Absolutely stunning work, I've learned so much more about Mr. Rove than I expected. Great work Frontline!
I was a Kerry supporter, however there is much to be admired in Mr. Rove with respect to his efficacy. His presence in the current political landscape combined with the telecommunications revolution has undoubtedly transformed our political landscape forever. The level of the game of politics, and you're naive to think that current politics is anything more than that, to a level few thought imaginable.
It will be an interesting next 3.5 years to see how both Mr. Rove and the growing Democratic machine will adapt to each other's strategic moves and attacks. Bravo once again Frontline!
This documentary reinforces everyone's view that Karl Rove is a political genius, and was the reason Bush won re-election.
No one seems to consider that it was Rove's policies that caused a president with one of the highest approval ratings in history to be elected with the smallest margin of victory (for an incumbent president) in history.
Rove came in with a vision of a divided country and a method of using devisive issues to turn out the republican political base.
The sad thing about Rove is that after 9/11, he could not adapt his vision to take advantage of a united country.
I am sure the Architect is much more comfortable now that things are back to politics as usual, but a great moment for our nation has came and gone with little to show.
Iowa City, IA
Thank you for another great show!
I would like to further offer this pragmatic speculation, that Carl Roves' success came from the study of demographics (long ago) so as to determine who was having the largest # of children (future voters), and betting that the best indicator on how that future voter would vote would be how their parents voted.
This, it appears, turned out to be conservative parents who attended church on a regular basis (there was no indication that Rove had any religious affiliation but his candidate does).
Formulating policies that would be attractive to this demographic would become the policies to grow the Republican party. Cultivation of what became known as "the base" was proactive and never neglected.
It is logical then and so it appears, that less prolific (over time) secular voters, in this case, Democrats, supporting abortion and gay marriage (reasonable to say, counterproductive in terms of producing offspring) at some point would not be able to muster enough voters to put them "over the top" in an election.
Or: "as ye sow, so shall you reap."
Georges Mills, NH
I was really disappointed in Frontline. It was “Bushes Brain” so completely watered down and virtually devoid of the details of the “dirty tricks” which Rove is so proud of as to render the show misleading for all those who have not read about Rove elsewhere.
I didn’t get the sense that anyone who might have watched your piece came away thinking there was anything “wrong” with how Rove “played the game”. It seemed like everyone interviewed was in agreement that “politics is a blood sport” and that if one doesn’t subscribe to the Macevellian approach to play to kill, no matter what it takes, they shouldn’t sign up to play the game. Even Lee Atwater, Rove’s Macevellian mentor, before his death admitted his tactics were over the top and out of line. A more complete and in-depth piece could not have helped but disclosed this fact. Your piece made Rove look like a hero to be emulated which he most certainly is not.
Following the post-broadcast discussion on Karl Rove has been almost as interesting as your program was.
Here's what I'm puzzling over, not for the first time: Why are the angriest, harshest, most "just get over it and suck it up" letters the ones from conservatives?
My understanding was that they had won the November election. So shouldn't they be in better spirits?
Los Angeles, CA
I found this program stimulating. A balanced analysis of the tactics and strategies of a truly immoral and corrupt administration.
Some suggest or state that Rove is a genius. Not so. Your piece said that he is a student of history. That is closer to the truth. If anyone was around in 1964 during the Goldwater/Johnson campaign, one saw the similarities: The nasty fear mongering of the Democratic Party. Goldwater was labeled a "loose cannon" who would use the A-bomb during the cold war with the Soviet Union and thus initiate a nuclear retaliation on our country.
Dirty politics is the norm for humanity and, in particular, democratic societies. The only defense is a strong, uninhibited media who seeks out the flim, the flam and the truth without fear, but does so for the pure delight of revealing the clay feet of the mighty. Frontline does this better than any other programming around today. It is always #1 on my list of favorites when I send in my donation to PBS. I am pleased that The Washington Post has joined the team.
Congratulations. Keep up the good work.
Corpus, Christi, TX
I very much enjoyed your program on Karl Rove last night, even as an unabashed Bush supporter.
I'm not surprised that Rove declined your requests for an interview. It's hard to imagine that anyone currently working for President Bush wants to "join the (PBS) chat" after the hatchet job Frontline performed on Secretary Rumsfeld a week before the election last November. But let's move on.
Frontline typically overcomes the public broadcasting inclination towards "liberal" bias, as was the case last night with Rove, by providing an abundance of newsworthy but generally unknown and insightful facts about a subject.
Howeveer, I'm amused to read today's comments from many of your liberal viewers who were obviously disappointed that you did not explicitly confirm their paranoid views of Rove as the living legacy of "Nixonian Treachery." Dare I say your portrayal of Rove was fair and balanced? Probably so.
My only disappointment, other than not hearing from Rove, was that Bob Woodward was absent from your co-production with the Washington Post. I suggest Woodward may report, that based on his extensive research of the Bush White House, Karl Rove is driven less by conspiratorial motives of the past and more by the need for ingenuity to succeed in modern presidential politics. Any such opinion from Woodward would really disappoint the liberals.
Too bad we still don't know Woodward's unique view on Rove, nor Rove's view on Rove or on Nixon.
In reading these entries I feel like I'm in the middle of a typical college campus focus group bent on Bush bashing. Only this time the focus has changed to Bush's evil twin - Rove. The evil "Rove Manipulation".
