“Bush’s Brain” Resigns — But Was Rove Really All That Smart?

The Prez liked to call him "boy genius," but among the chattering class in D.C., Karl Rove’s reputation as a political genius is in sharp decline, and some wonder if Rove is getting out while the getting is good.

Joshua Green, an original and talented writer who last year found the liberal side to Ronald Reagan, all but calls Rove a failure at governing in the latest Atlantic (subscription only). Matt Yglesias, something of a boy genius himself, seconds the point about the man once called Bush’s Brain, stressing that Rove’s belief in a Republican-dominated political realignment is precisely what led to his downfall.

But for an environmentalist, Kevin Drum highlights the essential point from the Green story, which is that Rove was put in charge in charge of the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, and could hardly have done worse.

Hurricane Katrina clearly changed the public perception of Bush’s
presidency. Less examined is the role Rove played in the defining
moment of the administration’s response: when Air Force One flew over
Louisiana and Bush gazed down from on high at the wreckage without
ordering his plane down. Bush advisers Matthew Dowd and Dan Bartlett
wanted the president on the ground immediately, one Bush official told
me, but were overruled by Rove for reasons that are still unclear:
"Karl did not want the plane to land in Louisiana."

Rove’s failure is visible in this compilation of polls from the Wall Street Journal ($). The Prez’s ratings are going to hell generally but Katrina clearly accelerated the slide (click to enlarge).

I thought it was notable that Rove predicted in his farewell address to the WSJ editorial page that his boss’s ratings would improve, perhaps to as much as 40%. 40%!

For any other president in recent memory except Bush’s father, such an end-of-term approval rating of that would be considered a miserable failure. In the unlikely event the Current Occupant reaches that mark again, it will be considered some sort of miracle.

Bushs_approval_ratings_compiled_b_2

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