with Karl Rove
American Enterprise Institute
December 11, 2001
Karl Rove, White House senior advisor
Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute
Thomas Mann, Brookings Institution
[TRANSCRIPT PREPARED FROM A TAPE RECORDING.]
P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. ORNSTEIN: Just so you know, it's been a bad, bad time for al Qaeda. They did a head count this morning up at Tora Bora. Only half had them.
MR. ORNSTEIN: So always have to give you a couple preliminaries here.
We have a full day today on the Bush Presidency: Transition and Transformation, another in a long series of programs we've been running for the last two years on the transition to governing through our Transition in Governing Project run jointly with Brookings and AEI. Tom Mann and I co-chairing it, and focusing on the permanent campaign and its role in the tension between and the transition between campaigning and governing, and an attempt to make governing work better in the country.
We've produced a number of books, including a book of all the important transition memos done by Richard Neustadt [ph], and a book on the permanent campaign and its future; a series of conferences through the campaign on how the candidates would govern including several on Governor Bush. And now looking back at both the three-month anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th and as we move closer to the one-year anniversary of the Bush Presidency.
So we will start this morning with a conversation with Karl Rove, known to almost everybody as the Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Bush, overseeing the strategic planning, political affairs and public liaison efforts of the White House. He served as chief strategist for the Bush for President Campaign, and for a long time before that as President of Karl Rove & Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm. He has taught at the LBJ School, and also with Tom Mann in a seminar on presidential elections at the Salzburg Seminar, and of course, has been as active in policy as he has been in politics.
So what we're going to do is have a conversation amongst the three of us for a while, leave a little bit of time for some dialog on the issues of the transition and transformation.
Let me turn to Tom.
MR. MANN: Thanks, Norm, and thank you, Karl, for coming over here. We're just tickled to have you.
Let's begin this way. There's a general sense that campaigns typically frustrate good government, rather than enable it. You've been with George Bush for a long time. Could you tell us when you began to think and plan for a Bush presidency as distinct from a Bush campaign?
MR. ROVE: I'm not certain that the distinction is--that there is a distinction. I mean, Governor Bush--Candidate Bush, when he ran for governor, talked about four big things he was going to run on for governor, and then proceeded in office to do them. I think his view of a campaign is that the campaign is a prelude to governing, that you talk about in a campaign what you would hope to govern about, and that you seek popular support and a mandate, if you will, to pursue those goals.
So I'm not certain at the distinction between campaigning and governing. When he talked about a tax cut in the campaign, he meant it. When he talked about, went and gave three speeches on education reform, he meant it. So for him there is no distinction between the two. So when he began thinking about running for President, he began to build a rather robust team of advisors on issues for exactly that reason. He believed that campaigning was a prelude to governing, and so he wanted to use the process of campaigning and the development of public policy during that campaign as an integral part of his governance.
MR. MANN: But oftentimes presidential candidates get themselves maneuvered into positions in a campaign that then kind of frustrate what they'd like to do afterwards, and they also end up being reluctant to engage in sort of nuts-and-bolts planning for the presidency because it seems presumptuous to think of aspects of governing while they're still candidates. Were those concerns or difficulties for you at all?
MR. ROVE: Well, there are two different parts of that. The second was a difficulty, I mean, because we did not want to look presumptuous, because this may surprise you, and it may surprise certain members of the audience seated over here, but the members of the press really like to do lots of process stories in campaigns. So they would like to jump on this idea of looking presumptuous. So a lot of what you would do, and to be necessarily prepared for any transition, if you style it as transition, they will cover it as transition, they will turn it into an entire process story. So this is why we were very sensitive about this.
But nonetheless, we recognized, when we began this policy planning process, that this was an integral part of governance, and have transition planning. We hired a policy director for the campaign before we hired a political director. We hired Josh Bolton before we hired a political director for the campaign. And we recognize that these teams of people that we would have in the policy apparatus, you know, people like Rich Armitage, and Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice, and Larry Lindsey, would all--Don Evans--would necessarily find their--there was a high likelihood of them finding their way
into government--Glenn Hubbard. We recognized that this was a prelude to transition, but we never called it transition.
MR. MANN: Now, what was the connection between Clay Johnson's operation on the sort of nuts and bolts early on and the broader campaign?
MR. ROVE: Well, it was separate and apart from it. We necessarily wanted it to be so. We also wanted it to be very low visibility, which it was. I mean, Clay worked for months before anybody discovered him. And he was looking at how do you go about staffing up an administration? How do you organize a personnel shop? How do you organize a search for the subcabinet? What kind of procedures are there in place? What kind of rules govern it? What kind of, really, paper flow there's going to be? And one of the early questions was paper flow, because this is an extraordinarily difficult thing to manage. You know, everybody
wants to be in government, and how do you simply manage that process and cull out good names from bad and just handle the paper flow? But he began that work during the summer. He's speaking to you at lunch. He'll know exactly when. I was concerned about the Paducah media market at the time, and so I don't remember exactly where it was.
MR. ROVE: But he began the work during the summer, and did so, worked for months in stealth mode before he was discovered.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Let's go back and do just a little bit of history. When did you and when did Governor Bush start to think about President Bush? What was the genesis of running for President? Were you thinking about it from the time that he became governor or even before? When do you think the serious thought really occurred to him?
MR. ROVE: Sometime during and after the '96 campaign. You know, there's no magic moment, but sometime during the '96 campaign, you know, people were saying, "You've done such a marvelous job here. Why don't you--I wish you were the candidate. I wish you were the vice presidential running mate." But really, it gained momentum after the '96 election.
MR. ORNSTEIN: And was it--so it was externally developed? It was people coming to him, or do you think he was thinking about it himself before that?
MR. ROVE: No. You know, I'm not capable of great thoughts like that. It was other people coming to him and saying, "Think about this." And his first reaction was dismissive, and then shortly after the '96 elections there's the story about Karen coming in with a poll saying he was the front runner. And somewhere in that period of time, somewhere in those passage of months after '96 he began to think seriously about it.
MR. ORNSTEIN: And when did you begin to think seriously about it?
MR. ROVE: December 25th, 1950.
MR. ORNSTEIN: You waited that long? And when you began to think seriously about it, did you develop a game plan right from that moment, a kind of chess game about how you would win? And were you thinking at that time also about if you won, what you would do or what he would do as President?
MR. ROVE: Well, there were three separate wars to be fought, and one of them was the preliminary for the nomination, to win the preprimary primary. Then there was the primary process and then the general election. And, yes, there were battle plans for each one of them, and yes, we began thinking about them, a lot of people began thinking about them relatively early, that is to say sometime in '96. Late '96, early '97 there were some discussions, but then serious work in '97 and early '98.