Brother, when are you liberals going to catch the clue? The Conservatives are not winning office because they are manipulating the stagnant mind of an incompetent public but rather saying and promising values and policies the public wants. If it were not so, the public would not be showing such support manifested by their votes. The good thing is they are making good on their promises. The promises that got them elected. It’s obvious they mean what they say. Saying absolutely “what-ever” to just get elected. I think not, their actions are speaking loader then words, even your words. Pay close attention to what the administration is and will be trying to do these next few years. They are the same things they promised to do. The same things most Americans want them to do. It’s that simple.
Wake up liberals. Your leaders are not winning because the majority of us Americans do not like what you stand for. These television programs geared to make us Americans feel like we have been mindlessly manipulated is not going to work. I say poor form Frontline.
I kept waiting in the Frontline show to learn something that would help me to understand why this supposedly brilliant, intelligent man would devote his life to this 'Republican Cause'. But I learned nothing about Rove's life -- nothing about his views, what his vision for the US/World. We were told only about his tactics for winning which we already knew much about.
Why is the man 'unreachable'. How is it that the Frontline show found no-one to interview about this man. Everyone who was interviewed simply described Rove's tactics which we all have been watching for the past 8 years. So what did we learn? Could Rove have planned a better Frontline show for himself?
I am scared, very scared... even as a Republican.
I am worried about any party establishing long-term dominance. Any attempt to do that, as we are witnessing with the current party, is shortsighted and one that does not habe the well being of the nation at mind or is driven by sheer stupidity. Power corrupts, and the Republicans' own deeds these days is the best proof, so they should be alarmed by their own. Fortunately some Republicans understand that, but I am still scared.
A TRUE Republican
I found last night's program to be a fair and accurate portrait of the "Boy Genius" of American politics today. Unlike many of the mainstream characterizations of Mr. Rove, your program did not simply portray him as a heartless, maniacal svengali.
The one suggestive comment I might make is that I do not think you accurately portrayed the relationship between Karl and the late Lee Atwater. In the program, you mentioned that Lee Atwater was a mentor figure to Karl Rove, when, in fact, the two were contemporaries and equals. But overall, PBS again proved its worth with this wonderful picture of such a brilliant, controverisal, and often-times misrepresented leader of American politics, Karl Rove. Thanks so much.
As a political junky - This was all pretty much information that has been out there. What I wish the Democrats would wake up to is the Aikido aspect of what Karl is so good at. He plays them like a fiddle. And, there was little in this program that will help them to be less reactive. In fact the reverse is probably true. If this were an election cycle I'm sure there would be cameras on the most reactionary responders, plus an interview with some Democratic leader that has the least moral credibility with swing voters.
I too, am perplexed that the swing voters were not reasoned with in the traditional manner of at least Reagan and Clinton. But I have to say that much of the Left by getting lazy and resting on the laurels of their ideology, were ripe for the plucking of the first strategist that saw the weakness that poorly thought out beliefs and fears presents.
Karl wasn't just getting the Base on the Right to react. He was also getting the Left to react in a way that would sway those precious swing voters. He did this by bating them to react and look petty, shallow, immature, and even fundamentalist in their political beliefs, and prejudices.
I think Karl Rove has made it so the Left has no choice - if they want to win elections - to get past their fears and beliefs about how the world works, and study lots of different angles on foreign policy, and economic debates. It takes more and more to have credibility with the more widely read swing voter.
...I found it ironic that Rove himself was exposed in this program as a secular person, not a religious believer-type at all, who exploited the Fundamentalist Christian community mercilessly in his efforts to bring in voters under phony "morality" issues, while smokescreening the real issues the 2004 campaign should have focused on.
I hope that future programs will be a bit less centrist in focus and give us some good old fashioned investigative journalism on this administration. How about Tom DeLay? Cheney's connection to the Halliburton no-bid contracts in Iraq? Let's find out what else is being swept under the rug.
Thanks for 22 years of great documentaries.
A few, here, have suggested that liberals or Democrats don't get it about the real world or foreign policy. What the Democrats do not actually get is that they have the best of the two messages, just the wrong way of communicating the message. Tell me what American would not support cleaner air, access to health care, preservation of personal liberties and privacy, fair trading policies, fair tax structures that apply as much to corporations as to those of us in the middle class and a foreign policy that seeks to include the world rather than bear the cost in lives and money on our own. Those messages will become clearer as the democrats regain their voice.
I would much rather see an expose' on a man who gained the White House by selling this message rather than someone who exploits his base and stokes fear in the American People simply to gain office. We surely have hit rock bottom in electoral politics but the good news is that there is only one way to go from here!
Your slip is showing.
If ever there was a partisan show – this was it. When will we see a similar show on James Carville – hmmmmmm ?
This episode smacks of Bill Moyer’s “Freak show of Political Pornography” comment regarding Sean Hannity.
You have hit a new low with this one – since when is having beliefs and the courage to act on them wrong? What was your point in putting this show together – it sure wasn’t objective reporting on the election.
I am very disappointed – you guys are USUALLY above this kind of propaganda.
Our First MBA President
As someone who questioned how a C student got into and graduated from HBS, I have to give Bush credit for teaming up with someone who collects and uses data in setting strategy and making decisions. Maybe Bush actually attended a few of his MBA classes.
Regardless of how you interpret how Bush won, it's hard to argue with Rove's results. Your program clearly showed how Rove developed his targeted messages and influenced voters- certainly HBS case study material. Rove’s approach illustrates the power of an effective sales and marketing campaign which represents America's biggest strength. The democrats think he is unethical but wish they had him on their team.