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Cable Exclusive With 'Courage and Consequence' Author Karl Rove

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: For more than seven years he served as a senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush. His brand-new book, his new memoir, offers an inside look at the historic events that shaped the Bush presidency and the personal and political dramas that at times threaten to derail it.

Now the book is called "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight."

The author, the one and only, the architect, the man, Karl Rove.

How are you?

KARL ROVE, AUTHOR, "COURAGE AND CONSEQUENCE": Fabulous, Sean. Thanks for having me.

HANNITY: I heard you had a good time with Matt Lauer this morning?

ROVE: I did, man. Went a couple of rounds.

HANNITY: Well, you know, I couldn't put the book down. I got to tell you why. Because for eight years this is what I did. I covered everything in this book.

ROVE: Yes.

HANNITY: And now you bring us inside.

ROVE: Yes.

HANNITY: Why did you decide to write it?

ROVE: Well, that's what I wanted to do. I want to be able to draw back the curtain and give people the back story. Let them know what actually happened. How we got there and what we did once we got there.

• Listen to excerpts from Rove's audiobook on 9/11, Plame and WMDs

HANNITY: Yes. You know one of my favorite stories in the book, and I'm not going to go in any particular order because, you know, a lot of things in here that I think people will find fascinating.

Tell the story, George Bush brings you into his office when he's governor. And he says Karl, tell me all the reasons why Dick Cheney should not be vice president?

ROVE: Right. Well, he called me up at home and said I want you to come by the Governor's Mansion tomorrow morning 10:30, and lay out the case against Cheney. He at that point was sort of focused in on Cheney and there were about five or six people who knew it — him, Laura and Joe Albaugh, Karen Hughes and me.

And so I go by. It's about 10:30 in the morning at the Governor's Mansion and a very small room called the Austin Library which is named after Stephen F. Austin who founded Texas.

And I'm sitting about as far away from him, maybe just a little bit further than I am from you tonight. And he said OK, tell me why not? And so I said why not? Didn't need to worry about Wyoming. Didn't — you know, Cheney had been a very conservative congressman. We didn't have to defend his record. He had a history of heart problems.

He'd have a 12th amendment problem. People would say you can't vote for somebody from the same state for president and vice president. Said, you know, we tried hard to get a sense of you as your own man and now we're reaching back and picking somebody out of your dad's Cabinet?

This went on for about 30, 35 minutes and he'd argue with me or he'd ask me a question. He's say, what would you be say if I said this, or be dismissive — test my arguments. And after about 30, 35 minutes, I finished and he said do you have anything else? And I said no, that's about it. Sums it up.

HANNITY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. I want to put some emphasis — this is where the story gets good. Right here. All right. Here's the good part.

ROVE: So he turns to the guy next to him and says, Dick, got any questions for Karl?

(LAUGHTER)

ROVE: And I'm thinking, I've just irritated the guy who's going to be the next vice president of the United States. And he goes around heavily armed. And —

HANNITY: Wow.

ROVE: But it was a start of a wonderful relationship and it was really unusual insight into both Bush and to Cheney. When we walked out Cheney says to me, I agree with some of what you had to say. And, you know — because he was dubious about the proposition, but he never held it against me that I was — that I had not been for his nomination.

And Bush, on the other — called me the next day on the road and said, you know what? You're right. All those political reasons you raised are correct. But I am not thinking about politics. You think about how you're going to handle the political fallout if I choose Cheney.

I got to worry about what — who's the best person for me as vice president. And who if something happened to me would reassure the country, that they were up to the job and Cheney is the guy. And so it was a presidential decision. And he said, you go worry about the politics. Take care of all of that stuff. I need to worry about the big, important things.

HANNITY: I think that gives a real good insight into you and to the vice president. He had a sense of humor.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: He never — he was reticent. He did not really want this job.

ROVE: He didn't really want it. In fact, the irony is Bush thinks that he's offered it to him and that Cheney has accepted, and Cheney is basically saying, well, I'll take it but why didn't you go meet with Jack Danforth one more time. And why don't you see if you could find somebody else?

And so on Cheney's mind, he doesn't accept the job until the morning that Bush calls him. Cheney is on his way to re-register to vote in Wyoming.

