I am not saying that Rove is infallible. He managed, for instance, to squander every golden nugget of America's post-9/11 global goodwill on Dick Cheney's can't-miss investment in colonizing Iraq. He broke government (think tax cuts and military spending booms, think Katrina) badly enough to lose both the Senate and the House in 2006. And he blew the immigration policy battle for Bush.
But there is a reason why Karl's forehead bulges like a perspiring proboscis over his beady eyes. The man is a mutant brain with a body attached. As Samuel L. Jackson exclaimed to a nimble-minded character in Pulp Fiction just before he popped him, "Check out the big brain on Brent! Man, you a smart motherfucker!"
Except that Karl is too smart to be taken down – not for outing a CIA agent, not for "losing" millions of potentially incriminating emails, not for ignoring subpoenas. That's why all of the current talk about Rove being "forced out" and his "losing" his position leaves me far less than convinced.
It seems to me that with even the current crop of hapless Senate hounds now closing in on him, Karl did the perfectly brilliant thing. He quit, thereby removing a major incentive for some high-profile Democrats having held him in such hot pursuit: the political allure of bagging the active brains behind the White House's galling flurry of feints, pivots and lies. If Dick Cheney is the amoral soul of this Administration, Rove is its tirelessly Machiavellian brain. And I am afraid he has played this particular elusive move just right.
It seems such an obviously right maneuver when you think about it: How does one escape being pursued as the biggest, fattest strategic target in the White House? Leave the White House.
I do think that Nancy Pelosi has it right when she says that nothing will change in Rove's role as W's chief seer and political advisor. He will simply telecommute, and perhaps pick up some extra tax deductions for his home(s).
But I also think that plenty could now change politically when it comes to the Senate's chasing down Rove. In a Senate that already barely has what it takes to get its teeth into the leg of an actively crooked top White House official, how much fierceness will an investigative committee be able to muster in going after a schlumpy private citizen named Karl who has shed his trophy credentials?
I certainly hope I'm wrong. One could make the argument, for instance, that Rove's new status as a (faux-) private citizen will make him an easier target for Senate investigation because he will enjoy less political protection. And one could also make the case that Rove's jumping ship is really about shielding the White House from whatever subsequent legal ills befall him personally. That, after all, would be classically Rovian strategy.
But this smells more devious than a Scooter Libby take-the-fall gambit. This smells like Karl in peak form: hiding in plain sight while befuddled Senators, denied the prestigious prey they had encircled, find their gaze wandering and their hunger for the kill waning.
Like I said, it ticks me off. I hate the way that mean and selfish agendas often free brilliant people to let their intelligence run wild, unencumbered by conscience.
Why did Karl have to go into politics, anyway? Why couldn't he have become a chess master?
Or better yet, a mechanical engineer obsessed with designing better bridges?