THE DC: So the “fight,” though, is for conservative principles.
ROVE: I mean, yeah, I became a Republican after I became a conservative and it is, I think, the fight is at, sort of, it’s a political and philosophical fight.
THE DC: What are the stakes in your mind? What is at stake?
ROVE: Well I don’t want to over-dramatize it, because we have healthy two-party competition and the country survives it, but I do think it’s about the future direction of the country. Do we want more reliance on markets and smaller government and greater emphasis on personal responsibility of the individual, or do we want to rely upon the state and regulation and direction and more of a communal responsibility and less of an individual responsibility?
THE DC: Okay. Like I said I had a big picture question that I thought I’d ask at the end, but I think I’ll-
ROVE: Before you get into that, let me mention one other thing if I could. You asked about the word “fight,” I want to make it clear, the word “courage” in the title refers, if you haven’t read deep into the book, refers to Bush’s courage and the consequences of the decisions that were made over the last, uh… all over his eight years in office.
THE DC: Right, I did read that.
ROVE: All right, good.
THE DC: So, this big picture question, I thought I’d ask you actually now. The back of your book has what I think is a pretty impressive photo. Bush is standing on a tarmac somewhere next to Marine One, you’re talking literally into his ear and your hand is gesturing right behind his ear. First of all, it does nothing to dispel the myth of “Bush’s Brain” that you’ve protested against. Did you have a choice in that photo?
ROVE: This was the the, you know— no. I mean I could have. I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but I leave these things in the hands of book people. But look, I’m not certain it shows “Bush’s Brain,” I mean, the picture that emerges from the book, from even a light reading of the book, is that Bush is a decisive leader who surrounds himself with people who give him candid advice which he either accepts or rejects. In fact, I introduce that notion by talking about, in the chapter on the 2000 election, to demonstrate his way of thinking and operating, by talking about the time that he called me over to tell me to tell him why I was against Dick Cheney being selected as Vice President. Only the most absurd, you know, sort of swamp fever victims still believe that Bush relies upon somebody else’s brain.
THE DC: Okay, and then secondly, that picture, for whatever reason, in my mind raised so many philosophical questions about power. So much of politics ends up being devoted to raw pursuit of power. I wondered if you could reflect in your own life-
ROVE: I have no idea, Jon, how you get from a picture of me talking to Bush on a tarmac with plane noise in the background to a search for raw power. That is one weird jump from Point A to Point Z.
THE DC: Listen, let me explain. I have some policy questions, by the way, I wanted to ask you this big picture question. The reason I’m asking this is because the picture exudes power. So I wanted you to reflect on your experience of power. I’m not saying that the picture is showing you in a raw pursuit of power. I just want to clarify that. I’m curious though, how did you perceive of power when you did not have it, and having had it, how did that change your perception of power?
ROVE: I’m not certain I’m good at answering that question, because in our system of government, power resides primarily with the people who are endowed by voters with the ability to make decisions. And it was rewarding to work in a White House with people who were very sharp, and did their homework, and thought deeply about the questions that were before them, and with whom you could disagree respectfully, and whom you could learn a lot from, and who, like, you operated in an environment where the president put an emphasis on hearing candid advice candidly delivered. But I’m not sure I perceive that as power so much as responsibility, and did I enjoy having a responsibility and working hard, giving it my best shot? You bet. But I also knew that I was going to be there for a limited period of time. I ended up being there longer than I ever would have thought. The average duration of a senior White House aide is about eighteen to twenty months and I stayed there for seven years, and it was rewarding. But I’m not sure I ever thought about it consciously in terms of, “This is all about power, and I enjoy having it.”