Yesterday on NBC Nightly News, White House correspondent John Yang said that Bush’s senior political aide Karl Rove has apparently calculated that Iraq will not affect the 2008 elections. Rove, who spoke Sunday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, reportedly said “Iraq may not be a big issue in the next election because, he hopes, troops will be coming home by then.” Watch it:
The Atlantic’s Ross Douhat notes that “Rove talked fluently about the surge as a means to enable us to start drawing down our forces” while the Aspen Daily News provides a few more details on Rove’s speech:
Overall, Rove said the goal was to make the “U.S. combat footprint smaller,” but he also surmised later in the interview that when the next president is sworn in on Jan. 21, 2009, plenty of American troops would still be in Iraq.
Rove appears only to be interested in creating the impression that the troops will be coming home by election day 2008 rather than actually instituting a real redeployment policy. As today’s New York Times reports:
Mr. Rove had warned that if Mr. Bush went too far in announcing a redeployment, the result could include a further cascade of defections — and the passage of legislation that would force a withdrawal by a specific date, a step Mr. Bush has always said he would oppose.
Unfortunately, as Joe Sudbay notes, Rove is still a leading figure in crafting administration policy, which means we can only expect half measures and political rhetoric that appeals to the conservative base, instead of a responsible plan for the orderly withdrawal of American troops from the middle of a civil war.
UPDATE: Claiming sole access to “THE math,” Rove has a history of making political predictions that deny reality, especially in regards to Iraq:
ROVE: I’m looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I’m entitled to THE math.
UPDATE II: ABC News has some more of Rove’s exact quotes:
“I think Iraq may or may not be the big issue,” said Rove. “It depends on where Iraq is by March, or April, or May of next year. I think it’s likely not to be the dominant issue because I think, because of my assumptions about where it is — where it is likely to be.”