And I may not recall the formulation--it seems like decades ago--but we saw there were five primaries before the first primary. There would be the primary of money. You know, could you raise the amount of money necessary to--you know, the general conventional wisdom was $25 million by the end of the year prior to the primary season. If you had gotten $25 million raised, whoever had the most money won, and whoever--but you know, you had to get to roughly $25 million.
There was the primary of ideas. This had to be something that was substantive and based around big ideas, and you necessarily had to have an apparatus in place.
There was the primary for the party's leadership, broadly defined, not just members of Congress and governors and senators, but the party's grass roots leadership, the money people and the political movers and shakers, the opinion leaders and so forth.
And we had a series of sort of strategic goals for each one of those and tactics to fulfill them, and we had a plan for each phase of the campaign.
MR. ORNSTEIN: You read a lot of history, Karl, we know. What kind of history were you reading before the campaign, during the campaign? Was it mostly about campaigning, or were you reading about other presidencies and thinking about where he might fit in? What was the genesis of your notion of if he won, how he would begin his presidency, what the analogies were that were the best ones? I mean, we know the McKinley analogy has been out there a lot for the campaign. Talk about that a little bit.
MR. ROVE: Do you really want to inflict that on this group?
MR. ORNSTEIN: They want to hear about today and yesterday, but we're going to cover our preliminaries.
MR. ROVE: Well, the model--this is the worst question you could ever ask, because I will go on for hours given the opportunity.
MR. ORNSTEIN: No, you won't.
MR. MANN: No, you won't.
MR. ROVE: Look, the 1896 thing was interesting only because it represented the kind of election this might be. That is to say, an election which each party's agendas were largely irrelevant or in danger of becoming irrelevant, in which each party had the responsibility of trying to come to copes with a changed circumstance of the country, changed demography, changed economy, changed world situation, changed nature of the party, and the declining power of each party's elite. In the case of McKinley, all the people who fought in the Civil War were dying off, and this was going to be the last election--in fact, it was one election past the point at which the parties could fight on the slogans from the 1860s. No longer could you say "states' rights" of a Democrat, and "vote as you fought" if you were Republican. So I don't want to carry the analogy too far. But it did allow us to sort of--we did steal most prominently the idea of the front porch campaign from it; only we applied it to the primary, not to the general.
But my reading habits during the campaign were not that important in the grander scheme of things. What really mattered was that George W. Bush, in May of 1993, when thinking about running for governor, said, "Okay. The first thing we need to do is, is"--he literally pulled out a little piece of paper out of his pocket. I wish I had kept all these important little scraps of paper, because it had virtually indecipherable handwriting on it. But he said, "Okay, if we run, here's what I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about running--I want to do something on education. Here's what I want to do. I want to do something on juvenile justice, and here's the guy that I've been talking to about it, and we need to something on welfare, and here's what I'm talking
about." And, you know, we added tort reform on to that later.
But he literally said, "Okay, I'm getting ready to run for governor. The first thing we need to do is who are the smart people on education that can help me think through an accountability responsibility system? How can we measure for results? And on juvenile justice, who can we get alongside my friend, you know, the Family Court judge in Dallas County, to rethink how we approach juvenile justice, because we've got to do something about this? And on welfare reform, who are the smart people of the state that are together outside the box when it comes to welfare reform?"
So that really was the model for the 2000 campaign. It was, "Okay, if I'm going to run, I've got to have a vision." In fact, that was his big issue, was, "Do I feel that I've got something worthy to take to the country? And if I do, I'll run; if I don't, I won't." But he started it, it was his natural instinct starting in 1993 when he ran for governor.
MR. MANN: Karl, one last question about that sort of campaign, and that relates to the posture of the Bush campaign to the Republicans in Congress. Was that delicate, difficult? Were there times in which you clearly wanted to express a desire to be with them and to have a unified Republican Government? There were times when you wanted to differentiate yourself from particular positions they were taking? How much of a problem was that?
MR. ROVE: It was not a problem, but you had to rub there, which is--I mean you don't want to say, "We're disavowing our party in Congress," but on the other hand we wanted to indicate that the President was willing to lead. That's why he talked about a different kind of Republican, and why he laid out his agenda the way that he did. And our hope was to move the party, and to move the party on important issues, to not simply accept the Congress as it was and the image of the Republican Party as it existed, but to change. And that's why we spent an extraordinary amount of time for a Republican campaign talking about education, for example. Made three major addresses on education in Los Angeles, Manhattan and then of course that critical intellectual center, Berlin, New Hampshire. But our object was to focus on education with the hope that we would thereby change Congress and thereby change the image of the party.
And to some degree a lot of that worked. We, for the first time in 50 some odds, and earlier this year, the Gallup poll indicated that the Republican Party now was seen as better on the issue of education than were Democrats. In fact, we closed the margin on the issue of education to an all-time low in the fall of 2000. So it was not an issue that we necessarily needed to win, but it was an issue that we needed to clearly both move for the party and move the congress adherence of the party as well.
MR. MANN: Any presidential candidate who hopes to build a majority and make it an enduring majority has to, at one and the same time, mobilize his base and reach out to the center, and in some ways try to change the image of the party to the extent it's identified with the base. Bill Clinton used trade and welfare and crime and fiscal responsibility, balanced budget, as a way of sort of challenging his sort of party's core beliefs. What would be the comparable agenda for Bush, and do you think he's roughly tried the same strategy of tried to keep the base happy with some issues, but then pushing it significantly on others?
MR. ROVE: I'm not certain I accept the suggestion that this is following Clinton. I mean, you're right, everybody--everybody has to keep their base. But again, if you go back to the mind set. The mind set was, the past and the current situation are not sufficient, that we've got to move the party. So this whole idea of compassionate conservatism, of being able to say, "We accept government, but we need to find a way for mediating structures."
Incidentally, to brag on AEI, but we had Michael Novak's [ph] 1974 pamphlet on mediating structures. It was sort of (?)-stat in the campaign. The only bad thing about it was I had an original clean copy of it that I carried around since 1974. It got passed around so much in the campaign that it fell apart, it disintegrated.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Send him a new one.
