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Karl Rove's new book has plenty of politics, but reflections on family, youth as well

March 12, 2010 | 10:22 am

Much of the talk about Karl Rove’s new book, “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,” has focused on political strategy, Democrat-bashing and the urge to settle scores. No surprise there.

But recent reviews have also noted what Rove reveals (or fails to reveal) about himself. Writing for The Times, the always-incisive Tim Rutten observes:

More interesting are the vague and largely unexamined origins of Rove’s conservatism. As he tells it, he holds the views he does largely because he grew up in the mountain West, where self-reliance is prized, and because when, as a 10-year-old Denver boy, he put a Richard Nixon sticker on his bike, a little girl down the street whose family supported John F. Kennedy beat the heck out of him.

These anecdotes drawn from Rove’s early life bring to mind an unbeatable YouTube video, above, of a collegiate Rove working for the Republican National Committee during the Nixon era. It’s almost humorous now as Rove and others describe what were then...

... cutting-edge fundraising techniques. But it’s a rare view of Rove before he became the man who helped put George W. Bush in the White House. (Be patient, he doesn’t show up until the fourth minute -- with loose vest, tie and, in the fashion of the day, long floppy hair.)

As one watches the video, it’s hard not to think about the even younger Rove. Steve Levingston, reviewing the book for the Washington Post, also explores the theme of family in the development of the political strategist:

Hard-nosed and obsessive he is, this steely political genius who orchestrated George W. Bush’s climb, first to the Texas governor’s mansion and then to the White House. But the figure who emerges in these pages has another side. In unexpectedly tender prose, Rove tells a poignant family story, which includes his father’s long absences, his parents’ divorce and his mother’s suicide. Only after the divorce would he learn that his father was in fact his stepfather and that he and his brother were children of his mother’s earlier marriage.

Rutten, in his review, returns to family as well:

His own family was utterly dysfunctional -- his father, the book suggests, was apparently a closeted homosexual who ultimately divorced his mother, a habitual spendthrift who stole her children’s legal support payments. Only as an adult did Rove discover he was adopted. He was a champion debater in high school and became so deeply involved in electoral politics that he never took a degree, though he was just a couple of classes short. Later, when enrolled briefly at the University of Texas, he would acquire a life-long admiration for William McKinley because his mastery of new electoral technology would usher in decades of GOP dominance.

Related item: Just like Karl Rove, only young, slim, well-dressed and handsome

-- Steve Padilla

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