RUSH: I would like to introduce you all to Karl Rove. Karl, welcome to the EIB Network. I cannot tell you how great it is finally to have you here with us.
KARL ROVE: Well, thanks, Rush. I’m honored you’d ask me and delighted to be with you.
RUSH: You haven’t probably heard about this, although it won’t surprise you, but I’ve gotta tell you something. It’s a hilarious story. The editor of the Seattle Times was conducting a staff meeting when they learned of your resignation announcement, and everybody stood up and started cheering, and —
KARL ROVE: Ha-ha-ha-ha! Was my wife there?
KARL ROVE: Was my wife in that crowd?
RUSH: (Laughing.) And the editor said — this is what’s funny. The editor said no politics in the newsroom. You’ve gotta keep this stuff to yourself. We’ve gotta remember there’s a political year coming up. No politics in the newsroom! Anyway, people have to be curious. I know they are, Karl. You’ve been the brunt of all kinds of assaults and attacks, personally and otherwise, along with the president. How do you guys deal with it?
KARL ROVE: Rush, you ignore it. I mean, if you have to wake up in the morning to be validated by the editorial page of the New York Times, you got a pretty sorry existence. So the best thing you could do is just ignore it, plow on, stay focused. The president is very good about saying, ‘Look, we came here for a reason. We have an obligation on the country,’ and press on by it. I’ll be hyperventilating about the latest attack on him by somebody, and he’ll say, ‘Don’t worry. History will get it right and we’ll both be dead.’ So it’s a good, healthy attitude about how to take it.
RUSH: That’s interesting. I know you don’t like talking about yourself, but I —
KARL ROVE: I hate navel gazing, Rush.
KARL ROVE: I’m not good at it.
RUSH: But I want to ask you to do it, because the perception of you that’s out there, courtesy of the Drive-By Media, is one thing.
KARL ROVE: (Laughing.)
RUSH: But people love listening to somebody who speaks passionately about anything, and you have that ability. You’re passionate about a lot of things.
KARL ROVE: Yeah.
RUSH: Tell people about your perception. What do you want them to know about your job and how you did it?
KARL ROVE: Well, look first of all, you need to put my job in perspective. I’m an aide to the president of the United States. There are a lot of other aides to the president of the United States. So the first and foremost thing to understand is that I’m a member of a team. In fact, you know, our day at the White House starts early, many times at 6:30 or six o’clock with meetings or breakfasts, but every day we have a senior staff meeting that starts at 7:30, and for the first four years of the administration, I sat around that table — there are about 19, 20 people in the room who are the senior aides to the president, and for the first four years — I started my day sitting between Margaret Spellings on one hand and Condi Rice on the other. I mean, I look around the table today and I see the people that I’ve been honored to serve with as colleagues and aides to the president, and they are a remarkable group of Americans, many of whom have made enormous professional and personal and financial sacrifices to serve their country and this president. I’ve been honored to be one of them. You know, I’ve had a little bit of a unique relationship with the president that some of them have not had, but every one of them — the president has done a magnificent job of making every one of them — understand his aspirations and his vision, and as a result, they’re a wonderful team. We can disagree mightily about issues big and small. We can argue passionately our views on an issue. We can find consensus on a lot of them. When we can’t, we take the issue to the president, he decides, and everybody at the end of the day salutes smartly and says, ‘You know, that was probably the right decision even if I was on the other side of it,’ and it’s really a remarkable place to work.
RUSH: What would you like people to know about the president that they don’t know?
KARL ROVE: Well, you know, the president is a… You know, I’ve known him 34 years, and I thought a long time ago I would cease to be amazed by the guy because I’ve had such high regard for him for so long, and particularly after he became governor of Texas, I realized I was capable of being surprised a lot more, and then when he became president. Look, the thing the American people need to know about him is he is just as passionate today about doing his job of protecting America and of growing the economy and being focused on big reforms that will make America better and safer and stronger in the years ahead, as he was in the day that he came in, and he walks into that office and lights up that building with — you know, it sounds corny, but it’s inspiring to work around him. He’s got a wonderful spirit. He’s got a great sense of humor. He treats people with the greatest respect and dignity, and that goes from the guy swabbing out the floors on the first floor of the White House to, you know, some foreign head of state. He treats everybody with respect and dignity, and he sets such a wonderful tone and serves as a wonderful model for people who work around him. I think one of the reasons why this White House staff consists of so many wonderful people is because they’re around him and realize what a great experience it is to be around him.