MR. ROVE: No, no. It was a treasured volume from my youthful years. But the idea was that we had to both help change the nature of the Republican Party and indicate what was next. That's why we talked about education and compassionate conservatism. We didn't talk about welfare in the same way that welfare had always been talked about by the Republicans. It wasn't welfare cheats and green eyeshades. It was, you know, we need to--"Some of our best and brightest are dependent upon government, and we need to move away from dependency on government through personal responsibility and raise them to the best that they can be in life." So the idea was to transform--to challenge the party and transform its rhetoric.
I will say this, I will say one of the ironies is, is that we probably failed to martial support among the base as well as we should have. If you look at the model of the electorate, and you look at the model of who voted, the big discrepancy is among self-identified, white, evangelical protestants, pentecostals and fundamentalists. If they were a part of the voters of what they should have been if you had looked at the electoral model, here should have been 19 million of them, and instead there were 15 million of them. Just over 4 million of them failed to turn out and vote. And yet they are obviously part of our base. They voted for us, depending on who they were and where they were, by huge margins, 70 and 80 percent margins. And yet 4 million of them
didn't turn out to vote that you would have anticipated voting in a normal presidential election year. I think we may have failed to mobilize them, but we may also be returning to a point in America where fundamentalists and evangelicals and pentecostals remain true to their beliefs, which are things of the--you know, politics is corrupt, and therefore we shouldn't participate. And I think we may be saying to some degree, or at least we did in 2000--and I hope it's temporary--some return to the sidelines of some of the previously politically involved religious conservatives.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Let's move ahead to the election and its aftermath. Let me start with a preliminary. When George W. Bush ran for governor, as you noted, he started with four priorities; he carried that into his governorship; he pursued those four priorities with a relentlessness and almost a tunnel vision through his time there. When George W. Bush pursued the presidency, he didn't start with four priorities. It evolved really into two top priorities: the tax cuts, which emerged really in the middle of the primary season, and the education program which clearly had been there from the start. But when you started the presidency, you focused laser-like on those two issues: a tax cut, which clearly had a substantial appeal to the base; the education program, which had that broader appeal.
Why two; was that a conscious decision made early or made late? Was it related to a model of how you begin a presidency appropriately, to get that first 100 or 180 days kicked off? Talk a little bit about that.
MR. ROVE: Well, first, I disagree that it was two. It was tax cuts, education, faith base, Medicare and Social Security reform and defense modernization. He talked about five things during the campaign endlessly. In fact, will return today to the Citadel, where he gave the speech in September of 1999 about military modernization. So there were these five big things that he talked about during the campaign.
The morning of December 14th--I think it was the 14th, it may have been the 15th--in Austin, the President-elect held a meeting, and he said, "I want to have a plan for how we begin the administration for at least the first six weeks, but I'd like to extend it as long as possible, and I want it to be"--and he said, in essence, "I saw what happened to my dad, who got elected and came in and then said, "What do we do?"" And he said, "I saw what happened to Clinton, who campaigned on a number of issues, and then came in and immediately began--got enmeshed in an entirely different set of issues." So he said, "I want a plan that will describe from the moment that I say "So help me God" what it is that we're going to do, based on fulfilling the things that we did in the campaign."
So, for example, the first week we talked about the Education Bill. The President, literally the first working day that he's in the office, announces that he's introducing the Education Bill. This required us to step back and do other things long before that. For example, we had a meeting in Austin, really one of the more extraordinary meetings between the concession and acceptance and the inauguration, which was the education meeting. This is the famous meeting where George Miller get his name, "Big Jorge",
"Jorge Grande", and where there's just an unbelievable meeting about education, about accountability system. In fact, this was a sort of semi-funny meeting. We made out this list of people that we were going to invite, and we had the Republicans and then the few Democrats that we were hoping to get into the meeting. We had, I think we had like 11 people that we hoped to get there. And then people started calling up and saying, "I'd like to come." The list ended up, I think, being 18 people, and it was because mostly Democrats said, "Well, you're inviting so-and-so, and I'd like to come."
And the meeting ended with a pretty extraordinary--I mean it went on for hours, but I mean it was very, very focused and very powerful. And at the end of the meeting Zell Miller, who had said very little, stood up and said--this is after they had been talking about the accountability system and disaggregating the data--when President-elect Bush said, "Disaggregate the data." When he turned to George Miller at one point in the meeting and said, "I know what you've been doing. I know how you've been calling for disaggregation of the data and I know how important that is," you would have thought George Miller had been slapped with a wet
towel, for some guy to sit next to him, who he obviously had a low opinion of at that time and say, "Disaggregate the data," sort of shocked him.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Did he practice saying that before--
MR. ORNSTEIN: Get him to talk to you about disaggregation of the data.
MR. ROVE: That's another story. February 1995, I remember that one, when the Texas education bureaucrats came in and said, "Mr. Governor, we're doing great. Our test scores are up." And the Governor said, "Well, how are they doing for African-Americans and Latinos?"
"Well, they're flat. We're not doing well on that. But we don't pay attention to that because we're really not in favor of disaggregating the data."
MR. ROVE: But anyway, at the end of the meeting, Zell Miller stood up, after this fabulous conversation about shared goals and the President-elect's vision, and said, "You know, I'm against vouchers." He said, "I've been in politics so long that vouchers came along after I was in politics." And he said, "I've been against choice. I've been against it forever. But if it's part of your plan, I'm for your plan, all of your plan." And this was a great signal that there could be some bipartisan agreement on education.
But anyway, the point is, is that we set out a plan for those first--and it ended up being roughly the first, I think, 14 weeks we had in place by early January, mid January, that we had planned out, and that necessitated, as we put blocks of that in place, it necessitated us doing things in December and in early January.
MR. MANN: Was that planning done after the election concession by Gore or had you done some--I know you had people, it's been reported, doing a lot of research on the first 100, 200 days of other administrations.
MR. ROVE: Yeah. We had a lot of people who, after the election and during the 36 days from hell, were in Austin and were not fully occupied, and so we put them to work basically researching the first 100 days or the first year actually, but in particularly the first 100 days of every President, sort of see how they had done it, what was important, and what was the framing and the flow of it, what were successes and failures? How do people look back on it? And so, yeah, we spent a lot of time doing that.
MR. ORNSTEIN: And who were the best models?
MR. ROVE: Well, the best model--and maybe it's because the best models were those who are written by the historians, so the best model looks like it's Kennedy, but there are elements to be drawn from everybody, there are lessons to be drawn from everybody. Nixon has a, in the first term, has a very early start on appointments, for example. He assembled a cabinet in near record time, which is something we had to worry about because we had less time in order to assemble the cabinet. But there were lessons to be drawn from everybody, but Kennedy I would suspect is the best.
