Thursday, July 29, 2010

Courage and Consequence

by Karl Rove

Thumbs up.

In this memoir by Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush, Karl Rove tells his side of what he calls in the book, the many "Myths of Rove."  Starting with his life as a youth and continuing through his days as President of College Republicans; his days as founder and director of Rove+, a direct mail consulting and later public affairs firm; his years working for George W. Bush during Bush's gubernatorial campaign and governorship in Texas; and finally his years in the center of world events, serving President Bush in the White House, Rove shares his story.

The story Rove tells is sometimes exhilarating and inspiring; frequently maddening and frustrating; and even periodically heartbreaking.  I really ran the gamut of emotions while struggling to get through the book.  There were times the emotionally laden material was too much to read in a constant dose, as in Rove's recounting of the events of 9/11 and the days following that horrendous event.  There were times I was so mad at our press or political players that I didn't want to continue the book.

For the most part Rove tells his story well, but there are times I got bogged down in the details.  For much of the book, I was engaged and drawn, but there were a few places during which Rove's lists of various hypocrisies or transgressions by his political opponents became simply lists to wade through.

The book is very well documented, encouraging any cynical or doubting readers to check up on his facts.  I was unfamiliar with the citation style Rove chose.  He does not number his citations, but each end note has a page number and a segment of quoted text, followed by the bibliographical information.  Once I got used to this style, I think I preferred it to the more traditional style.  I was able to concentrate on the text without the distraction of constant end notes; and then later when I chose to read through his citations, the partial quote allowed me to contextualize the information at that time.

Another bonus is the very comprehensive index.  I've already used it to recheck a few things I couldn't remember clearly.

I was left with several primary impressions from the book.  Firstly, Rove very much admired and respected the man for whom he worked.  Rove makes an excellent case explaining why history will include President George W. Bush as one of America's great leaders.

Secondly, Rove loves the political game.  This opinion comes through loudly throughout the book, but I remain a little skeptical of the nobility of this attitude. Let me rephrase that.  I think statesmanship is a noble calling.  I think the academic study of politics and political systems is a noble endeavor.  And I think the ability to articulate for the general public the ideas gleaned from such study is a noble undertaking.  But the game, the political give and take and grab and throw and whatever verbs one chooses to put with American politics today is neither noble nor dignified.  But Rove almost convinces me of its worthiness.

And finally, Rove loves his country.  In one of the end chapters of the book, Rove describes meeting with the Krisstoff family.  Dr Bill and Mrs Christine Krisstoff lost a son, Nathan, a Marine First Lieutenant, to an IED in Iraq;  they saw another son, Austin, follow in his brother's footsteps to fight for his country in the US Marine Corps.  And Dr. Krisstoff, an orthopedic surgeon, at 61, was begging to serve his country by treating the wounded as a Navy doctor.  With the help of the Bush Administration, Dr. Krisstoff was allowed to join the Navy and finally was able to treat wounded Marines on the front lines as part of the Forward Resuscitative Surgical System.   Rove explains how getting to know this family clarified for him the greatness of the American people.
I came to understand, more powerfully and clearly than ever before, what the president meant when he said that in these visits with the loved ones of the fallen "the comforter becomes comforted by the spirit and pride of these families."  And like so many others who have met people like the Krisstoff family over the years, I marveled at how our nation produces people like Nathan, Austin, Bill, and Christine.  To see bravery, sacrifice, and love of country in such personal terms leaves a mark on your soul.  It also deepened, in ways I could never imagine, my love for our country and for Americans who rise in times of consequence and challenge.  As long as this nation produces people like the Krisstoff family America will remain not only the greatest nation on the planet, but the most noble in history's long sweep.

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