HANNITY: Because he had a certain period of time.

ROVE: Yes. He had a certain amount of time to re-register and voting in the Wyoming primary in August would give us an extra defense on the 12th Amendment.

HANNITY: Well, one of the more interesting things, you bring us behind the scenes on 9/11. And you're with the president. And speaking of Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney calls the president not once, but a number of times.

ROVE: At least twice.

HANNITY: At least twice. And is asking the president, Mr. President, if there's another plane that's hijacked, do you give authorization for our military to take that plane out of the air?

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: Tell us that, bring us behind that story.

ROVE: We're sitting in the front cabin of Air Force One. And Andy Card and I were there and then the vice president calls, I can hear one side of the conversation. And the president says yes. Calmly but forcefully. And then he says you have my authorization.

And he hangs up. And in a matter of fact voice, I remember how calm it was on the plane that day, he said — he explained what he had just done, which is give authorization for the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft that were en route to a target, and were not under the control of the crew.

And I remember being shocked. And then the president after a few moments reflected on how terrible that would be for a young aviator who was given that command. He'd been a young fighter pilot himself.

Later — a little while later Cheney called back to reconfirm it. And the president, again, you know, very calm, very matter of fact, but you can just tell and I can see him. I've known him a long time. We've known each other for decades since I was 23, and he was 26 or 27.

And there was a — you could tell, you could see in the corners of his eyes and the tightness of his mouth and those — you know, how firm his jaw was that this was a consequential decision that he had to make.

HANNITY: You know, and you'd also described — I had often said as an outsider that I think the day that George Bush became president, really understood that he was president is when he went to New York. And you described what happened with this older firefighter.

ROVE: Bob Beckwith.

HANNITY: Bob — and he stood on the rubble.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: And on — not scripted.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: No teleprompter, by the way.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: So interesting.

ROVE: Yes. This is the iconic moment of the Bush presidency.

HANNITY: This was it. This was it.

ROVE: Yes. Here at Ground Zero. We had come — we had toured one corner of Ground Zero and then had come around to the northwest corner of Ground Zero where they were removing a lot of the debris. And we came down a short street and made a right hand jog, and then the motorcade was only like four vehicles that day.

And we got out into a sea of noise. There were these huge men, the firefighters and rescue personnel, and iron workers and steelworkers, who are pulling things out of the rubble.

And I've never been around so many big people in my life and they were chanting "USA, USA." And a little White House advance woman named Nina Bishop came up to me and said — got this far away from me and said they want to hear their president.

It was not on the schedule. And I said is there a place he can speak from? And she said — in a microphone, she said no. I said well, can you get a bullhorn? She went to go get a bullhorn.

And I went over to — told Andy Card, and he said where could we speak? Well, between the time I'm talking to Nina and going to see Andy I turned around to find a place where the president could speak from, and literally I was standing right in front of a crushed fire truck. And on the top of it were three guys. And when I looked up one of them jumped off the back of the truck. Two guys were there. I got their attention one was a younger Latino guy then an older guy. And I said is this safe? And they said — and I said jump up and down.

They looked at me and I said jump up and down. So these two guys jumped up and down on this thing, and it looked like it was stable enough that we could have the president climb up to the top of it.

I noticed there was a piece of paving material that was on top of one of the wheel covers and I went to move it, and a cop grabbed my arm and said don't move, there may be a body part underneath.

So I went and told Andy. I said, they're going to want to hear from the president. He said where can we speak, and I said well, over here, on top of this truck. And he said you're right, let's do it. And he went and got the president. I went back. We got the bullhorn.

At this point, one of the fires had gotten off. And all that was left was this older guy, Bob Beckwith, and when the president came over Beckwith was sort of looking out to the crowd, next thing you know some guys holding up his hands and Beckwith reaches down and pulls him up and finds out — figures out it's the president standing right next to him and freaks out, and tries to climb off the truck.

And the president, to steady him up, throws his arm around him.

HANNITY: Yes.

ROVE: And a really remarkable moment.

HANNITY: All right. You even say in the book that Bush's presidency was defined by war. And specifically I want to get to that, you make a very strong defense of it in the book. You have a lot of personal tragedy in this book.