MR. MANN: Karl, you mentioned that then-Governor Bush said in mid December, "I want a plan," and drawing lessons from his father and from Clinton. Now, one of the things that happened to Clinton is that he was confronted by advisors, including Bob Rubin, who said, "The deficit problem is much worse than we anticipated. We need to make some immediate changes in our program that keep us from directly translating campaigning into governing, that is, context matters."
Query: you had two sort of contextual changes from what you anticipated, one a very close and hotly disputed election, and secondly, a rapidly cooling economy. Did you make any adjustments in your governing plan in light of those two contextual factors?
MR. ROVE: Well, the second one had been anticipated. In fact, if you go back and look, the President laid out his tax cut as a way to stimulate the economy, and he talked about it as an insurance policy against an economic downturn, and frankly, all the signs were there starting in the second, and if not the second, the third quarter of 2000, that the economy was rapidly cooling off. So I mean the President, you know, we had smart guys sitting there in the room, Glenn Hubbard and Larry Lindsey and others, saying, "The economy is going to slow, and we need to do this in order to get the economy going again."
MR. MANN: But didn't you introduce that plan back in December, the previous December, when the economy was booming still?
MR. ROVE: Yeah, but still, nonetheless, these guys were sitting there saying, "We're worried about the underpinnings in the economy, and were worried that at some point within the next years, that the economy will begin to cool." Now, I'm not an economist, and I'm sure some of it is driven by ouija boards and those little balls that you turn upside down with the black 8 on it, but nonetheless, very early on in 1999, these guys were saying, "One of the reasons that we need to look at the economic side is that there's a chance that the economy is going to begin to slow."
And particularly through the course of 2000 we saw that. The signals were there in the third and fourth quarters. And after the election we had brought to Austin, in a series of three meetings, executives of companies and banks and financial institutions, and then one meeting of high tech execs, many of whom had been sort of during the campaign one of our best sources of advice. I hate to add them here in front of the AEI, but John Chambers of Cisco, during the campaign, gave us very good--I mean his whole
business is oriented around instantaneous access to trend data, so he, both in his travels abroad and in his monitoring of the high tech industry here, he was able to give us very clear and early signals that the economy was cooling. And it was horrific to listen to these guys come in after the election, some of the people on the retail side of it said, "We can tell you the time that each one of our stores hit the wall in late September or October or early November, in what region of the country." So we were pretty well aware of it.
MR. MANN: But did you guys think about, as a result of that, turning it into a different kind of tax cut, that is, a really immediate sort of stimulus to kind of give some juice to the economy as opposed to the longer-run more supply side approach?
MR. ROVE: I thought that was what stimulated the economy.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Let me--
MR. ROVE: The answer is no.
MR. MANN: The answer is no.
MR. ROVE: Well, look, he said it, he meant it. So I mean that's one of the things you get about him, when he says it, he means it. He thought through this carefully. I mean I cannot tell you how many endless meetings we went through with mind-numbing presentations by economists on what the effects of this would be.
MR. ORNSTEIN: You're being redundant.
MR. MANN: But pick the second piece of this, Karl, the election. To what extent did you feel you had to make any adjustments because of the nature of the election?
MR. ROVE: Well, I think this--look, this accentuated Bush's tendencies. I mean he comes from Texas, and he is used to dealing with partisans on the other side in the acts of governing. So there's a little bit--it's not exactly transferable. Texas Democrats are a little bit more civil, a little bit more profane than Washington Democrats are, but nonetheless he's used to dealing with this. But I do think it made him sensitive, particularly when it came to the drafting of the inaugural and his desire to set this different tone, and his desire to invite, you know, members of Congress down so that they could make a judgment about him firsthand, not through
This is why in the first 100 days he invited to the White House, individually and in small groups, more members of Congress than any President has ever met with in I think their first six to nine months, and that was a deliberate goal. He said, "We can't personalize everything, but if people sort of see who I am, and I see who they are, and we have a chance to talk about these things, we'll have a better chance to have a civil dialog, and while we may not end up any place different with regard to outputs, we'll at least have a more civil process here."
MR. ORNSTEIN: George W. Bush had been around the White House, of course, through the eight years of his father's presidency, but becoming President is very different than being around the White House.
MR. ROVE: Four years.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Four years, excuse me. And the eight years before that as Vice President.
MR. ROVE: I know you wish that--
MR. ROVE: That's a secret desire of yours.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Talk about what surprised him and what surprised you about being President? What was it like as you moved into this process? What was it like for him trying to be a leader? What were the major differences? No question you're going to use your experiences as Governor, but moving from a smaller setting to the major leagues, as it were.
MR. ROVE: I'm not certain I could answer that question for him. I mean I do think one of his major disappointments was he no longer had access to e-mail, because everything is a presidential record, so being able to literally be able to sit on his computer and tap out the little missive in between meetings, you know, not being able to do that, sort of surprised him that he was restrained by that.
But I'm not certain that there was a--if there's something that surprised him in a negative way, I'm not aware of it.
MR. ORNSTEIN: So dealing with Congress was not anything that surprised him after dealing with the Texas Legislature?
MR. ROVE: No. Well, I do think the idea that people don't talk to each other, I mean this idea that members of Congress, members of the leadership engage in a kabuki dance with each other over years without ever talking to each other surprises anybody who's come from outside of Washington, particularly if you've dealt with a legislature where personal contact with your opposites is so important. I mean the idea that Bob Bullock would ever not know his 31 colleagues in the state senate or that the speaker of the house would not know the 150 members of the house at least in a cursory fashion, and would deal with significant
other players in the process on an ongoing basis, I think that is unusual for people who come from a state experience.
But again, my problem is not--I'm sure there are things that surprised him. They're just not things that he dwelt on in my presence that I'd feel comfortable sharing.
The power of Ornstein and Mann surprised him, that they carried so much stroke in the Washington community.
MR. ORNSTEIN: That's the last thing I thought would have surprised him.
MR. ROVE: Remember, Norm, he had met you.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Well, I've been mis-underestimated before, Karl, so--
MR. ROVE: I think in your case that's mis-overestimated.
MR. ORNSTEIN: But I want to--obviously, people are interested in what's happened in recent months as well, and we should spend some time talking about those things, but also in the context of learning to govern and structuring a White House. See if you could speculate for a minute on whether things would have been different if say the tragedies of September 11th had occurred on March 11th. I'm trying to get at the learning curve. And also the sense of learning the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different players around you.
