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In the Crossfire

Is Karl Rove the brain behind the presidency?

Rove and Bush
White House senior adviser Karl Rove, left, with President Bush.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has dubbed White House senior adviser Karl Rove as "the man with the plan," and it just might have been that plan that helped land Bush in the White House.

How did Rove rise in political circles to become one of the most powerful men in Washington?

Authors James Moore and Wayne Slater trace Rove's ascent in their new book, "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential" (John Wiley & Sons).

Moore and Slater joined "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson on Friday to explain how Rove groomed Bush for the White House.

CARLSON: Before we even get inside your book, let's consider the title, "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential." It's kind of a sly way to imply the president's not quite presidential.

MOORE: Never meant to be pejorative. From the beginning, that has been Karl's nickname in Texas. He is Bush's brain. He's the brainy guy who comes up with the policies, the strategies and the issues that would drive him to become governor [and later] to become president.

CARLSON: So it's not another way of saying that the president is not very bright and that he requires someone to sort of do the heavy lifting for him?

MOORE: What I'll say is this: They are two parts of one creature. The president is a very capable man. He is intelligent, and whatever else you say about the president, he has leadership genius -- a kind of genius of his own.

He makes decisions, [and] he has certitude. People are drawn to him. What he lacks, however, is the intellectual depth, which Karl gives him. Karl groomed him.

Karl groomed this man to become president of the United States. George Bush was a candidate before he knew it in 1990.

BEGALA: And Wayne, you guys go even beyond that. Let me read you out of the book. "The end result is obvious," you write. "Karl Rove thinks it, George W. Bush does it. That's the way it works and it works well." "Rove is," you write, "the co-president of the United States, and Americans cannot deny his influence."

SLATER: Why are you surprised? You know Rove, and the fact is, Rove was not only the co-president in the way that we've written it; he was the co-governor in Texas, where Jim and I covered the governor. He was very much a part of that administration, although he wasn't officially in the Statehouse.

He was a co-candidate. He was the person who, in 1990, was putting together the plan, even before George Bush knew that he wanted to run for governor. [He] certainly didn't know he was going to run for president. Karl Rove had a detailed plan how to make George Bush the president of the United States in one decade.

BEGALA: First off, I do know Karl, and I like him. So I'm burdened with that history with him. I actually do like Karl from my years of knowing him in Texas. Why is that a problem? Lincoln had Willie Herndon. You know FDR had Harry Hopkins and Harold Ickes. You know I was a political consultant who worked for the president of the United States.

SLATER: Bill Clinton had you and obviously extraordinarily capable people. You did a great job for Bill Clinton.

You look at Mike Deaver with Reagan, great job. You look at other people. Let me tell you why Karl is different despite your considerable gifts.

You've got three people around the president. The president's had people who were great political advisers. People who ... [were] very good on the issues. Or people who have known him for a long time.

Our book shows that Rove brings all three elements. He's a brilliant political tactician. I think you would agree.


SLATER: He is an extraordinary guy with respect to policy; at least he believes he is. He's moved into policy. And he was the man who was with George Bush, making him the president of the United States, driving the campaign for governor even before George Bush knew it.

MOORE: Let me add this difference, Paul. The difference in Karl's case is that, when Clinton decided he wanted to be president, he had the vision; he had dreams. He had things he wanted to accomplish politically for himself and for the country in terms of policy. And then he went out, and he looked for Paul Begala and James Carville and said, "Guys come help me do this."

In this case, it was Karl Rove who identified George Bush. George Bush didn't have the ambition. George Bush didn't have the vision. And Karl Rove actually created his candidacy and groomed him to make him president.

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