The Blog

Beyond Rove

He offered the president advice, not magic.

12:00 AM, Aug 14, 2007 • By FRED BARNES
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When Rove departs the White House at the end of August, he'll be leaving with his "legendary reputation seriously diminished by the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm election," according to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times. Nagourney doesn't seem to understand what strategists like Rove are capable of, and not capable of.

They can advise a candidate or a party how best to deal with a situation. But they can't change the situation. And they can't transform the circumstances at the time of an election.

In 2006, the situation was bad for Republicans. The Iraq war was going poorly. How could Rove have altered that fact? Meanwhile, congressional Republicans were beset by corruption. Rove regrets the White House didn't force a few troubled Republican incumbents to retire, but that would have made little difference in the outcome of the election.

Rove was tremendously important for what he did: help a candidate, Bush, win four elections and influence the Republican party in ways that allowed it to grow. He shouldn't be held responsible for failures neither he nor anyone in his line of work have the power to avert.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.