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Covering Karl Rove

Politics

Covering Karl Rove

Hear NPR's David Greene

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President Bush's close friend and chief political strategist Karl Rove will resign at the end of August. For reporters at the White House, Rove often displayed a quirky and prankish personality.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

JAMES HATTORI, host:

And I'm James Hattori, sitting in for Alex Chadwick who's on assignment this week.

BRAND: Coming up, Cuba celebrates Fidel Castro's 81st birthday, but without a public appearance by Fidel. A look at what has happened in the year since he turned over power to his brother Raul.

HATTORI: But first, he's been called the Architect, Bush's Brain and, back in the day, Boy Genius. But he's better known as Karl Rove.

Rove announced his resignation today as deputy chief of staff and chief political advisor to President Bush. Rove said he wants to spend more time with his family.

BRAND: Rove is credited with creating the political strategies that brought George Bush the Texas governorship and two terms as president. He spoke this morning outside the White House.

Mr. Karl Rove (Deputy Chief of Staff): Mr. President, the world's turned many times since our journey began. We've been at this a long time. It was over 14 years ago that you began your run for governor and over 10 years ago that we started thinking and planning about a possible run for the presidency. And it's been an exhilarating and eventful time.

BRAND: We're joined now by NPR's White House correspondent David Greene.

And David, you are in Iowa right now, on the campaign trail?

DAVIDE GREENE: The state of Iowa, that's right.

BRAND: Okay. Just fresh off the straw poll for the Republicans. Now, did I detect a little quivering in Rove's voice there?

GREENE: You did. He did sound very emotional. But it sounds like he's been thinking about this decision for a while. President Bush said he's been talking to Rove for quite a while about this decision. And Rove told The Wall Street Journal that he's been talking to the president, thinking about this for at least a year. He said he wants to spend more time with his wife and also his son who's in college in Texas. But you know, he's been a constant target for Democrats throughout his career. And I think this was a moment where he might have thought he could get out without it looking like he was pushed out by circumstances and really leaving on his own terms.

BRAND: Right. And you've been covering Rove since the Bush presidency, since 2001. And tell us about a different side of Rove that you've seen.

GREENE: Well, yeah. It was interesting seeing him so emotional because we in the press corps, you know, see a really quirky guy when we run into Karl Rove. He loves to mess with the White House press corps. I was once standing on a tarmac outside Air Force One and he came over and he took a FOX Television camera away from a crewmember and handed it to me and asked me if I wanted to try to be a cameraman for a day. And you know, he often roamed the White House grounds handing out chocolates to reporters. And it was just strange. I always got the sense that it was sort of a shtick, you know? And in some of his rougher times, attacked by Democrats and a special prosecutor, he wanted to display this confidence, this feeling of, you know, here I am, I'm hanging loose and no one can touch me.

And the biggest most memorable moment was at a dinner with journalists earlier this year. Let's play some tape of that. He was MC Rove dancing on the stage.

(Soundbite of Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner)

Mr. BRAD SHERWOOD (Comedian): (Rapping) You were such a helpful treasure trove. Tell me what is your name?

Mr. ROVE: MC Rove.

Mr. SHERWOOD: (Rapping) See him later hanging in the cove. Tell me what is your name?

Mr. ROVE: MC Rove.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: It's just stunning, Madeleine. I mean, it's - and a lot of people in the Democratic side were very angry that reporters at that dinner were, you know, kind of dancing and grooving on a stage with him. But he like to kind of, you know, do it up with the press corps and I think try to send a message that he's doing just fine, even in the roughest times.

BRAND: Yeah. Yeah. Well, day job. Day job.

GREENE: Right.

BRAND: So President Bush called Rove his Architect and, you know, other less flattering portraits. Rove's been called his - Bush's Brain.

GREENE: That's right.

BRAND: Yeah. So what did the President mean by that, calling him his architect?

GREENE: Architect probably the most flattering. You know, he goes back 34 years with the president. And you know, really, Karl Rove created the politician that is George W. Bush. You know, as Texas governor he molded him as the candidate in 2000 and 2004. And you know, he's made some pretty bold predictions that President Bush, you know, in 2004 would win reelection. There was a lot of talk that there would be this new Republican majority. And then leading into the midterm elections in '06, Rove predicted again that the Republicans would take both Houses of Congress. And in that case he was very wrong.

BRAND: NPR's David Greene, thanks a lot.

GREENE: Thanks, Madeleine.

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