• Read a chapter from Rove's book on his college years

I was really surprised. I did not know a lot of your background until I read the book. I want to talk a little about that. We'll also get your thoughts on where the status of the health care and that debate right now.

We have much more with the architect Karl Rove coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: We continue now with the architect Karl Rove, author of the brand-new book, "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight," in which you wrote Bush's presidency was and is largely defined by war.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: I think most people knew that. One of the things you said in the book — you felt you wanted to make the case as strongly as possible, the president did not lie about weapons of mass destruction. And you felt one of your biggest failures were, you didn't go out and fight harder on the issue.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: Explain that.

ROVE: Well, July 15th, 2003 Ted Kennedy goes out and makes a speech saying Bush lied on WMD in Iraq. Later that day, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle repeats the charge at a press conference. The 16th John Kerry and John Edwards both make speeches saying Bush lied and they're joined by Congresswoman Jane Harmon who makes it a slightly more nuance version, same argument.

This is the opening shots of a Democrat war against the president on credibility over Iraq.

HANNITY: You will acknowledge in the end was somewhat successful.

ROVE: Corrosive. It was corrosive. Absolutely.

HANNITY: Absolutely. Before you finish your answer — I don't like to interrupt here. Let's show our audience a montage of the Democrats and what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THEN-SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y., OCT. 10, 2002: Intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY, D-MASS., OCT. 9, 2002: I think it would be naive to the point of grave danger, not to believe that left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge or stumble into a future more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world.

SENATOR CHRIS DODD, D-CONN., MARCH 7, 2003: I won't take a backseat to anybody and my concern about Saddam Hussein. I would support the resolution again today if it were in front of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: That proves your point.

ROVE: Well, yes, and I think you can have dozens more quotes from Democrats who — including Ted Kennedy who opposed the resolution but nonetheless went out and made a speech a couple of days later saying, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

So for these people to make this charge knowing that it was untrue is cynical and hypocritical. And I lay out the case against them. 110 Democrats voted for the authorization of the use of force against Iraq, 67 of them stood up on the floor of the Senate or the House and said, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

We acted on the basis of what we knew. There was a consensus in the intelligence community worldwide and a bipartisan consensus here at home. And so for Democrats like Kerry and Edwards, and Clinton who voted for the war to later say Bush lied, or like Kennedy who voted against it but nonetheless shared in that opinion, was deeply damaging to the country and — but also reflective of an absence of character in those people.

HANNITY: Well, it got even worse than that which was your point. And that's why seeing it from your perspective, my perspective, I couldn't believe, you know, John Kerry accusing our troops of terrorizing women and children in the dark of night, or John Murtha, who recently passed away, you know, saying they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. Or any of the many other accusations that were made.

The war is lost. The surge has failed. Harry Reid said all that.

ROVE: Right. Right.

HANNITY: From your point of view, how destructive were all those comments?

ROVE: Well, look, I distinguish between two kinds. It was enormously corrosive when they said Bush lied because they knew it was not true. I think it is wrong-headed, these other things like the surge has failed because it was clear to the American people they weren't.

But when you stood up and made those accusations about Bush and lying on the war and those accusations about the conduct in the military which were completely inaccurate, they were hurtful of our country and damaging to our system of government.

These others are policy disagreements. We can — you know, we can hold Harry Reid responsible for that but there ought to be a deeper punishment for these people who said things like John Kerry.

HANNITY: You ended up — you came how close to actually being indicted?

ROVE: The U.S. attorney and the Wilson-Plame affair told my attorney that all things be—

HANNITY: Fitzgerald.

ROVE: Fitzgerald. Told my attorney Bob Leskin that all things being equal, they were inclined to indict me and he invited my attorney to sit down with him and discuss the particulars.

HANNITY: And this was how soon before they thought — you thought at that time or your lawyer thought you were going to be indicted?

ROVE: Well, it was October — they met on October 20th, and a week later they indicted Scooter Libby. Less than a week later, five days later.

HANNITY: Yes.

ROVE: But what was amazing to me was, I was obviously deeply concerned when my attorney said I had been summoned to Chicago to meet and they are inclined to indict. But then when he called and told me about the meeting in which Fitzgerald had no concern at all about my conversation with Bob Novak. They knew who had leaked Valerie Plame's name to them.