MR. ROVE: That's a tough question. I'm not certain I can necessarily answer that. I will tell you this, I do think the President, from the start, understood the importance of having a strong Chief of Staff. He wanted to have the right person in that job, but he understood the importance of having a strong Chief of Staff. The definition of a strong Chief of Staff is somebody who can make all the moving parts of this White House run in as an efficient a way as possible, knowing that your object is to have parts of the
White House run by significant players. I mean, Mitch Daniels, Condi Rice, Karen Hughes, Nick Calio, Margaret LaMontagne-Spellings, Larry Lindsey. I mean we're talking about relatively significant people with relatively significant means of operating. And so to have a Chief of Staff who could orchestrate that all in a manner that is collegial.
I think one of the things that surprised people on the outside and surprised those of us who had been given the horror stories of previous White Houses, was how collegial and positive that working relationship was, and I credit a lot of that to the President, but a lot of it also has to go to Andy Card, who has the right kind of structures and the right kind of personality and the right kind of operating that sort of takes a lot of the rough edges off. You could expect a lot of people to come and clash harshly against each other, but the way that he runs the White House and the way that he runs the President's business is enormously positive in minimizing the opportunities for that. I mean we still have very healthy dialog and very healthy debate. In fact the President encourages that, but the way that Andy structures that, makes it an incredibly positive experience. People can walk into a meeting and walk out, having absolutely and utterly lost their point, and feel that they had their day in court in front of the President, and that the process had treated them with fairness. And if you want a White House to operate, you've got to have that. That's absolutely vital to the success of any White House, that there is a comfort level in advancing a position, and an acceptance that the process will generate a good decision.
MR. MANN: Karl, to the outside world, it looks as if there have been two George W. Bush presidencies already, the pre-September 11 and the post-September 11. Is that simply a caricature of what we see? I mean now we see weekly leadership meetings involving Democratic and Republican leaders with the President. That wasn't something that had happened beforehand. In fact, Daschle--
MR. ROVE: Monthly meetings had happened before.
MR. MANN: But Daschle has said publicly that he never had a substantive discussion about budgetary matters with the President before the tax cut was passed. I assume in part because you knew to get a tax cut meant that you had to beat Daschle, not negotiate with him on taxes, but to the outside world, it looks sort of very different. Could you give a sense of what's different and what's the same?
MR. ROVE: Well, I'm not certain it is that much different. I mean, look, the President did something extraordinary before March--before September 11th, which was he met on a regular basis with the bicameral, bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate. So that existed. And maybe Daschle didn't have a chance between January and when was the tax cut passed, March whatever, when we got it through the House? Maybe they didn't have a substantive discussion about the budget before then. But this President has been open and accessible to the leadership, both House and Senate, Democrat or Republican. In a way I think they'd be hard pressed to suggest that they had in previous administrations, Republican and Democrat.
I for one don't buy this theory that September 11th somehow changed George W. Bush. In fact I think a better answer is to be found--we had Forest McDonald come to the White House this summer, and he gave a wonderful lecture about the American presidency and the characteristics of great presidents. And then someone, at the end of his lecture, asked him a good question. They said, "Who were the great presidents that we don't know they're great, and why?" And he had his own personal list of who he thought were the great presidents, but it was really an illuminating question. There are people who have been great, who
served as President, but we don't know their greatness because the times didn't demand more of them than was necessary to display, to give.
Ironically enough, his number one favorite great President who we don't know is great, was of course William McKinley.
MR. ROVE: But thereby expanding the number of McKinley fans in Washington by one third.
MR. ROVE: Novak, Rove and now McDonald.
But really since September 11th, I think what America has seen--and great events do not transform presidents. They bring out who they are. When William G. Harding said, "This damn job will kill me," you know, under the pressure of the early 1920s, whenever that was, he was demonstrating who he was. So my view is that all this about he's changed and he's transformed, no, he's who he is, required to do more in a great crisis, so you don't manufacture these things. You don't create them. They're either there or they're not. The moment calls them out or the moment doesn't. The moment requires something of you, and you're either
able to do or you aren't.
The Friday after September 11th, we went to New York, and everybody saw him jump up there on the wreck of the fire truck, and you either had the ability to throw your arm around the 70-year-old fire fighter and look comfortable and casual, and in the other hand wield the bullhorn and say, you know, "I've heard you and now the rest of the world will hear you," or you don't.
To me, the more important and compelling moment though was later. We had on the schedule for about a half an hour for the President to visit with the victims--I hate using the word "victims"--with the families of people who were killed at the World Trade Centers, and it was on there for a half an hour, 45 minutes, I can't remember what it was. But it was in a parking garage at the Javits Center that had been piped and draped off. And you could not go in there and be there in that room for 5 or 10 minutes without weeping, to hear these people talk about their pain and anguish. This is where the woman came up and gave the President the badge of her husband. Her husband had been declared dead one hour before, and she came forward and gave him that badge.
Kirby John Callwell [ph], who's a fabulous pastor from Houston, he's a really magnificent individual. He had everything. He was successful in business, African-American investment banker, threw it all aside in order to go home, and found a church in the worst part of Houston. And he was in there for about 20 minutes, and came out and said, "In all my years of pastoring, I've never seen anybody give compassion like our President is doing." He was in there for nearly two hours, and he shook everybody's hand, and he had a kind word for everybody, and he shared a tear. And to think about somebody being able to do that, I mean, you either have that or you don't.
And yet it showed the strength of character that the world has seen since then. And nothing on September 11th created that. I will never forget the moment--I was there in Florida. We heard the word about 8:48, 8:49, when my assistant called me on my cell phone to say a plane has flow into the World Trade Center. When Andy Card went in and told the President that the second plane had flown into the World Trade Center, you know, there was a lot of fog, confusion. The President came walking into the room, took one look at the television and said, at the television set, said, "We're at war. Get me the Vice President and get me the Director of the FBI."
And you know, just great moments require great things of people, and he's exactly who he was before September 11th, just called to this moment, and people either do or they don't.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Let me expand that in just one way. Every President has some areas where they're particularly strong and some where they're not. One would have said, before September 11th, that when it came to using the bully-pulpit in the larger sense, that he wasn't quite a Ronald Reagan or even a Bill Clinton. But now, with war, it takes on a different coloration and a different priority, and he seems to be a different person up there on the stage. As we saw with the speech he gave to the American people and in front of Congress, as we saw just the other day in dialog in Florida, there is a crispness to the rhetoric, there is an assurance that really I would--I didn't see before September 11th. That would suggest that there is not necessarily a transformation but a different focus.
