Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Book Review: Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight (2010) by Karl Rove.

If this book were human, it would have a tripartite personality, not unlike the "United States of Tara" or "Cybil".

Karl Rove's Courage and Consequence is part personal, political, and polemical. Each chapter essentially falls into one of these "personalities". And depending on which personality turns up, one can predict how it's going to go.

The personal chapters outdistance the others. First, Rove delves into his complicated upbringing and tragedies in his personal life, including his mother's suicide. He also deals with his climb up the ladder of the College Republicans, meeting some interesting folks along the way including Lee Atwater (with a hilarious story about running out of gas), Jeff Sessions (who later became an Alabama senator), and George H. W. Bush (who holds Rove's reverence throughout).

Rove's discussion of his harrowing experience as a "subject" and then a "target" of a grand jury investigation should be required reading for anyone in law school thinking of a career in white collar criminal defense and probably everyone else considering a field in the law. He lays out the high stakes "dance" between the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and Rove's attorney, Bob Luskin, in fascinating detail--a story that I don't believe has been told before.

The political chapters provide insight into the strategies that put Bush into the White House following the 2000 and 2004 elections. Additionally, Rove ably dissects the 2006 mid-term election and what went wrong (and right) for Republicans. These chapters demonstrate a keen political mind, powered by a sharp eye of the electorate. Not as strong as the personal chapters, but these chapters more than fuel political junkies' engines.

Finally, the polemical chapters anchor the book, and not in a good way. Chapter 21 entitled, "Bush Was Right on Iraq", encapsulates the personality of these chapters where Rove vigorously defends various Bush decisions, conduct or inaction. This is where the book takes on almost a litigator's tone where Rove argues a certain position as if he were an advocate for Bush. In fact, the first part of the book's title is about Bush not Rove, "I am proud to have been part of the long journey of a man of courage and consequence who sought to provide conservative reform of great institutions in need of repair and kept America safe in its hour of peril." (520.) These chapters are tediously long, dismissive of other points of view, and selectively deal with the evidence.

Overall, I was surprised how good this book was, despite its "schizophrenic" tendencies. Recommended.

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