(CROSSTALK)

ROVE: Richard Armitage — they didn't tell us that at that time. But the side issue which I described in the book was so weird and so unconnected to this and the answer was so easy to why it had occurred. When Fitzgerald finally raises it as the basis of a possible indictment to my attorney and my attorney gives him the answer, crisply and sharply, Fitzgerald's response is to say you rocked my world. And people will be surprised about what it was all about.

HANNITY: And you got all that in there but it took a big toll on your family as you talked about — the point you were leaving. Here's what I don't understand. The whole purpose of the initial investigation was to find out who the leaker was of Valerie Plame's, quote, "status."

But Fitzgerald knew from the beginning. Should he had then closed up shop right then and there? Do you think what — had a perjury trap set for Scooter Libby? Because I believe they did.

ROVE: Yes. Look, I'm not a lawyer, but it just strikes me that if you find that there's no underlying offense, that the allegation — this was referral on the basis of, was there a violation of law when Richard Armitage is the undersecretary of state, gave Valerie Plame's name and status to Robert Novak.

If there is no underlying offense, then why continue the rest of this drama? Why continue it? Because at the end of the day that was what was alleged to be the problem and that was not a problem. That turned out not to be an offense.

HANNITY: All right. You got a story where you confronted Barack Obama. We'll talk about that. You have some interesting observations about him. Pretty painful childhood. I want to talk about with you. And we'll get your thoughts on the status of the health care bill.

We'll continue more with Karl Rove.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we are back with the author of the brand-new book, "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight." The one and only, Karl Rove.

You have some nice things to say about Barack Obama and about the campaign. And you also compared it to John Lindsey's official slogan I think you did at the time, right?

ROVE: Yes. Yes. I mean he came off as a fresh and new and invigorating figure on the American political stage. A relentless centrist in the 2008 campaign.

HANNITY: Yes, but now you had a little run-in at one point with then-Senator Obama.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: About what he had quoted you as saying which you said you didn't say.

ROVE: Well, he — one day one of my aides came in, Barry Jackson, and said you know, you're in "Audacity of Hope." I said no. He said — there it was.

HANNITY: I'm in there, too, by the way.

ROVE: Yes, exactly. Once I read the book I figured out there are a lot of us that are in there inappropriately. But said that he accuses me of saying we — quote, "We are a Christian nation."

That's one thing to say that we derive much from the Judeo-Christian ethic, that we have the First Amendment protecting the free expression of religion, that we are a nation that prides its faith. But if you say we're a Christian nation what happen to the Jews? What happened to the Muslims? What happened to the Sheiks. What happened to the non-believers?

That's one of the great things about America. So I took the piece of paper, Xerox of the page and stuffed it in my pocket and forgot that Obama was coming to the White House later that day.

We shared common friends so that when he would come to the White House we'd chitchat about those common friends. And that particular day I ran into him, I was going down to get a cup of coffee. He was arriving early for the meeting so we ran into each other in the stairway and started to chitchat.

And after a few second I said hey, I understand you got me in your book. And he said, I don't think so. And I said, no, no, I think you got me in your book saying we're a Christian nation. Where'd I say that? He said, no, no, I don't have you saying that.

And I said no, no, no, you got me in there with my name, the words say, and something in quotes — they're going to think I said — Oh no, no, now I remember, but that's not the implication.

And I said really? That's not the implication of it? I pulled it out and held it up to him and he went blah, blah, blah.

I ran into him — I figured out a year later that this was still on his mind. And I tell the story how I figured that out in the book.

HANNITY: Yes.

ROVE: But what's also interesting in which I didn't confront him about that day is he then goes on to say that people like me — and he uses my name again — are reminiscent of '60s style radicals.

HANNITY: Yes. You actually answered that. You said well, the last time I checked I hadn't bombed any government building like, say, Bill Ayers or asked God to damn America and declared that I was proud of my country for the first time. So you took him on in that — responded and reacted to it.

ROVE: And what's interesting, look, it's not a big deal. But it is a sign that somebody who professes to be an apostle of a new style of politics, is not personal, and nasty and vicious, turns around and easily smears people like us.

