What is truly striking about Rove's appearances on all the Sunday interview shows was the reminder of how unprepossessing this advocate of torture, scorched-earth warfare and carpet bombing is in person. He once said of his high school days, "I was the complete nerd. I had the briefcase. I had the pocket protector. I wore Hush Puppies when they were not cool. I was the thin, scrawny little guy. I was definitely uncool."
The modern GOP, by contrast, is meant to be the party of resolute action, not pensive, doughy geeks. Does Rove hide the disjuncture between his lack of physical presence and the overt, almost comic machismo of the Republican Party by his single-minded loyalty to a great leader? Rove himself describes his first meeting with George W. Bush as an instant political crush: "Charisma, swagger, cowboy boots, flight jacket ... wow." Does Rove overcompensate for his frailty with a savage commitment to violence and to humiliating and destroying his opponents? If so, he would not be the first specialist in propaganda of whom this has been suggested...
But his most tragic legacy lay in taking something that happened to all Americans, the murderous attacks of Sept. 11, and attempting to turn those calamities into a stick with which to beat his Democratic opponents. In so doing, he desecrated the nearly 3,000 dead for petty factional gains, and wrought enormous injustices on genuine war heroes such as Max Cleland, George McGovern and John Kerry. Long after his permanent Republican majority is forgotten, Rove will be remembered for using his rhetorical gifts to divide instead of unite. As Chris Wallace, of all people, asked, "Was that a mistake?"
--Juan Cole, Salon