Robert Novak

Rove has not helped his popularity on Capitol Hill in his talks to new congressional candidates for 2008 that blame the 2006 elections on profligate spending and numerous scandals by the Republican-controlled Congress. To many Republicans in Congress, the Democratic victory can be traced to the Iraq war and a decision by Bush and Rove to "nationalize" the midterm elections.

Rove always had been a happy warrior, self-confident in building a broad-based Republican majority. But his joy of politics was diminished by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of him in the CIA leak case. Although Fitzgerald knew from the start that not Rove but the politically nondescript Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was my primary source in identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA employee, the prosecutor came close to indicting Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice. Rove rivaled Bush as a hate-figure for left-wing politics.

Joseph Wilson did not know the identity of my actual source when he talked about "frog-marching" Rove into jail, setting a mindless pattern soon followed by bloggers and politicians alike. A talkative juror, after convicting Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice, expressed sorrow that it was not Karl Rove.

The desire to get Rove has outlived the Valerie Plame case, with Democratic lawmakers trying to make him the target in the fired U.S. attorneys case. Since there will be no impeachment proceedings against the president, Rove has been the best available surrogate.

No wonder that a leading Republican has been asking around whether ferocious Democratic partisans in Congress might ease up if Rove were no longer there to kick around. That provides melancholy exit music for one of the most effective, most powerful of all presidential aides.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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