I've laid out some possible reasons for Rove's resignation here. But I'd like to do a close reading of the WSJ story associated with the announcement, partly because I think it so fascinating that Rove would feel the need to pitch his own successes and failures on his way out the door.
Far and away the most interesting comment in the article, though, is this self-assessment from Rove:
His biggest error, Mr. Rove says, was in not working soon enough to replace Republicans tainted by scandal.
Consider the logic: Rove believes that if he just got those who were mired in scandal to step down before the scandal broke, then he might have been able to save the Republican majority. This, from a guy stepping down before--Josh Bolten has dictated--everyone must commit to stay through the next election. That's not definitive proof, of course, but Rove logic would suggest that Rove may well be imminently tainted by scandal. And Rove doesn't deny he's stepping down because of scandal. Instead he throws incendiary words out there like "mob" and "Mark of Rove," without ever denying that there
may be is merit to the allegations. (Speaking of which, check out this link from pseudonymous in nc, which suggests there are hundreds of pages of papers relating to the Don Siegelman case at DOJ.)
What about those who say he's leaving to avoid Congressional scrutiny? "I know they'll say that," he says, "But I'm not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob." He also knows he'll continue to be a target, even from afar, since belief in his influence over every Administration decision has become, well, faith-based.
"I'm a myth. There's the Mark of Rove," he says, with a bemused air. "I read about some of the things I'm supposed to have done, and I have to try not to laugh." He says the real target is Mr. Bush, whom many Democrats have never accepted as a legitimate president and "never will."
I especially like the way Rove admits that "the real target is Mr. Bush," not because Rove observes the banality that many people believe he was not elected. But because, as I've suggested, Bush may well be the target.
And then there's the whole point of the article--to use this opportunity to try to lay out a map for the fall (and claim successes in the past). Very curious that Rove would feel the need to do this with the WSJ editorial page, which suggests he's trying to suck up to the base and, also, that he realizes that anything less than a softball interview will be damaging. But here's the most interesting thing Rove says about the future, reading straight from his "Months Ahead" talking points document (I'm curious, Rove, did you leave it with Gigot so he could get the details right?):
One says "Up to Now," and summarizes what he thinks are the achievements to date of the Bush presidency. The second, "Months Ahead," lays out an agenda for the next year and a half.
"He will move back up in the polls," says Mr. Rove, who interrupts my reference to Mr. Bush's 30% approval rating by saying it's heading close to "40%," and "higher than Congress."
Again, remember the dynamics here. Rove speaking to a very friendly right-wing editor. And even then, he's getting pushback. Rove goes on:
Looking ahead, he adds, "Iraq will be in a better place" as the surge continues.
In this, and in the other passages claiming the Dems will be tainted by their anti-war stance, Rove never deals with the fact that everyone hates this war, not just Dems. You simply don't turn this kind of public opinion around, nor do you turn this kind of counter-insurgency around without a lot more smart people and willing soldiers than we've got. Fascinating, then, that Rove's biggest delusion has to do with the war.
Not so, I think, for his understanding of what September will look like for Congress.
Come the autumn, too, "we'll see in the battle over FISA" -- the wiretapping of foreign terrorists -- "a fissure in the Democratic Party." Also in the fall, "the budget fight will have been fought to our advantage," helping the GOP restore, through a series of presidential vetoes, its brand name on spending restraint and taxes.
Frankly, if Dems don't push hard on Republicans as well as Dems about FISA, we will not only make no progress, but miss an opportunity to reach out to libertarians, many of whom are ripe to leave the Republican party anyway.
With his comments on the budget battle, I think Rove simply confirms what Kagro X has been predicting for months now. Bush has promised to veto almost all of the appropriations bills, which Bush will use to try to force things into appropriations that Democrats won't be able to prevent. Not to mention the energy it'll suck out of Iraq debates, even as the September false-deadline for success arrives.
Come Magical September, when we're supposedly going to see massive upheaval in the Congress with respect to Iraq policy, it also appears we're going to be handed back every single appropriations bill we've passed, and told to rewrite it to match the president's budget, or face vetoes and a government shutdown.
Finally, though, Rove is depending on someone else to save the Republicans:
As for the Democrats, "They are likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate" by the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding the White House for a third term is always difficult given the pent-up desire for change, he says, but "I think we've got a very good chance to do so."
What does it mean that the Master of "the Math" is counting on a bum opponent for Republican hopes to keep the White House? Which is why I think the title quote from this post--that Rove is done with political consulting, and this line directly addressing 2012, is so interesting:
And what about Jeb Bush in 2012? Mr. Rove first says with a tone of skepticism, "Ask Jeb." Then he adds, "You better get a younger man. My wife would kill me."
Back to the "more time with the family" excuses, of course. But Rove is consistently claiming to be done with consulting. Maybe he'll show up in bed with Fred Thompson next week. But I do suspect that, for the short term, he's going to stay out of it. Because if your best hopes are on Hillary Clinton fucking up, it doesn't say much for your math.