Compassionate criticism

RoveBushI wrote a post here the other day about the resignation of Karl "Boy Genius" Rove in which I noted that the mainstream coverage of his exit did little to dig into his relationship with conservative Christians. This gap was really strange if you stopped and thought about it, in light of that voting bloc's strategic role in the Bush era. What was it, I wondered, that the evangelical Alpha Males saw in Rove, this Episcopalian who loved to spend his political chips on country-club GOP economic packages? Was the religious left right all along in its claims that Rove simply taught his president how to mouth the correct phrases?

Beats me, but I was amazed that more mainstreamers were not including these angles in their stories.

So with that in mind, I'd like to pass along the following chunk of a commentary by Dr. Marvin Olasky, a journalism historian at the University of Texas and the editor of the conservative Protestant commentary journal called World. The second deck of the headline is what caught my eye: "Karl Rove reimagined politics but not governance."

Consider this a dose of compassionate criticism. Note in particular the comment about the fate of "compassionate conservatism," a phrase from Olasky that had much more to do with the church and its work in the culture than Beltway insiders playing political poker.

George W. Bush nicknamed Rove "The Boy Genius" and "Turd Blossom," Texan for a flower that grows from a pile of cow dung. Both monikers were spot-on: Rove engineered all four Bush political victories and foraged for ideas amid academic wastelands (my first meeting with Bush was in the office of Rove, who had read a book I had written). Rove had the advantage and disadvantage of sitting at the right hand of the recent political god most often deemed dumb by reporters. They saw Rove as either archangel or demon. ("Bush's brain," one book title put it.)

It's hard for me to see him as either. Rove has had an extraordinary knowledge of voting patterns and a respect for the Christian understanding that animates the best of American culture. He has never been much of a decentralizer, though: He enjoyed so much the use of power that he didn't want to give any away. That led him to see compassionate conservatism not as a way to restructure Washington but as a nice thing that could win votes. He reimagined politics but not governance ... .

Read that second paragraph again. There is a story in there.

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