Karl Rove's exit
Beyond the West Wing, it will be hard to find much sorrow that Karl Rove is leaving the White House.
That doesn't mean that Mr. Rove, President Bush's principal political adviser, didn't earn the affectionate presidential sobriquet of "boy genius." In certain ways, he did. Nor does it suggest that he wasn't worthy of the label (not always offered by admirers) of "Bush's brain."
Mr. Rove was undeniably the key political architect of Mr. Bush's national rise, first to the governorship of Texas and then in two razor-thin presidential elections. He successfully steered the Bush administration on some early policy victories such as tax cuts that proved popular, if ill-advised.
But Mr. Rove used to speak confidently of a "permanent Republican majority," and that is not what he leaves behind.
The President's popular support is near record low levels. The Republicans lost their congressional majorities last fall and face an uphill struggle in next year's elections. Efforts by Messrs. Bush and Rove to achieve second-term legislative triumphs, in Social Security and immigration reform, ended in resounding failure.
Mr. Rove leaves under a personal cloud as well. He came very close to being indicted in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity, and he has defied congressional subpoenas to testify about the firings of U.S. attorneys.
But none of that is what is most important about Mr. Rove. It is acceptable and honorable to try to win political campaigns. And it is reasonable to concede that many policy decisions will be influenced by purely political calculations.
However, the country expects limits. That's the point Mr. Rove seemed to miss.
In particular, he bears responsibility for his advice in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. National unity was possible and desirable, but he famously concluded that the fight against terror was an opportunity ripe for partisan Republican exploitation. Thus was born the reprehensible Republican theme that political opposition was disloyal, unpatriotic and a sign of weakness.
The result has been sour for Mr. Rove and his client. As Iraq went bad, for instance, it became "Bush's war" and a GOP liability.
But it has been a loss for the rest of us, too. That sense of common purpose and resolve we felt after 9/11 is gone. That is primarily Mr. Rove's doing.