A Humpty’s Fall


Picking up Rove’s pieces.

Yo, what a humpty!

Now that Karl Rove is leaving, who’s going to whisper instructions in George W. Bush‘s ear?

Rove’s string-pulling of the puppet POTUS was never summed up better than in an episode revealed by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who resigned in early 2003 and dumped a truckload of notes on Ron Suskind, who produced the invaluable book The Price of Loyalty.

As I noted in July 2005, O’Neill recalled an instance in which Bush actually displayed compassion toward the middle class, at the expense of the wealthy, but was talked out of it by Rove.

A book-promotion conversation between Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes and Suskind in early 2004 tells the tale. Here’s the transcript, posted by the excellent Canadian site Centre for Research on Globalization:

STAHL: (Voiceover) Suskind, who was given a nearly verbatim transcript by someone who attended the [November 2002] meeting, says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber-stamp the plan under discussion, a big new tax cut. But according to Suskind, the president was, perhaps, having second thoughts about cutting taxes again and was uncharacteristically engaged.

SUSKIND: He asks, “Haven’t we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut’s going to do it again.”

STAHL: The president himself says, “But we already gave it to the rich people?”

SUSKIND: Yes, he says…

STAHL: “Why are we going to do it again?”

SUSKIND: … “Did we already—why are we doing it again? Why are we doing it again?” Now, his advisers, they say, “Well, Mr. President, the upper class, they’re the entrepreneurs.” That’s the standard response. And the president kind of goes, OK, that’s their response. And then he comes back to it again. “Well, shouldn’t we be giving money to the middle? Won’t people be able to say, ‘You did it once, and then you did it twice and what was it good for?’ ”

(Footage of Suskind; photo of Bush and Karl Rove)

STAHL: (Voiceover) But according to the transcript, White House political adviser Karl Rove jumped in.

SUSKIND: Karl Rove is saying to the president a kind of mantra, “Stick to principle. Stick to principle.” And he says it over and over again.

STAHL: And he’s saying, “Stick and don’t waver.”

SUSKIND: “Don’t waver.”

(Footage of Suskind and reporter talking; O’Neill)

STAHL: (Voiceover) In the end, the president didn’t. And nine days after that meeting in which O’Neill made it clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice president called and asked him to resign.

Notice that Rove sealed O’Neill’s fate and Dick Cheney fired O’Neill. Further evidence that Bush is no more than a front man. As if we didn’t already know that.