Rove: Iraq One of Two 'Central Issues' in 2004

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Aug. 26, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: The Iraq situation continues to be troubling and troubled. Public support for the enterprise has diminished over time, belief that it was a victory, obviously, has seemingly evaporated. How do you view that? Do you view that as a burden to be overcome or what?

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: I think it’s one of the two central issues of the campaign. And it’s one of the reasons why this president will win. I disagree with you slightly. I think that particularly since June 30 and the strong work of the new government in Iraq, Prime Minister Allawi in particular, has given confidence to the American people that we’re doing the right thing.

And again the American people have a big choice between somebody who sees this as the right thing to do and that the world is safer because Saddam Hussein is out of power and because it helps our forward momentum of liberty and freedom in the Mideast. It will help make that region a more peaceful part of the world and hence make America safer.

And somebody who is all over the board on this, somebody who voted for the war, then was against the war, voted against supporting the troops, said he was proud that he voted against the troops then tried to dismiss it by saying it was a complicated matter.

You know, the American people want, in a time of war and threat, steady, solid resolved leadership. And that is what the president has provided.

HUME: The convention is coming, it’s probably the latest convention I can remember.

ROVE: It is the latest one of our adult lives. But you know, it used to be conventions happened this way. In fact, conventions may have happened in -- through mid-September in the 1800s and the early 1900s.

HUME: Well, the striking thing about it is that we were hearing from convention managers that this was going to be the moment where the president really sets forth and brings focus on his second-term agenda.

ROVE: Right.

HUME: Aren’t you worried that it may be a little late?

ROVE: No. First of all, people know who he is and they know what his beliefs are and they know who he is and they know what his beliefs are.

And they know that if he says he’s going to do something that he’s going to try and get that done. So there’s a foundation for this speech.

HUME: The demonstrators who are planning to be at this convention will not be under the same kinds of constraints that they were in Boston.

There will be more, closer to the convention hall, more visible from the convention hall, and perhaps more numerous than they were in Boston. How worried are you that they will become the news story?

ROVE: Well, look, we knew the Democrats were going to show up in force and exercise themselves in New York. That’s fine, that’s what democracy is all about.

HUME: You’re not saying here that these are all simply ordinary rank-and-file Democrats who are going to be showing up, this is…

ROVE: I think a lot of them…

HUME: I mean, they weren’t all Republicans up there in Boston.

ROVE: I know, but look, the AFL-CIO and others have been organizing Democrats to go to New York to protest. That’s their right. And that’s the face of it -- if that’s the face of their party that they want to portray, that’s fine. But look, that’s democracy. Any place you have a convention you’re going to draw demonstrators, particularly if you’re the Republicans because the Democrats are going to show up in force. But that won’t be the story of the convention. The story of the convention is going to be this president and his agenda.

HUME: But isn’t that somewhat beyond your control? I mean, there’s really nothing you can do, is there, if there are demonstrators making noise in the streets and the network newscasts decide they will split-screen the president or someone else’s speech with demonstrators in the streets.

ROVE: Well, I have confidence in the fairness of most of the media. And I certainly have ultimate confidence…

HUME: You do?

ROVE: Well, I’m saying that to show a shine to you. But…


ROVE: But I really have confidence in the New York Police Department. And they’re going to make certain that this is orderly and kept within restraint.

HUME: Let’s go back for a minute to this question of the race. What do you expect that the convention is going to do for this candidate?

ROVE: Well, first of all, this is an opportunity at the convention for us to lay out a positive and optimistic agenda for the second term at a point where people are willing to hear it and take it in. Second of all, it’s an opportunity for us to remind people of the consequential accomplishments, the big record of this administration: tax cuts, war on terror, growing the economy.

I mean, think about all that this country has been through both on the war on terror and the economy: education reform, Medicaid modernization.

I mean, we’re going to be able to talk about a big record. And finally we’re going to be able to remind people of who he is and what he is all about. I mean, this is a person that, whether you agree with his policies or not, people tend to like him. They know that he believes what he believes and says what he believes and can be counted upon to follow-through.

HUME: I want to bring up one issue that since it was known you were going to be on this broadcast we have been inundated with e-mail about: immigration. And the e-mail seems to come from southern and western states where people believe that the border is porous and that the proposal that the president has come up with for addressing this problem, which has not been enacted as I understand it, is basically an amnesty program masquerading as a guest worker program.

ROVE: No. It’s not an amnesty program. In fact it’s just the opposite.

What it says is is that we will pair up willing workers and willing employers when there is a job that is -- that Americans won’t fill, we will pair up willing workers and willing employers.

People will be allowed to come here and work. But they don’t get -- they don’t go to the head of the line. If they want to become a U.S. citizen they’ve got to the back of the line, stand in line like everybody else.

We are -- this president is very much against amnesty. He also recognizes that there are jobs that are going to go unfilled in this country and that rather than encouraging people -- you know, look, family values, as he says, don’t stop at the Rio Grande River. If you’re making 50 cents a day in Mexico and you can make $5 an hour in the United States, you’re coming for the $5 every time in order to support your family.

And what he wants is a program that relieves the pressure on our borders by saying to somebody in Mexico or Central America, you can come up here and work for a time, put together a little bit of money and go home.

HUME: The same critics who have been e-mailing me say that this program has been offered and not accompanied the kind of resources to stop the traffic across the border, that the enforcement mechanism is simply too weak.

ROVE: No. I disagree. Look, more can be done, certainly, but we have dramatically increased border security, first of all by putting all these different agencies -- it used to be when you’d go to the border, you had the INS, you had the Border Patrol, you had the Customs, and they were -- and you had so ag units. You had all kinds of people who had different functions along the border.

We’ve now put them all in one entity so that we can take our resources and apply them to the border. And we’ve given them more resources to get the job done. And we are giving them the tools to deal with the illegal immigrants in a way that it’s just not a revolving door. That people come across, that they get let out in our society. That they never show up for their hearings.

We’ve given them some very significant tools to stop that.

HUME: You have the unusual distinction of being the subject of a featured movie called "Bush’s Brain" that has been around for a while I suppose but is beginning to turn up now in more and more outlets. And copies are being sent to members of the news media and so forth.

And I’d to just play a sample from that film and get reaction to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have truly come to believe that the politics and the policies and the power of Karl Rove is a threat to our republic.


HUME: That seems to be the theme of that film. What about that?

ROVE: I’d find out what fever -- what swamp that guy was drinking water out of. I mean, that’s Jim Moore who’s the author of the book on which the film was based. He’s a far left-winger. I mean, it’s laughable. I mean, it’s -- this town is build on myths and I’ve become a convenient myth.

HUME: In what sense?

ROVE: I’m "Bush’s Brain." If you don’t want to acknowledge that this president is one of the best-educated, most thoughtful, brightest president that we’ve had, you’ve got to find an excuse. And the excuse to claim that he doesn’t have a brain and that his brain resides in somebody else’s body.

HUME: Well, wouldn’t you acknowledge though that in terms of the combination of political and policy advice that few White House aides, few White House political advisers have had the kind of influence and portfolio that you have?

ROVE: Well, I can’t speak to other administrations, but when I go and sit around that senior staff table at 7:30 in the morning, I look around that table and see a lot of people that I’m honored to be in the same room with: Condi Rice, Margaret Spellings, Josh Bolten, Andy Card, Harriet Miers. I mean it is a remarkable group of people who serve this president.

I’ve known them for a long time. But I’ve got to tell you it’s an exceptional group of people who have far greater talents and abilities than I do who serve him. I’m fortunate to be along for the ride.

HUME: Karl Rove, thank you very much.

ROVE: Thank you, sir.

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