~ S P E C I A L ~ F E A T U R E ~
Karl Rove Comes of Age
an excerpt from the new book
by James Moore & Wayne Slater
How Bush's Brain Fooled America
Karl Rove is the infamous advisor behind George W. Bush's
political career and the architect of numerous efforts to
reward his political friends and punish political enemies.
Rove is currently under investigation by Special Prosecutor
Patrick Fitzgerald who is pursuing the source who illegally
revealed the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
The excerpt, below, covers a defining moment in the making
of a political opportunist. In it, Rove teams up with Lee
Atwater to steal the election for chairman of the College
Republican National Committee. When the Washington Post
writes about the dirty tricks campaign, the Republican
National Committee has to step in and pick a winner.
The man charged with that decision? The senior George Bush,
then Chairman of the RNC. He not only awarded the post to
trickster Rove, he hired the young strategist as his
assistant. It's classic Rove: dirty tricks, press leaks,
and a contested election.
Rove Exposed is written by Murrow Award-winning news
correspondent James Moore and Dallas Morning News bureau
chief Wayne Slater. More information about the authors and
the new book, Rove Exposed, follows the excerpt. Enjoy!
Karl Rove Comes of Age
James Moore & Wayne Slater
In 1973, when Karl Rove was recruited to run for chair of
the College Republican National Committee, a group of
supporters paired him with Lee Atwater, who at the time was
president of the College Republicans in South Carolina.
Rove was to be the candidate and Atwater his Southern
campaign chair. In March, Rove took the train from
Washington, D.C., to Columbia, South Carolina (a $25
overnight ticket) where he was met by Atwater and another
young hardball Republican, John Carbaugh, later to become
advisor to Jesse Helms. With a Gulf credit card, Rove and
Atwater rented a mustard-brown Ford Pinto and proceeded to
spend the next week campaigning together across the South,
visiting state college Republican chairpersons and asking
The deal went like this: Rove was to be chair and Atwater
would take Rove's old job, executive director of the
College Republican National Committee. Both of them would
be in Washington with an office and a phone and the run of
the Republican National Committee (RNC). It was impossible
not to like Atwater. He was fun loving and amiable and he
was forever scheming about one thing or the other. The two
of them had barely taken their jobs in Washington, Rove
said, before Atwater was hustling Republican National
Committee Chairman George H.W. Bush for use of his boat.
Rove was awestruck by Atwater's self-confidence.
"I introduced Lee to George Bush. Lee wanted to meet George
Bush because he was chairman but also because he'd heard
that the chairman had a boat that he kept on the Potomac.
Lee had a big date lined up for the weekend and he thought
it would be very impressive if he could take this little
Strom Thurmond intern named Sally out on the Potomac on
George Bush's boat.
"So -- classic Atwater -- five minutes after he has met the
chairman of the Republican National Committee, he was
bumming the use of his boat. And the audacious guy he was,
he got it." (Source: Wayne Slater interview with Rove, July
But to get to Washington, they had to win, and to win, they
had to out-politick the other guys. The two of them -- Rove
and Atwater -- crisscrossed the South in the spring of 1973
lining up support in advance of the summer convention where
the new chairman of the College Republicans was to be
chosen. Atwater knew all the fronts and fissures of campus
politics in the region: who was important and who was not.
By the time they rolled into Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks
in June for the convention, Atwater and Rove had a battle
plan. And in the end, according to his opponent, Rove had
to steal the election to win.
~ DIRTY TRICKS ~
The hotel in Lake of the Ozarks was swarming with young
Republicans. There were sessions on practical politics in
the little meeting rooms and politicking in the hallways,
particularly for the election of the new national chair.
Atwater and Rove cruised the rooms and the bar, looking to
lock up votes. There were three candidates for chair: Rove;
Robert Edgeworth, a Goldwater devotee who had headed up
Students for Nixon at the University of Michigan; and Terry
Dolan, the future founder of the National Conservative
Political Action Committee. Dolan, whose acerbic
personality made it difficult to round up support, realized
that he didn't have the votes to win and threw in with
It was a two-man race for a majority of the votes. But
which votes? Rove and Atwater's plan, supported by a
faction within the College Republicans sometimes called the
Chicago Boys, took as a point of pride its influence on the
gears and levers of the organization. Atwater and the
Chicago Boys decided the best way to win an election was to
make sure the votes that counted were their votes. There
was suddenly a flurry of challenges at the credentials
committee, which went into the night.
"The credentials committee savagely went through and threw
out, often on the flimsiest of reasons, most of my
supporters," said Edgeworth, who steered his own campaign
with a bullhorn and a stack of proxies, which challenged
Rove and Atwater. (Source: James Moore interview with
Robert Edgeworth, July 2002.)
Tempers flared and there were near-fistfights. Edgeworth
supporters shouted at Rove's people, who shouted back. The
committee was stymied. The next day, with everybody
gathered in a large hall, Rove's name was entered into
nomination, and as the roll was called, region-by-region,
one voice shouted "Aye" and another voice yelled "No."
Then, against a chorus of boos and cheers, Edgeworth was
also nominated, just as Rove had been, and the same thing
happened. Each side declared victory.
