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Karl Rove: Still Mixing Policy With Politics

Less than a month after ceding his lead role in policy development at the White House, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove used a speech Monday at the American Enterprise Institute to flash his in-depth knowledge on tax cuts, trade policy and illegal immigration.

Karl Rove
Presidential adviser Karl Rove gestures while speaking at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington on Monday. (AP)

Rove's bone-dry 25-minute address -- in which he cited an avalanche of facts and figures to illustrate his points -- seemed to be a direct rebuttal of critics who alleged that Rove was demoted for not finding a solution to President Bush's sinking poll numbers. (Read the full text here.)

Rove's speech was mainly a defense of the administration's tax policy. He argued that the president inherited a faltering economy that was further battered by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He said the Bush tax-cut program "strengthened the economy, increased productivity and created jobs." As for the argument that the cuts mainly benefited affluent Americans, Rove said the tax changes have "shifted more of the burden onto the wealthy."

Rove largely avoided partisan combat in his prepared remarks, but the president's political guru could not resist a barb at Democrats when asked about his prognosis for the 2006 midterm elections. "We are going to be fine in the election because we stand for something," he said. "Our opponents stand for little or nothing aside from obstructionism."

Rove conceded that the war in Iraq has created a "sour" mood among the American public, which, Rove argued, explains why the president has such low job-approval numbers at the same time that voters say they personally approve of the president as a leader. He cited a similar contradiction between economic studies showing strong consumer confidence and polls that seem to indicate that Americans remain uneasy about the future of the economy. "People are worried about the long haul," said Rove. "There is a disconnect because the war looms on all political actors," he said.

Further burnishing the "policy-over-politics" message, Rove said he didn't want to spend much time discussing polls and repeatedly said that the first priority of the Bush administration -- on immigration and other hot-button issues -- is "getting the right policy, and the politics will work itself out."

Rumors -- unsubstantiated, to date -- continue to fly around the Internet that Rove is on the verge of being indicted for his alleged role in leaking the identity CIA officer Valerie Plame. But Rove was tight-lipped when asked whether he should disclose his role (if any) in the matter. He referred reporters to the statement issues by his attorney on April 26, adding: "I have nothing more to add. Nice try though."

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 15, 2006; 1:37 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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