How Stupid Is Karl Rove?

A reader asks a good question:

I was just wondering what your thoughts were about the now-failing Rove strategy. The Rovekraftcorbisfortime_1 guy’s supposed to be a genius, but if he were so smart wouldn’t he have foreseen that embracing divisivess and extremism would come back to bite him and his party in the ass?
For that matter, what about the intelligence (or lack thereof) involved in the prosecution of the war and its aftermath? If I had wanted to assure a "permanent Republican majority" I would have done everything possible to assure that the war was a complete and unquestionable success. But clearly they planned it on the cheap and with lack of forethought.
Is this just stupidity? Hubris? Once again, if Rove was such a genius, wouldn’t he have done his part to make sure that the President and his policies were as certain as possible of success? Imagine, if you will, what a lock on power the GOP would now have if the war had been done right.

My money is on stupid. The right has long sought to portray Karl Rove as a genius; and the paranoid left has been only too happy to go along. My own view is that he’s always been a dreadful political strategist. We don’t have to wait for a GOP bloodbath this fall to see it. We had a president after 9/11 who could have asked anything of the American public and been supported. He chose a policy of brutal partisan division in war-time, and as commander-in-chief with a strong economy, he turned a 50 percent victory into … 51 percent. If he’d risen above petty partisanship, asked for real sacrifice, listened to the military leadership on the war, and included Democrats in a war-cabinet, he could have won in a landslide.

The domestic policy record is also terrible. By allowing the staggering splurge of spending, especially on the Medicare entitlement, Rove has destroyed the Republicans’ advantage on fiscal issues for a generation. By harnessing the GOP to religious fundamentalism, he has all but lost the center and independents; and by relying exclusively on that base, he is also alienating Hispanics on the immigration issue. His decision to ignore Iraq and go for an incoherent social security reform last year was another massive miscalculation. Yes, he can whip up hysteria against already-disliked minorities for short-term gain. But anyone with no scruples or conscience can do that. As for communicating the Bush message: Rove’s tenure has been marked by some of the worst p.r. I’ve yet seen from a White House. So, yeah. Rove is a terrible political guru. To sell your soul – and your party’s soul – for a permanent majority is one thing. To sell it for 51 percent is just pathetic.