Give Karl Rove his due. The political strategist known as "Bush's brain" mobilized enough little gray cells to put his client in the White House twice. Rove combined a savant's command of political minutiae with a grand strategy best described as "divide and conquer."
But the politics of polarization that once served President Bush so well eventually undermined his quest for a legacy of achievement in office, while deflating Rove's own dream of a Republican ascendancy at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. On Monday, Rove quit while he was behind.
It isn't just that Democrats regained control of Congress last year after Rove warned that "Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview, and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview." The hyper-partisanship Rove brought to his dual roles in the White House -- political operator and policy maven -- contributed to the failure of a series of administration initiatives, from restructuring Social Security to comprehensive immigration reform.
Bush isn't the first president to rely on the wiles of political operatives. His father benefited from the labors of Lee Atwater, and Bill Clinton relied on the polling acumen of Dick Morris. A president isn't just the commander in chief; he's the politician in chief.