RUSH: Does it frustrate you…? I know you said earlier just ignore the criticism. Does it frustrate you with all the attacks on him as brain dead or a frat boy, that you’re the brain and this sort of thing, or do you shelve that and just go about your day?
KARL ROVE: Well, I shelve that, but I have to admit I’m amused by it because, you know, this is one of the best-read people I’ve ever met. This is a Harvard MBA. This is a Yale undergraduate whose major was history and whose passion is history. Many times the people I see criticizing him are, you know, sort of elite, effete snobs who can’t hold a candle to this guy. What they don’t like about him is that he is common sense, that he is Middle America.
RUSH: He outsmarts ’em.
KARL ROVE: Yeah, and look, in a way, they ‘misunderestimate’ him, and he likes that.
KARL ROVE: In fact, I think to some degree he cultivates that because it doesn’t matter to him if somebody on the Upper East Side is putting their nose in the air about him. You know, he is who he is, and he’s comfortable in his own skin, and he’s not going to change just to win popularity with the elites.
RUSH: You said that he’s a voracious reader. Tell people. You and he have a reading contest.
KARL ROVE: We do. We do. It happened by accident. We generally gossip on Sundays, and the Sunday before New Year’s of last year, 2006, we were gossiping and I could hear Laura in the background and the president said to me, ‘Do you have any good New Year’s resolutions? I gotta figure out a good New Year’s resolution,’ and I said, ‘I’m a big reader.’ When I moved to Washington we brought 158 cartons of books, and, you know, I love to read. It’s a great way to relax and a great way to learn. I said, ‘Well, yeah, my object in 2006 is to read a book a week. My object is to do 52 books in a year,’ and he said, ‘Great,’ sort of dismissed it and went on. Well, about the 2nd or 3rd of January we’re in the Oval Office waiting for the vice president and a couple of others to straggle into a meeting and he looked at me, and said, ‘I’m on my second. Where are you?’ So we went off to the races on a book contest and we kept track of books, and I leaped to an early lead, and he began a refrain which he’s used a lot which is that he was in second place because he was the leader of the Free World and had a real job to do, which sort —
CALLER: I mean, look, this is competitive, but I mean, come on, please. But no, we’ve had a great contest. It’s been a great experience the last year and a half. We’ve been trading book suggestions back and forth.
RUSH: How many books have you guys read?
KARL ROVE: I beat him last year, 110 to 94, and I’m ahead this year. I won’t give you the total because it would crush you, and again he keeps saying, ‘Look, I’m the leader of the Free World, but, you know, I won the first year.’ In fact, it was almost… It was very funny.
RUSH: Wait. He’s not reading little pamphlets. (Laughing.)
KARL ROVE: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! In fact, we both agreed upon a Mutually Assured Destruction. When we got too competitive last year, we both started reading John D. MacDonald mysteries, which are really delicious. He’s a wonderful writer, a Floridian, who writes a wonderful set of mysteries, Travis McGee mysteries, and we both decided that we loved them. We were reading them quickly, enjoying them a lot, and then we realized this was being far too competitive. So we limited the number of John D. MacDonald mysteries we were both reading, so we could get back to the serious stuff.
RUSH: We have to take a commercial break. Can I steal you for a couple more minutes?
KARL ROVE: You bet.
KARL ROVE: You bet.
RUSH: Karl Rove will continue right after this. Don’t go away.
RUSH: The Excellence in Broadcasting Network, Rush Limbaugh. We’re back with Karl Rove.
KARL ROVE: Rush, I gotta ask you, is that a real ad, Spatula City? Because…
KARL ROVE: I’m in need of a good spatula. Is that located over next to Toothpick Town?
