Karl Rove — the George W. Bush confidante who needs no introduction — has written a memoir of his life in politics, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, which is released today. It includes an intimate look at Rove, his family — which has come under attacks from his political opponents — and his formation as a conservative. Rove took questions from National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the book — including on the roots of Rove’s William F. Buckley– and Barry Goldwater–influenced conservatism, and Rove’s regrets on weapons of mass destruction and Trent Lott. And read on to learn the topic on which Rove feels the need to expose the “sorry excuse[s]” of Pres. George W. Bush.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Early copies of your book got out, and the media, understandably, is mostly interested in what you have to say about Iraq. Well, that and Colin Powell getting push-ups out of you. From your vantage point, what’s the most important news in this book?
KARL ROVE: What I tried to do in the book is to step back, pull back the curtain, give people a clear look about what I’ve learned about politics, and share what I was privileged to see, especially during my White House years. I write about the myths that have grown up around me and those years and set the record straight in a way I hope the reader sees as well-researched, durable, and interesting.
Writing a book was an arduous, challenging process that I enjoyed more than I expected, and it left me with even more respect for people who do this for a living.
LOPEZ: You have some regrets. One of them I was surprised by: You wish you had helped Trent Lott keep his spot as Senate Republican leader. Why? Would that have been the better outcome for the Republican party? For the country?
ROVE: My point was somewhat different: Lott blames me for forcing him out as Senate majority leader following his comments suggesting America would have been better off if a segregationist had been elected president in 1948. But there was a moment when I could have offered advice that might have kept him from losing public support and forfeiting the trust of his GOP senatorial colleagues. I didn’t take the moment to disagree with his rosy (and incorrect) assessment that the issue was going away. Pressing him to do an immediate and full apology that showed he understood how badly he had offended many Americans might have kept him in the majority-leader post.
LOPEZ: You have a chapter titled, “Bush Was Right on Iraq.” Did Newsweek vindicate you last week?
ROVE: What Newsweek did was report on the almost miraculous progress that’s been made in Iraq since the surge went into effect in 2007. I certainly think that the emergence in the heart of the Middle East of an Iraqi democracy — and it needs to be said that we’re still not home free yet — strengthens the case that Bush was right on Iraq. It opens important possibilities.
The world is a better place now that Saddam is gone: He was a brutal dictator who started wars and destabilized the Middle East. He led a rogue regime that constantly thumbed its nose at the demands of the world. And Iraq was a home to terrorists.