What Karl Rove Didn't Want to Hear

I recently attended a dinner for the benefit of Hillsdale College, the nation’s preeminent conservative institution of higher learning, as distinguished from liberal indoctrination (full disclosure: my son is a graduate). The dinner speaker was Karl Rove, deputy White House chief of staff.

Rove was in good form; especially considering the “thumping” the voters gave his boss and his party in the elections a month earlier. He gave the audience what it wanted, a combination of mea culpa (“we have not fought as hard for principle as we should have”), putting the best face on the results (“the election was awful darn close”), and rhetorical promises (we have to “get back to our roots”).

Then came the questions from the audience. Rove picked his questioners, affording a great opportunity for the chosen to level one at “Bush’s brain.” Presumably anyone could hope to be picked—anyone, that is, except me. I had my hand up, but Rove playfully told the audience, “You’ll notice I’m avoiding Viguerie,” which brought a round of laughter. He continued: “I may have been born, but it wasn’t yesterday!”

Now, this is not a sour grapes article. Rove was not silently ignoring me, he was openly bypassing me, and so no hypocrisy was involved. And he was doing it in good humor. Indeed, earlier in the evening he had confessed, “I’m a little bit worried about [Michael] Novak and Viguerie sitting together—that is a recipe for something bad to happen! The good news is the bad thing will happen to someone who deserves it!”

Was he tacitly admitting that he would “deserve” a zinger from me if he recognized me?

Whatever, it was understandable for Rove to pass me by. He is well aware of my unhappiness with President Bush and the GOP congressional leadership—it’s all spelled out in my latest book, “Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause” (Bonus Books, 2006). The last thing he needed that night was to give me, an outspoken conservative with no desires for White House invitations, the opportunity, with the nation as audience via C-SPAN, to lob one at the President.

But, in the spirit of the recent aborted O. J. Simpson book and TV special, let me disclose what everyone would have heard If I Asked It.

Because of the friendly social nature of the evening, I would not have hit hard at our speaker for Bush’s many transgressions against conservatives. Rather, I would have pointed to the future and given him an opportunity to reassure the base of the GOP—the conservatives.

Rove: Richard Viguerie—you have a question? I can’t believe it! Go ahead.

Viguerie: Karl, you’ve made a number of references tonight about how the Republican Party has lost its way. Well, the conservatives here tonight—plus millions around the country—would like to have some comfort level that we will feel better about the next two years than we have the last few years. Because quite frankly, the conservatives are getting highly nervous about the early signals we’re getting from President Bush and his team: 1) The President said he is looking forward to working with the Democrats on amnesty for illegal aliens, 2) Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson has suggested that nothing is off the table regarding Social Security, which conservatives interpret as opening the door to tax increases and benefit cuts, and 3) the President and congressional Republicans decided to throw in the towel and not fight for one of the few conservatives in his administration, UN Ambassador John Bolton. So, Karl, in light of developments such as these, what assurances can you give us that the White House and the GOP will indeed return to basic conservative principles?

As I restate my question here, I realize it still deserves to be answered. How about it, Karl?