RUSH: Yeah, they’re in Wal-Mart. They’re a section inside Wal-Mart.
KARL ROVE: There we go.
RUSH: Something I’ve always wanted to ask you and I just never have. Could you tell us what it was like in the first months of the administration, following the aftermath in Florida? You had made the strategic decision to adopt a new tone. You wanted to try to build bridges back to Democrats after the divisive nineties. The president had done it in Texas with Democrats, and you consulted them on legislation. Do you have any regrets about that approach?
KARL ROVE: No. Look, when we were able to find willing allies who are willing to work across party lines, it was the right thing to do. The problem was there are some Democrats who have never gotten over the 2000 election, who view the president as somehow illegitimate; never accepted the outcome, and hate him — and there are some Democrats who made a calculated decision — led I think at the time by, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle after the Democrats took back control of the Senate — that the way back out of the political wilderness for them was to simply obstruct everything that the president was trying to do, and their basic attitude was, you know, ‘Okay, we may agree with it. We may think, some of us may think, it’s a reasonable and responsible thing to do, but let’s not give Bush, quote, ‘a political victory,’ unquote,’ and that’s not helpful for the country, but it was…. Look, should the president be saying the ugly things about the Democrats that the Democrats routinely say about him? I mean, Harry Reid who goes jumping out there calling the president a ‘liar’ and ‘deliberately misleading the country’ and so forth. I mean… No, he’s not going to do that. That’s not who he is. He’ll have a respectful disagreement. He’ll hit tough on issues. He’ll find ways to advocate his cause. But he’s not going to engage in the kind of personal name-calling that makes Washington… Look, there ought to be politics in politics. But after the elections are over, people ought to be able to put things aside and look at things with the best interests of the country at heart, and if they don’t agree, they don’t agree, but if they ought to agree and should agree, they ought to try and move something forward and that’s happened on many things. Energy legislation, education, tax cuts, judges. Look, we couldn’t have gotten Roberts and Alito on the Supreme Court without having some thoughtful Democrats say, ‘These are people worthy of serving on the Supreme Court.’ We couldn’t pass the tax cuts without having some Democrat say, ‘You know what? We really ought to give people back some of their own money.’ You know, I was interested this year on the budget resolution — which is normally a straight party vote — do you know some very thoughtful Democrats had some qualms about voting for the Democrat budget resolution, and at least one significant Blue Dog voted for the president’s budget resolution.
RUSH: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. You said that the president in all of this will not respond in kind —
KARL ROVE: Sure.
RUSH: — and this has been frustrating for his supporters.
KARL ROVE: Yeah. Right. Right.
RUSH: Because, you know, people want leadership. They crave it. They love the president and have a lot of respect for him, and they just hate seeing this stuff go un-responded to. I think yesterday, when Mrs. Clinton ran this ad saying the White House doesn’t see some people, they’re ‘invisible’ to the government, and the White House responded yesterday.
KARL ROVE: Well, look, what’s interesting, too, about that is, it’s really amazing that she would say that. You know, it’s sort of disappointing. This is… After all, Senator Clinton voted against the prescription drug benefit for seniors. Senator Clinton voted against allowing people to save tax-free for their out-of-pocket medical expenses. Senator Clinton opposes giving every American a standard health deduction so that they can deduct from the cost of their income taxes, their insurance premiums. You know, when we started as a country to say, ‘You know what? You can deduct your mortgage interest off of your income taxes,’ there was an explosion of home ownership in the country, which was a good thing. When we started saying to people, ‘You can save tax-free for your kids’ college expenses or save tax-free for your retirement expenses,’ we saw an explosion of 529 Plans for college education, and 401(k)s and IRAs for people’s retirement. That was a good thing. Yet Senator Clinton, who deems to lecture this president on health care, opposed allowing people to do either save tax-free for their out-of-pocket medical expenses, or, she also opposed — she also opposes — allowing there to be a tax deduction for people to take off their income tax costs of their insurance premiums. She’s against having a level playing field so that the guy who has to pay for health care for his family or her family out of their own pocket, gets the same tax break the big corporations get for providing health insurance to their employees. She’s against allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines like we routinely buy auto insurance today so you can shop for the cheapest price and the best product for your family’s needs.
