Karl Rove, the White House adviser whom George W. Bush called his political "architect," admits in a new memoir that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq severely damaged the Bush presidency -- and he suggests the war might not have occurred had Bush actually known the truth.
Of his own role, Rove writes that his biggest mistake was not pushing back against claims that the president had led the country into the Iraq war under false pretenses.
If Bush had known about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, Rove questions whether the United States would have gone to war, according to an excerpt quoted by the New York Times.
"Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D., I doubt it," Rove writes. "Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change and deal with Iraq's horrendous human rights violations."
The lingering perception that the war was unjustified hurt Bush's credibility and diminished support for the war in Iraq, Rove says, according to the Associated Press
, which obtained an advance copy of the book "Courage and Consequence" and first reported on it.
"When the pattern of the Democratic attacks became apparent in July 2003, we should have countered in a forceful and overwhelming way," he says in material quoted by the Washington Post
. "We should have seen this for what it was: a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency."
Rove devotes space in the memoir to the 2005 hurricane that devastated states along the Gulf Coast and put most of New Orleans under water. Bush was sharply criticized for the federal government's slow response to the disaster and he made matters worse when he commended FEMA director Michael Brown for doing a "heck of a job." That line became fodder for the ridicule of late night comedians and a catch-phrase for critics who thought the Bush administration incompetent and detached.
But Rove blamed state and local officials for bungling the recovery, especially then-Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, both Democrats. Yet he also concedes, the "White House was too passive for too long" in the early days of the disaster. "Louisiana's failures became our failures anyway."
The Texas native, now a Fox News analyst, also took a swipe at President Obama in the book, calling him the stereotype of the Chicago politician, playing fast and loose with facts.
On the international stage, Rove maintains the 2003 invasion was the most momentous act of Bush's presidency and the right response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even though Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein wasn't responsible, the AP reported.
"Having seen how much carnage four airplanes could cause, Bush was determined to do all he could to prevent the most powerful weapons from falling into the hands of the world's most dangerous dictators," Rove wrote.
Rove, in excerpts cited by the Post, describes the first hours after the Sept. 11 attacks and the swift departure of Air Force One with the president aboard. "The 747 shot down the runway with a force I had never experienced. Once in the air, Air Force One then stood on its tail to get as high as possible, as rapidly as possible. I had not been in a jet at such a steep incline."
Rove asserted that history will look favorably on Bush's two terms as president. "Courage and Consequence" will be released March 9.