt for a minute that Rove will continue to be one of the president's closest and most trusted advisers. I don't think the Bush administration is going to change course at this late date.
"I'll be on the road behind you here in a little bit," Bush said to Rove as the two men faced reporters yesterday.
Not soon enough.