Was there a--
MR. ROVE: You're just paying better attention, Norm.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Address that, but also whether you had consciously discussed, after September 11th, how you'd have to change the way in which you did your business?
MR. ROVE: The rhetorical business?
MR. ORNSTEIN: And I want to get some other more specific terms, including your own role.
MR. ROVE: Again, he's who he is, and he's either--you're either inspired to the moment or you're not, and you're either capable of rising to it or you're not. I mean, I grant you, going out there and making that speech to the Congress on September 20th, in the aftermath of what we'd suffered as a nation, and being able to do it with the conviction and the power that he did, says something about him. But again, if there is a book published by the American Enterprise Institute on how to step up your rhetorical power as President in a moment of crisis, I'd like to read it, but there is none. And again, you see what you get.
And people make judgments in the short run. In the heat of a campaign, in the heat of the first year of a presidency, people make judgments about the short term. Oft times we look back and with the clarity of hindsight and the passage of time, and realize those judgments are erroneous. Eisenhower was not the bubbling idiot who did not know what was going on. You know, we now know that he was a very smart person who had a vision and was pursuing it. You know, there are things about presidents that we
think we know at the moment, particularly things that are formed in a campaign, which are incredibly erroneous. There is pack journalism. There is conventional wisdom which is oft times incorrect, but once that conventional wisdom gets established, opinion leaders, and to some degree, a little bit of public opinion, share it. But whether it's accurate or not is only borne out by the passage of time, the passage of events and the clarity that history gives us.
MR. MANN: But, Karl, let's look more substantively. The President himself said that the war on terrorism has given a focus and priority to his administration that is different from what came before it.
MR. ROVE: Sure.
MR. MANN: It's transformed his own priorities and the nature of U.S. foreign policy. You would acknowledge that difference as a consequence?
MR. ROVE: Well, I would acknowledge this, that it did transform his presidency, and rather than passing a tax cut or an education bill, the number one priority is to extinguish al Qaeda and terrorism, and the second part is to protect the homeland, yeah, absolutely.
But this idea that it somehow transformed George Bush the unilateralist into George Bush the multilateralist is incorrect. Each are caricatures. I mean the President, at the beginning of this thing said very clearly, "We will do this if we are forced to go it alone." And the paradox is, by having that kind of will and determination, the world follows. But the idea that he was somehow a unilateralist was a caricature before, as is the idea that somehow all of his past beliefs have been overthrown and discarded in this rush to win the war.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Talk a little bit about--I mean there's another way in which your White House has been transformed. Before September 11th, you and Karen were a part of virtually every meeting on virtually every subject. Since September 11th, you have compartmentalized more sharply what's done. You've taken on a different role, which really is shepherding the domestic policy agenda more. You're not attending the meetings on the war and neither is Karen.
How did that decision evolve? Was that something that just happened naturally? Was it your suggestion? Was it Andy's? Was it the President's?
MR. ROVE: Well, that's not entirely accurate. Karen does attend some of the war meetings, not the war cabinet, obviously, but there are meetings that, because they have things to do with the message and communications that she does attend. But look, that's the nature of the beast. When you're in a war, Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Steve Hadley, Rich Armitage, Paul Wolfowitz, will all have greater claim on the President's time and greater prominence. And when politics fades from the scene, so do I. And, yes, I am more involved in the domestic side than I was before, but then everybody on the domestic side of the White House is involved more in the domestic side because --
MR. ROVE: [In progress] -- so Josh Bolton, who was our commander, if you will, on the domestic side, along with Margaret LaMontagne and Larry Lindsey, have greater responsibilities simply because the President said, "I want to pursue my domestic agenda with vigor, but you've got less of my time and less of my energy and less of my focus, because I'm necessarily spending more time on war-related issues and on homeland security related issues, and that's just the reality of it.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Just one other question in this vein. Aaron Wildofsky [ph], almost 40 years ago, wrote about the two presidencies, a domestic presidency which had much more trouble, and a foreign policy presidency which had much greater success. Do you see this as an important distinction, and do you see--how do you see the interaction between a President who's had an 87 percent approval rating overall, isn't quite in the same league, although he's up high, when it comes to the economy and other domestic issues; how do you relate the two now?
MR. ROVE: I'm not certain I understand the question, so I'll answer the question I think I understand. This goes to the question of political capital.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Yes.
MR. ROVE: And this President understands the perishability of capital. You build up capital through right action, and you spend it. If you don't spend it, it's not like treasure stuck away at a storehouse someplace. It is perishable. It dwindles away. So--
MR. ORNSTEIN: It's like Enron stock after June 6th.
MR. ORNSTEIN: I did--
MR. ROVE: Well, I wanted to sell mine in January, when it was an even higher number. But thank you, Norm, for sharing with us. Could we know the rest of your investments?
MR. ROVE: I'm sure everybody here would be interested.
MR. ORNSTEIN: As you know, Karl, we've been at the forefront of those trying to change some of these rules.
So the perishability of political capital.
MR. ROVE: Perishability of political capital, yeah, it's--so the President understands that if we are successful in the prosecution of the war, that will create political capital that he needs to expand on on other things, whether they're international or domestic. But you're right, I could see--you know, this President doesn't have that feeling about--for many Presidents the allure of the foreign has overshadowed the quagmire of the domestic. You know, dealing with Congress is sometimes painful, and so being able to pick up the phone and do something internationally has drawn their attention more. This President doesn't feel that. He
obviously is in the moment and required to focus on international affairs, but he remains keenly interested in the domestic agenda. It's just that it's got less of his time.
I mean there was a report in the newspaper, which I think is accurate, about the President having more--the meetings on domestic affairs tend to go quicker, and there's a reason why.
MR. MANN: Karl, let me ask one last question, and then we will move to some questions from the floor. The President has appropriately received kudos for his leadership of this way on terrorism, and one sense is this is really a critical moment in American public life. You mentioned his political capital now, but sort of as a master political strategist, I've got to believe you're thinking about how one moves from this period to trying to build an enduring Republican majority.
And two questions emerge. What more could or might the President do to try to mobilize the obvious patriotism that exists in this country? So far it's more "hug your kids and go shopping." Should it move to national service? Should it move to something that actually touches Americans so that it won't seem like such a distant war fought that doesn't require any sacrifice on the part of Americans?
And secondly, is this the opportunity with the broad bipartisan support in the country that exists to alter the domestic agenda to try to have a more--on economic policy and other policies, to try to pin down centrists who aren't as excited about tax cuts as the Republican base?