I didn't know until the last couple of days and in 2006 he'd given a speech in which he accused me of being an anarchist. He said Karl Rove doesn't believe in government.

HANNITY: Yes.

ROVE: I mean, you know, look, at the time that he said that I was working for the government. If I didn't believe in government, what the heck am I doing working for it? I mean this is the ease in which he says things that he knows aren't true.

HANNITY: I read your book and, you know, I've interviewed you so much over the years. I learned a lot about you that I had not known. First of all, a lot of similarities. You delivered papers. I was delivering them at 8, 10, 11. I scrubbed pots and pans at a restaurant. You did. You were a waiter. I was a waiter, I was a bartender, I was a busboy —

ROVE: I didn't do the bartending. I didn't do the bartending. You got one on me.

HANNITY: I did it at 17.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: I never worked, by the way, at the cash register at a hippie shop.

ROVE: Selling patchouli oil.

(LAUGHTER)

ROVE: Yes, exactly.

HANNITY: All right.

ROVE: Well, when you have to work your way through school you do whatever you can, man.

HANNITY: Well, I never did that. But I've read that there was a lot of sadness in your childhood. I mean you talk about the good times. Your parents didn't really have a lot of money and you tell the story about your father getting you a ride on a helicopter for Christmas one year— but then your grandmother tried to commit suicide in 1974 and later in your life your mother did commit suicide.

ROVE: Yes. When I was 32. Which is really sad because my mother had had a very difficult life. She and my father separated when I was 19. And by the time she was 51, she had run out of hope and it was a very sad thing. She had —

HANNITY: How old was she?

ROVE: Fifty-one. And September 10th — they found her on September 11th, which is sort of like, you know, odd. But she'd run out of hope and so she committed suicide. And I don't feel comfortable talking about these kind of personal things. But I wrote about because people have used my mother's death and my father in order to make — in order to attack me.

And if the reputation of my parents is collateral damage to me — to these attacks then fine. And so I wanted to take this to set the record straight to give people a sense that they did love each other. They were — my father to his dying day, my mother was the love of his life.

In fact, when he was nearing death, he told me what he wanted to be done with his ashes, which was to be spread at a rock on a lake in northern Wisconsin at the family — at his family's ancestral cabin and if at all possible to have his ashes mingled with that of my mother which was a very sweet thing.

And when we were able to do it, it was a, you know, powerful moment. But people attacked them in order to get at me.

HANNITY: Yes. Well, you've been — you spent a lot of your time attacked. You even described Roe V. and politics.

ROVE: Right.

HANNITY: And there's eight way to get —

(CROSSTALK)

ROVE: Chapter Four.

HANNITY: Chapter four of the book. All right, before — I can't let you go without this health care passed? Do they pull this off?

ROVE: Today I'm saying 40 percent yes, 60 percent no. I don't want to call — it looks like a big uphill lift. They've gone from 220 votes, they've lost three Democrats who died or retired who voted for it. They're down to 217. They lost the one Republican who voted for it. Down to 216, the bare minimum. They got about a dozen Democrats who say if the pro-life provision is not in there —

HANNITY: Yes, Stupak backed off today a little. He seems like he's — I thought he'd capitulated — he's capitulating.

ROVE: Yes. Well, we'll see. And at the end of the day, you know, you sort of expect them to try and be able to get it done. But it's — you know, look, if you're a Democrat, you've got to be aware that after Massachusetts they pass this and you're in a one of those 48 districts that Bush carried or McCain carried, or one of the 83 districts that Bush or McCain carried at least once, you're in deep trouble.

HANNITY: Now you're going to be doing a multi, multi-city tour. How can people find out where you're going to be?

ROVE: Rove.com. We've got a schedule there at Rove.com of where I'm going to be and when I'm going to be but —

HANNITY: And hopefully we'll see you out on the road.

ROVE: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

HANNITY: Karl Rove, congratulations.

ROVE: Thank you.

HANNITY: Great book.

ROVE: Thank you.

HANNITY: I felt like I got inside — on the other side, lifted the veil.

ROVE: There we go. That's what I wanted to do.

HANNITY: All right. Good job, thanks.

— Watch "Hannity" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

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