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Video: Rove: Memoir aims to set record straight

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    >> ann, thank you.

    >>> back to politics now and the ultimate white house insider karl rove was president george w. bush 's closest adviser. the architect of his two presidential campaigns. and rove is opening up about his time in the white house in his memoir "courage and consequence" that's due out next week. in it, he says president bush would probably not have invaded iraq if he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction . karl rove will be here for an exclusive live interview next week, but recently, we caught up with him to talk about the book, his personal life and how he became a lightning rod in america's political stage. karl rove was one of george w. bush 's most trusted advisers.

    >> the architect, karl rove . [ cheers and applause ]

    >> reporter: while bush dubbed him "the architect," critics called him "bush's brain." in the privacy of your own office, behind closed doors , did you ever stop and think, that's kind of flattering to me?

    >> no, because, look, i know him. i've known him for almost four decades. he is a really smart person. and to suggest that i was his brain is a way to be derogatory about him. it is a shorthand for a sloppy and ideological way of viewing him.

    >> reporter: he helped bush win the white house twice, and for 6 1/2 years, rove held a unique perch in the heart of the west wing , orchestrating the administration's political strategy. but if bush was the decider, you might say karl rove was the divider.

    >> we don't need any more of that karl rove politics. we need a different kind of politics.

    >> reporter: his critics accused him of favoring a bare-knuckle brand of politics and blamed him for a highly partisan atmosphere that divided the country.

    >> republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world and democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world. that doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all, but it does make them wrong.

    >> reporter: rove's style of campaigning became known as rovian politics, which some described as winning at any cost. why are you such an easy target if you had nothing to do with any of this negativity?

    >> it's easy to point to. i mean, i'm convenient.

    >> reporter: why not point at the candidate? why point at you as the guy who's pulling the strings?

    >> look, if you really want to diminish the candidate, depict him as being the foil of his handler. this is as old of american politics as politics itself.

    >> reporter: while a genius to some, others blamed rove for running campaigns filled with dirty tricks . the swift boating of john kerry .

    >> john kerry has not been honest about what happened in vietnam.

    >> he is lying about his regard.

    >> any of karl rove 's finger forints or foot a forints in that?

    >> no, but i have a friendship with the people who underwrote it, so it's easy to say karl rove was responsible for this.

    >> reporter: in the cia leak scandal , rove was never charged with a crime, but he was confirmed to be one of two sources in a story outing cia agent valerie plame . his memoir, rove says, is a chance to set the record straight . he delves deeply into his personal life and his political partnership with george w. bush . what was it about the two of you, you and george w. bush , that meshed so well?

    >> you know, he's the outside man, i'm the inside man. but he is a big thinker. and you know, i liked being around him.

    >> he really did have a front row seat to a very controversial and interesting period in american history , and we're going to have much more of our exclusive interview with karl rove monday on "today." and tuesday, karl rove will join us live in studio to talk much more about his toughest moments in the white house and open up for the first time about his mother's suicide and questions about his father's sexuality. that's karl rove monday and tuesday, right here on "today."

    >> it's remarkable that he would

TODAY contributor
updated 3/5/2010 9:05:40 AM ET 2010-03-05T14:05:40

Most people would probably find it flattering to be called the brains behind the president of the United States. But not Karl Rove, the former senior adviser to President George W. Bush who has been called “Bush’s brain.”

The nickname, bestowed on Rove by Bush critics, isn’t a compliment to him but rather an insult to his former boss, Rove told TODAY’s Matt Lauer during an extensive interview he granted in conjunction with the publication of his book, “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.”

“I’ve known him for almost four decades. He is a really smart person. To suggest that I was his brain is derogatory about him,” Rove said in a preview of the interview that ran Friday on TODAY. The full interview will air Monday and Tuesday, March 8 and 9, on TODAY. On Tuesday, Rove will join Lauer live in the show’s Studio 1A in New York City.

The ‘architect’
Bush himself called Rove “the architect” in deference to his role in shaping policy in the Bush White House. But in his book, Rove admits to a major mistake in his handling of the Iraq war: He writes that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq badly damaged the Bush administration's credibility and led to dwindling public support for the war.

In a review of the book, The Associated Press writes: “The former White House political adviser blames himself for not pushing back against claims that President George W. Bush had taken the country to war under false pretenses, calling it one of the worst mistakes he made during the Bush presidency. The president, he adds, did not knowingly mislead the American public about the existence of such weapons.”

Bush’s critics portrayed him as an intellectual lightweight who relied on Rove’s brains. Rove told Lauer that it’s a common tactic in politics.

“If you really want to diminish a candidate, depict him as the foil of his handler. This is as old in American politics as politics itself,” Rove said. “It’s easy to point at me. I’m convenient.”

Rove fiercely defends his old boss in his book and predicts that history will ultimately approve of Bush’s presidency, including his 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Defending Bush
In the run-up to the war, Bush and his national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney, attempted to link Saddam Hussein to the attacks as a way to build support for the invasion.

“Having seen how much carnage four airplanes could cause, Bush was determined to do all he could to prevent the most powerful weapons from falling into the hands of the world’s most dangerous dictators,” Rove wrote.

Karl Rove defends President Bush’s achievements as "impressive, durable and significant" in his new book.
Rove depicts Bush as a courageous and resolute leader whose conduct in office was forever shaped by the Sept. 11 attacks. He calls Bush's achievements over two terms “impressive, durable and significant” and says many of the controversies that weakened his presidency were falsehoods perpetuated by political opponents.

Rove staunchly defends Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated states along the Gulf of Mexico in September 2005. Bush came under withering criticism for the federal government’s response to the crisis; his memorable praise for FEMA administrator Michael Brown — “Heck of a job, Brownie” — was fodder for those who said it revealed the administration’s detachment and incompetence.

Protestors Call For Ouster Of Karl Rove
Chip Somodevilla  /  Getty Images file
Rove was a target for criticism during his stint in the Bush White House.
In the book, Rove blames state and local officials for botching recovery efforts, particularly Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, both Democrats.

He also has sharp words for President Barack Obama, calling him a stereotypical Chicago politician who plays fast and loose with the facts.

Lauer asked Rove for the secret to Rove’s long association with Bush. “What was it about the two of you that meshed so well?” Lauer inquired.

“He’s the outside man, I’m the inside man. He’s a big thinker,” Rove said. “I liked being around him.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints


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