MR. ROVE: The first one about national service, I think this President is trying to rally people to national service, but not service through government alone. We had an event a couple weeks ago to draw attention to--the Corporation for National Service has set up a web page, and the President made a speech in which he said, "If you want to serve the country in a time of war, serve your community and volunteer, whether it is in something that is specifically war related like supporting our troops, or whether it's simply making your community better, that we can, as a society, send a message that we will overcome terrorism by working to improve our communities."
And we've tried to encourage increased volunteerism. In fact that was one of the points of the conversation with Hollywood, was to enlist Hollywood and the entertainment industry into helping publicize those efforts, because literally we've got a web page where you can go in and enter your zip code, and enter your area of interest, and it will pop up all of the volunteer activities in your community that you can then contact or they can contact you. So it's not just the idea of we're going to satisfy national service by requiring every young person to give a certain amount of time and service to the country through some national program, but instead to try and call on Americans to recognize that they can serve their country by--even if they don't serve in uniform--by volunteering.
And I think this is happening. You saw yesterday, read with interest about the poll in which people are reexamining their career options. I see this particularly among younger people, who say now, "Okay, I want to think about emergency medical technician or serving in the fire or police or doing something in the health care field." So people are naturally being driven in this direction.
Altering the domestic agenda, if your point is will we look for a way to basically, over the next three years, to broaden and deepen the Republican coalition by bringing into it people who are not today part of it? Absolutely. If that's political centrists, if that's people who are uninvolved, if that's Latinos, if that's younger people, you bet. I'm not going to spell out what that is today. I'm not certain we've got all of it to spell out today, but we do have some ideas and we'll be vigorously pursuing them.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Let me just ask you one more question. It gets back almost to the perishability of people capital. The President, obviously, is acutely aware of what happened to his father, who went from 91 percent in the polls down to 38 percent at the polls. Wartime Presidents don't often fare very well, especially as the war ends. People don't reward them much for it. They often look at what comes next.
As you had a game plan for the first 14 weeks, almost step by step, almost like a football coach starting a game, have you been thinking very explicitly about a game plan for when the Afghanistan portion of this ends, for the tougher times ahead that are inevitably going to come in an extended war on terrorism and how you emerge from that?
MR. ROVE: Yes. There are various things plotting and thinking about that at the White House. We did have a process, ironically enough, in place before September 11th, because there was a recognition that this agenda that Bush had talked about in his campaign and that he had pursued in the first 9 months or 8 months of his administration, were not adequate for 2002. Americans--you touched on it, maybe Tom did as well--you know, people don't vote retrospectively. That's why Churchill gets voted out of office. That's why war Presidents don't necessarily fare so well in the aftermath of war, because people vote prospectively not retrospectively.
And so we were working before September 11th through a complicated process known by its acronym PIG and WIG, the Policy Issue Groups and the Working Issue Group, to sort of provoke thinking within the White House about what was next, what comes next on each of these big issues? What is it that the President ought to begin to lay out as big policy agenda items?
Now, that was sort of derailed by September 11th, but there was another process in place that is aiming to do this for 2002 and beyond.
MR. ORNSTEIN: I hope it's a new acronym.
MR. ROVE: We'll put you in charge of that.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Should we open up questions or comments? Steve. Wait for the microphone, Steve, and identify yourself.
MR. ROBERTS: I'm Steve Roberts from George Washington University. You mentioned that you tried to move the Republican Party. You mentioned education, you mentioned welfare, you mentioned compassionate conservatism. But what about the social issues? You haven't mentioned them at all today. It would appear on the surface that you decided not to try to move the Republican Party on social issues, given your positions on abortion, stem cell research. How does your attempt to move the Republican Party relate to your policies on social issues?
MR. ROVE: Well, we've tried to make the Republican Party more inclusive and optimistic and welcoming, for example, on the social issues. Social conservatism oft times stood for almost xenophobia or certainly opposition to people who didn't look like us, and the President sought from the very beginning the make it clear that he had a different more optimistic and inclusive view. But, you know, the President is strongly pro-family, and the President is pro-life, and the President is deeply troubled by the moral slippery slope of cloning and of stem cell research. And he has tried to make the party, from a social perspective, more opening and inclusive and welcoming, and I believe has. It's a long struggle ahead, but it's moving in the right direction in that regard.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Fred.
MR. BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes with "The Weekly Standard." Karl, how has the President's approach to the opposition party Democrats changed since September 11th, both on foreign policy and domestic issues, given the needs of his being a wartime President?
MR. ROVE: Again, I'm not certain it's changed. I mean circumstances and events have occurred after September 11th that didn't happen before. For example, the President was very clear with Leader Daschle that we had a deal on spending, that we had $686 billion in discretionary spending, plus $40 billion for recovery and defense, plus $4 billion, the pot sweetener that he wanted, plus $15 billion for the airlines, and we had all agreed to that and that was the deal.
So when Daschle came in and said, "Well, we want to have essential spending of $20 billion, and if you won't take $20 billion, we'll do 7-1/2, and if you won't take 7-1/2, we'll give you 8.4, and if you won't take 8.4, we'll give you $15 billion of essential spending. It really is amazing to me that essential spending can, within the matter of literally a few days or a week or two, go from 20 to 7-1/2 to 8/4 to 15. Where do they pluck these numbers out?
The President said, "We have enough money to handle the essential needs of this country until we can put in place a thoughtful plan that will allow us to ask for money and spend it in an appropriate manner." The President sat there and three times in one meeting said that to Daschle, "If you come with that, I will veto it. Don't waste your time on it. And I got the votes to back me up on this veto."
So it has required the President to speak more bluntly because time is so important, both the time--his time and Congress's time, but it has not really required him to change. He now meets more frequently with him. He now has him to breakfast every Tuesday or Wednesday, but it has not required him to fundamentally change or shift in his dealings with him.
MR. ORNSTEIN: But, Karl, it would have been inconceivable to imagine President Bush coming down off a podium and hugging warmly Tom Daschle before September 11th or hugging Dick Gephardt at all.
MR. ROVE: Wait a minute. There in your description lies the fallacy. You don't come off of the podium and embrace somebody warmly whom you've met for the first time, whom you've not developed a rapport with or dealt with in a way that Bush has dealt with these people. But he feels a--you know, he understands where they're coming from from a partisan perspective, but he has respect for them as individuals, and feels he has a relationship with them that's been developed over months. He understands with clarity the pluses and minuses of that. He understands what pressures they sometimes feel, and what perspectives they come from. He understands the limitations to that. But he does feel, and developed over the course of months, through an extraordinary set of interchanges, a relationship with these men that I think, while it doesn't guarantee peach and harmony, it at least makes the process more civil and makes it possible in some moments to deal with things without the harsh glean of partisanship.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Georgie?
