What’s the biggest misconception about your role in the Bush White House?
That it was all about politics.
If that’s the misconception, what’s the overlooked truth?
Look, I’m a policy geek. What I’ve most enjoyed about my job was the substantive policy discussions. Being able to dig in deeply and, you know, learn about something, ask questions, listen to smart people, and form a judgment about something that was from a policy perspective.
I don’t know about Rove in particular, but I’ve been consistently surprised since moving to DC of the extent to which the true policy geeks and the utterly cynical political operatives often really are the same people. These are the folks who while away their days ginning up dozens of bite-sized policy initiatives and selling them around to politicians. They’re the ones who give you your targeted tax credits, and they’re also the ones who are helping lobbyists sneak little tidbits in here and there. Hard-core ideologues often don’t care that much about the details, because geeking out over the details means you’re talking about incremental change.
But very practical people trying to win elections or do favors for key interest groups need to care about the details. As a result, to be an effective cynic, you really sort of need to be a geek.