Rove’s Defining Legacy


George W. Bush nicknamed Karl Rove “The Architect,” but the POTUS isn’t much of a reader, so we need a better definition of the guy who always relished his role as Rasputin.

My dictionary says “rove” is the past tense of “rive”:

1. To tear apart or in pieces by pulling or tugging; to rend or lacerate with the hands, claws, etc.; to pull asunder.

(Yes, I know that “My dictionary says …” is a hackneyed device, but my dictionary is the OED on CD-ROM, and Rove himself is a hackneyed device, so do me a favor and keep reading.)

The fact is that Rove is definitely not past tense on Capitol Hill, as I noted early yesterday. Later in the day, New York senator Chuck Schumer spoke the obligatory words:

Karl Rove’s resignation will not stop our inquiry into the firings of the U.S. attorneys. He has every bit as much of a legal obligation to reveal the truth once he steps down as he does today.

That ship has sailed. As a verb by its intransitive lonesome, “rove” takes on another meaning:

To practise piracy; to sail as pirates.

Unfortunately, this political plunderer’s shredder is probably overheating right now. We already know that thousands of juicy e-mails describing his plots are out there. But shredding is Rove’s name, if you believe the OED, and I do:

To tear up (a letter, document, etc.), so as to destroy or cancel.

For the sake of history, though, Rove is “rove” in a broader sense:

To commit spoliation or robbery; to reave; to take away from. Now dial.

What’s the use. Rove’s already in transit out of D.C. If issues make you reach for tissues, this definition (of “rive” and thus “rove”) is for you:

To rend (the heart, soul, etc.) with painful thoughts or feelings.

Whether or not he’s ever called back from Texas to testify — and it would probably take a stint at Gitmo to get him to do it — Rove could very well end up as a memorable, if improper, noun. This 15th century usage fits, but it’s obsolete:

1. a. A scabby, scaly, or scurfy condition of the skin. b. A scab; the scaly crust of a healed or healing wound.

No, forget “architect,” scabs, and all other nouns. To me, Rove will always be a verb, especially in this sense:

To shoot with arrows at a mark selected at pleasure or at random, and not of any fixed distance.

Kind of a Robin Hood, except that Rove, as I pointed out yesterday, robs the poor to give to the rich.

What a con he pulled on us marks. Yes, that is true “roving.” The OED elaborates:

The object of roving was evidently to give practice in finding the range of the mark, while shooting at the butts and pricks taught accuracy of aim.