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Architect Rove's work far from done



Published: Mon, April 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



By WILLIAM McKENZIE

DALLAS MORNING NEWS

All hail, Karl Rove.

The president's chief strategist was the focus of a PBS "Frontline" documentary last week. Simultaneously, Time magazine listed the White House deputy chief of staff as one of the world's 100 most influential people.

Before those big spreads, the longtime Bush aide was the subject of the best-selling book "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential." Bush himself even dubbed him "The Architect" soon after capturing a second term.

And now Rove is intent on securing a permanent Republican majority. If he has his way, it would rival Democrats' long-running New Deal coalition.

The man is on top of the world. And therein lies his challenge.

Despite the caricatures, Rove is funny, smart and engaging, as likely to call you "Dude" as he is to explain in mind-numbing detail the voting history of some obscure Texas county. You can poke fun at him. He seems to relish barbs. To some extent, he has become a convenient villain for Bush-haters.

But as a student of history, he'd better soak up all he can about powerful figures tripping over themselves. The sin of pride could bring him -- and his president -- tumbling down.

Hence the reason for writing this. I want to see Bush succeed in saving Social Security and reforming immigration laws. Victories would benefit the country and improve the president's reputation as a compassionate conservative.

But pride, oh, it can be deadly. It ensnares us before we can do anything about it.

Ask GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He's largely exempting himself from charges of sneaking money into Texas campaigns and taking lavish, lobby-paid trips by blaming his troubles on the media, liberals and any other handy demon.

You know a politician, or anyone of us, is headed for trouble when he starts finding scapegoats. It shows he is so busy looking at the speck in another's eye that he misses the log in his own.

Has Rove made that mistake? Not that I know. He would certainly say that he hasn't. But there are three reasons he should watch falling prey to the sin of pride:

He's an outcomes guy living in a process city.

Win at all costs

He usually has one goal in mind: Helping his client win, no matter if he has to crush the opponent. (See Ann Richards, John McCain.)

But Washington's not the campaign trail. It involves 535 lawmakers, countless agencies and all sorts of lobbies. Getting legislation passed, particularly big bills like an overhaul of Social Security, takes hours, days and weeks of handholding, even with Republican majorities in both houses. The GOP lost the Senate within six months of Mr. Bush taking office in 2001 because Sen. James Jeffords got so mad at the administration's heavy-handed style he became an independent.

Make too many enemies, and you're dead. So is your client.

Rove loves being in control.

Really in control. He'll prepare himself better than anyone so he can map out all of the ins-and-outs of strategy. But control freaks are particularly susceptible to playing God. They want to order their universe, even when the universe has other ideas.

Before a group of delegates at the GOP convention last year, Rove exclaimed, "We're right and they're wrong." Conservatives will go nuts when I say this, but that attitude can sink the ship. For one, you stop listening and learning. For another, you lose the ability to build coalitions with people who are "wrong" but whose votes you need.

If that attitude becomes pervasive in this White House, the folks there are headed for trouble over Social Security and immigration.

C.S. Lewis said this about pride, which he called the "Great Sin":

"Pride is essentially competitive," he wrote in "Mere Christianity." "If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest."

In a nutshell, that's the challenge for Rove. He stands atop the political world, but he will tumble if he glories too much in his reign.

X William McKenzie is an editorial columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.




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