RUSH: So she wants to —
KARL ROVE: So I’m a little surprised that she jumped out there and made such an accusation when she’s got a record that’s so spotty and poor on health care issues. If she really believed people ought to have more health care, she should have been — she should be — standing with us and making some different votes.
RUSH: Well, since we’re talking about Mrs. Clinton, how about your assessment of the Democrat presidential field and where they’re headed?
KARL ROVE: Well, I don’t want to become a prognosticator. So I’ll simply repeat what I said publicly on the record. I think she’s likely to be the nominee, and I think she’s fatally flawed. I think that it’s going to be a tough general election. It always is at the end of an eight-year run. It’s very hard, if you look back in history, for a party to win a third term for that party. It happened in 1988 when 41 succeeded Ronald Reagan. It happened in 1948, if you will, when Harry Truman who had succeeded to the job won reelection. But between 1988 you have to go back to, literally, 1908 to find a real example of somebody succeeding at the end of two terms and even then TR had inherited the office on the death of McKinley. You know, it’s rare, but it can and I think will be done, but it’s going to be a tough race, and it will be against her.
RUSH: What are her fatal flaws?
KARL ROVE: Well, you know, you’re trying to make me into a prognosticator and I want to set a high tone here, on the high road, but look, she is who she is. There is no front-runner who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has in the history of modern polling. She’s going into the general election with, depending on what poll you look at, in the high forties on the negative side, and just below that on the positive side, and there’s nobody who has ever won the presidency who started out in that kind of position.
RUSH: One of the things about your previous comments about her regarding her reaction or her ad saying that half the country is ‘invisible’ to this administration. I’m going to play the sound bite a moment from now in the next half hour when her portrait was unveiled in the White House. The president was as gracious as anybody could be to both Bill and Hillary Clinton and all of their friends who were in the room, and yet she comes out and does something like this. Politically, what’s amazing to me is he’s not going to be on the ballot and they’re all running against him still.
KARL ROVE: Mmm-hmm. Well, I think it shows a lack of vision. If you really don’t… The fallback position in politics is if you don’t know what you want to be about, and if you don’t know what your vision is, go at somebody else. I think that the American people when they approach a presidential election, are always interested in the future, and particularly at the end of an eight-year presidency they want to know what the next person is going to be doing, and so to my mind… Look, it was so over-the-top that frankly, people, an ordinary cat listening to that on the street is going to say, ‘Well, wait a minute. That’s not true.’ I thought it was also egregious that she, in the same ad, talked about the president of the United States treating our troops in Afghanistan as invisible. I mean, how did she vote on the surge? You know, this is a woman who has been less than supportive of the policies that those men and women who are in the frontlines of the global war on terror fighting. This is like a woman who has opposed the Patriot Act that gave us the tools to defend the homeland. This is a woman who opposes the terrorist surveillance program that allowed us to listen in on the conversations of bad people who are calling into the United States. She opposed the FISA reforms that would allow us to listen into communications and see the communications of international terrorists who are communicating with other international terrorists, even outside the country whose messages simply happened to flow through US telecom networks. You know, again, I’m a little bit surprised that somebody with a record so weak on these things would somehow deign to lecture this president, who is very popular among the military and military families because they see him as a strong commander-in-chief who supports them, loves them, and gives them everything they need and want.
RUSH: Karl, I didn’t want to stop you during that. I’ve only got about ten seconds here to say good-bye. But thanks so much for your time here.
KARL ROVE: You bet, Rush.
RUSH: I received a bunch of e-mails from people when I said you were going to be on, who wanted me to pass on to you that they love you.
KARL ROVE: Oh, thanks Rush.
RUSH: We all do.
KARL ROVE: Thanks, buddy.
RUSH: Talk to you soon.
KARL ROVE: Thanks much.