MS. : Mr. Rove, before the election, people were trying to put titles or names on what this new republicanism--of course, conservative republicanism, some were saying progressive, new progressive Republicans, and after this year, in this eventful year, is there a title? Can you qualify for us what it is in some kind of descriptive words?
MR. ROVE: No.
MS. : Do I get another question?
MR. ROVE: Yes. Look, we've failed--we've gotten compassionate conservatism to the point where it's occasionally mentioned in the comics, so we're making progress, but we have not yet come up with a good phrase. Krystollian Republicans? I don't know, it's something like that.
MR. ROVE: But it's--we have not done a good job of labeling ourselves.
MS. : Any new terms on how you're running the war so differently? I mean can you qualify that?
MR. ROVE: In terms of a label? Yeah. Victorious, I don't know.
MR. : I'm Mort [inaudible] from Roll Call. One thing that has changed since September 11th is that the surplus that everybody was depending upon to finance all kind of programs, including prescription drug medicine and Social Security transition costs and stuff like that, has fallen by more than half. I mean from 5.6 trillion or something like that to 2. Doesn't this call for a second look at the economic plan that you guys were going forward with, and change in priorities?
MR. ROVE: No. We believe the economic recovery package, the tax cut passed earlier this year, is fundamental to the long-term economic health of the country, and one of the worst things that we could do now in a time of a slowing economy is to repeal that tax cut. Absolutely, fundamentally bad for the economy if we were to do that. It would stop whatever chances we have of growth right in their tracks. And it doesn't require us--does the war require us to have prudence in the future? Yes. Does it require us to accept deficits in more years than we might like to? Yes. But it does it necessitate repeal of the tax cut? Absolutely no. It would be the worst thing we could do for the economy is to repeal that tax cut.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Cal.
MR. THOMAS: Karl, Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist. Chuck Schumer, Senator Schumer has a column in the "Washington Post" this morning saying that the lesson he takes from 9-11 is that big government works and that we need bigger and ever expanding government to protect us in the future. If that becomes the strategy of the Democratic Party and the Senate especially in the coming months, how do you plan to counter it or go along with it?
MR. ROVE: Well, I think the lesson of 9-11 is, is that government does work, but so do the American people. I mean I was up there in New York. The police and the fire, and the emergency rescue technicians worked, but so did volunteers. I mean the people who rode to the sound of that battle were oft times retired individuals who--my favorite van was the gigantic van that said, "Spay your pets" on the side of it. Gigantic van parked there on West Drive, and I said, "What is that?" And they said that is a group of volunteers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who have manned this in order to give treatment to
every one of the dogs that are searching the rubble." And literally they had this huge van, manned by volunteers, vets from all across the country, who showed up because these dogs would be crawling through the rubble and get hurt or burned or cut, and then taken to this van manned by volunteers.
And I mean Bob Beckwith, the guy standing beside the President on that stack of rubble, was 70-years-old. Nobody--no government official called him up and said, "Hey, we need your help." He was a retired fire fighter and he showed up. When the President went to the FEMA tent, there were crews from Puerto Rico and Sacramento to meet him, and every one of those people was somebody who had a job and volunteered in their communities for a rescue team, and when something happened, government facilitated the actual private individuals to help.
Now, there is a role for government, obviously, but the idea that 9-11 says that we ought to give up this wonderful thing that we have in America where every neighbor ought to feel the responsibility to help another neighbor in need is ridiculous. We could not have mobilized all those Red Cross volunteers, literally tens of thousands of them that poured into New York City over a course of weeks. There's no way government could have ever done that. There's no way that the churches and the synagogues and the temples and the mosques could have been mobilized in the way that they were mobilized to help a neighbor in need.
So granted--you know, the message of 9-11 was that the fire department works, the police department works, the emergency rescue people, the emergency medical technicians. We almost strained our public health system to the breaking point in New York, but the government does work. But I don't think after 9-11 that everybody necessarily then says the bureaucrat that I deal with in the Department of Obscure and Minor Irritants is more proficient and able today. And we should not use this as an excuse to ignore that really what worked on 9-11 more than anything else was the American spirit. I mean there's no way we can duplicate that.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Laura.
MS. : I'm Laura [inaudible] from National Public Radio. What are the big domestic policy ideas that are going to dominate next year's agenda or do you think it's homeland security and the fight against terrorism is still going to be the overwhelming--
MR. ROVE: That will be a big one. As to the rest, I'll leave it to the President to outline in the run-up to the State of the Union and the State of the Union.
MR. ORNSTEIN: One more here.
MR. MICHELSON: Yeah. Randy Michelson with Reuters. I was interested in your comments on religious conservatives and fundamentals dropping out of the political process. How do you plan to counter that? Do you seek to keep them in or do you seek to replace them, and how?
MR. ROVE: I think the answer to that is you try and re-energize them, but you also need to hopefully make up for the deficit someplace else, and the answers to those questions are going to really I think help determine the outcome of future elections. If this process of withdrawal continues, it's bad for conservatives, bad for Republicans, but also I think bad for the country. And it's something that we'll have to spend a lot of time and energy on.
MR. MANN: Please join Norm and me in thanking Karl for a fascinating hour and 15 minutes. Thank you so much.
MR. ORNSTEIN: And please spay your pets.
MR. ORNSTEIN: And before we go, we have for you, to replace your now shredded copy of Michael Novak's seminal article, the 20th anniversary edition of To Empower People from State to Civil Society, which is the expansion of that idea, and it fits within the ethics rules. So you can take it.
MR. ROVE: Norm, as if I didn't already have a copy of this? Who do you think I am? I get all the AEI publications.
MR. ROVE: Could I say one thing? Friday night--just to show how absolutely obnoxious these guys are, I ended up talking with Condracki [ph] and Barnes on Friday. I mean these guys, they're relentless. And I apologize if I misspoke. I got it from the center of the universe, Sioux Falls, South Dakota at 1 o'clock in the morning last night, and this for me is a very illuminating and interesting experience because you're all vibrating the most wonderful colors you could ever imagine. I'm about ready to fall asleep right here at the head table.
MR. MANN: Thanks, Karl.
MR. ORNSTEIN: Thank you, Karl.
MR. ORNSTEIN: We will begin our lunch at about 11:30. For those of you who haven't signed up, if you want to check at the front desk, there may be some spaces available.
[End of session.]
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