What Will Bush’s Brain Do Next?

It shouldn’t come as any great surprise that Karl Rove is leaving the administration. His job is all about winning, and with Bush, there’s nothing left to be won. (Though even on his way out the door, Rove can’t keep himself from spinning, predicting that we’ll turn a corner in Iraq and Bush’s poll numbers will rise. But that’s a sucker’s game, and Rove himself wants no part of it.)

Rove has said he’s going back to Texas to spend more time with his family. Awww, that’s nice. But then what? I wouldn’t expect him to stay out of politics for long. One only has to read a few sentences into “Revenge of the Nerds,” our piece on high school policy debaters, to realize how deep and long standing is Rove’s love of playing hardball:

It would have been the spring of 1969, the Vietnam War in full swing, when a scrawny 18-year-old in a suit and tie and horn-rimmed glasses pushed a handcart stacked with 10 boxes into a classroom at Olympus High School, on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. Each shoebox was stuffed with four-by-six notecards pasted with evidence clipped from newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. As the young man and his partner unpacked their evidence on a small table at the front of the room, members of the other policy debate team looked on in horror. They’d only brought one shoebox.

What they didn’t know was that 99 percent of the notecards in the Olympus team’s 10 shoeboxes were just props. Even at 18, the scrawny kid with the horn-rims understood the power of intimidation.”Rove didn’t just want to win,” James Moore and Wayne Slater write in their book Rove Exposed: How Bush’s Brain Fooled America. “He wanted the opponents destroyed. His worldview was clear even then. There was his team and the other team, and he would make the other team pay.”

This isn’t a man that’s going to be content going back to Texas and raising chickens. And though the 2006 rout of the RNC may taken the bloom off Rove’s rose somewhat, “the architect” has still got to be a highly sought-after campaign consultant. Provided he can modernize his direct mail data mining/smear expertise to dovetail with the whole cell phone/social networking/video wave of the future. But let’s assume he can.

So any bets as to where Rove will pop up? Fred Thompson seems to be running as the “most like Bush” candidate; could that strategy include Rove? Will Rove sit this election out entirely, perhaps scouting the next feckless son of a prominent politician?


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.