"I gave a nice acceptance speech, thanking everybody for
electing me. Then I sat down," said Edgeworth. "Karl got
up, gave a nice acceptance speech for everybody who had
elected him. Then we both went to Washington D.C."
~ A CONTESTED ELECTION ~
The issue of who was the rightful chair was to be decided
by RNC Chairman George Bush. Both sides made their cases,
but Rove seemed to have an advantage, having already met
Bush while working as executive director of the College
Republicans. Before Bush had announced his decision, Dolan
went to the media with some particularly damning material
about Rove -- tapes and transcripts of "dirty tricks"
"I forbade [Dolan] to do it but he did it anyway,"
The Washington Post published the story under the headline,
"GOP Probes Official as Teacher of Tricks." This was
exactly the kind of publicity the Republican party did not
need. The storm clouds were building over Watergate. The
Senate was investigating. Nixon had announced in April the
departure of John Dean, John Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman.
And now George Bush, who as chairman of the party had
pledged to keep the GOP free of Watergate taint, was having
to deal with a published report in the Washington Post --
adjacent to the day's Watergate investigation story, for
god's sake -- about tape recordings and "dirty tricks"
workshops by a GOP college operative.
In fact, Dolan's evidence had been given first to the RNC
and quietly reviewed by a committee and dismissed. Only
afterward did the tapes and affidavits find their way into
the media. Now in the bright light of a newspaper report,
Bush promised to reopen the inquiry. Three weeks later,
September 6, 1973, he sent a letter to both candidates
declaring Rove the winner.
Edgeworth wrote back asking on what basis Bush had made the
decision -- and got a blistering reply.
"He sent me back an absolutely furious letter in which he
wrote me out of the party. He said he certainly would not
answer such impertinent inquiries from someone who was
disloyal to the party and leaked hostile information to the
press, which I had never done."
The response was odd, Edgeworth thought. Bush was angry not
because a Republican had conducted seminars on campaign
espionage, but because someone had gone to the press with
the story. Obviously, the priority was containing the
scandal, not getting to the bottom of it. This was all
about loyalty and the club; no true Republican would
violate the party code by going to the media. That was the
message that Edgeworth heard.
A few months later, Bush hired Rove as his special
assistant at the RNC.
How perfect was this? Assistant to the chairman of the
Republican National Committee. Back at Olympus High, Rove
had talked with his friend Randy Ludlow, about how he was
going to Washington, and now he was there -- in the big
time. Every morning when Chairman Bush arrived at the
basement parking garage and stepped into the elevator,
rising to the fourth floor, Rove was there eagerly ready
for the day. As a member of the personal staff, Rove had
all the authority of an assistant to the RNC chair -- which
is to say, not much authority at all. Mostly he was a
gopher. But the place was the center of the Republican
universe, a place to make associations and stay current on
the party's latest line.
His most important association, although he didn't know it
then, was the boss' son, George W. Bush.
Defining moments of lives are often nothing more than
chance encounters. But Karl Rove was leaving nothing to
providence, in this case. When it came to George W. Bush,
Rove ended up taking chance out of the equation. And in the
process he changed -- not just their lives -- but also
About the Authors
James C. Moore is the co-author of Bush's War for
Reelection: Iraq, the White House, and the People. A
documentary film about his first book, Bush's Brain, was
made and appeared in theatres in major U.S. cities. He is
an Emmy award-winning former television news correspondent
who has traveled on every presidential campaign since 1976
and was a full-time correspondent on the Bush campaign.
Moore's numerous professional honors include the Edward R.
Murrow Award from the Radio and Television News Directors'
Association and the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award
from the Texas Headliners' Foundation. He has appeared on
The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, CNN's
American Morning, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and
numerous other television programs.
Wayne Slater is Senior Political Writer for The Dallas
Morning News. He was appointed after serving 15 years as
Austin bureau chief. He has appeared on numerous network
television shows. Slater traveled for 16 months covering
the presidential campaign of George W. Bush. He has covered
every Republican and Democratic national convention since
1988. He has appeared on NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's
Crossfire and Inside Politics, ABC's Nightline and Good
Morning America, C-Span, National Public Radio and Fox
News' The Beltway Boys and The O'Reilly Factor.
About the Book
How Bush's Brain Fooled America
by James Moore & Wayne Slater
Published by WILEY
ISBN 0-471-78708-6, 6" x 9", 225 pages, paperback, $12.95
Available through this site or directly from the publisher:
Who is Karl Rove and how did he acquire so much political
power? What motivates someone to use one of the most
powerful offices in the country to intimidate political
enemies and possibly leak the name of CIA operative Valerie
This fascinating book pieces together the puzzle of Rove's
extraordinary political life through personal interviews
with Rove himself as well as revealing stories from friends
and foes alike. James Moore and Wayne Slater take you on a
fast-paced ride that uncovers both the masterful skills and
secret machinations of the President's chief political
Copyright © 2006 by James Moore and Wayne Slater. All
Rights Reserved. Please feel free to duplicate or
distribute this file as long as the contents are not
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