From Bad to Worse

A Karl Rove timeline

From the time he was 10 years old, Karl Rove, Bush's closest and most important political adviser, has made a specialty of dirty tricks. If Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame turn out to be anything but just another weird turn in Rove's career, that would be real news. Here is the barest of chronologies of Rove's career, compiled from various sources:

Christmas Day, 1950: Karl Rove is born in Denver, Colorado. His father, Louis Rove, is a mineral geologist, and his mother, Reba Wood, is a gift shop manager.

1960: At age 10, he becomes a Republican, supporting Nixon in the race he loses to John F. Kennedy. A meanie girl who's a Kennedy supporter beats him up.

1964: Lyndon B. Johnson buries Barry Goldwater in a landslide, and the GOP is at its lowest ebb. Humiliated young Republicans vow, "Never again!" and the New Right sets out on the long road to taking over the government. Goldwater inspires Rove to become a laissez-faire libertarian. But Rove soon leaves the Ayn Rand crowd and joins the conservative crusade.

1965: A card-carrying nerd, Rove arrives at Salt Lake City's Olympus High School in a jacket and tie, toting a briefcase. Wins notoriety as high school debater by bringing boxes of blank index cards to tournaments as a means of intimidating opponents.

Fall 1969: Rove enrolls at University of Utah, some say to avoid the draft. Later attends the University of Texas and George Mason University. Never gets a degree from any of them.

Christmas 1969: Man thought to be Rove's father walks out on his mother, but—surprise!—relatives tell Rove the guy's not his real father.

Fall 1970: Rove pays visit to Chicago campaign headquarters of Alan Dixon, a Democrat running for state treasurer. Disguised as a volunteer, Rove steals official campaign letterhead and sends out 1,000 invitations to people in the city's red-light district and soup kitchens, offering "free beer, free food, girls, and a good time for nothing" at Dixon headquarters. When hundreds of homeless and alcoholic Chicagoans show up at a fancy Dixon reception, Rove succeeds in embarrassing the candidate. Dixon wins anyway.

1971: Drops out of college to devote full time to College Republicans, where he becomes protégé of dirty trickster Lee Atwater, group's Southern regional coordinator. Rove becomes executive director, then national chairman.

1972: Under mentorship of dirty trickster Donald Segretti (who later went to jail for Watergate), Rove paints McGovern as "left-wing peacenik"—despite McGovern's World War II stint piloting a B-24. Rove also works as staff assistant to George H.W. Bush, then chairman of Republican National Committee (RNC).

1973: Rove introduces Atwater to Bush the Elder. Atwater later becomes "political attack dog" for the Reagan-Bush team, helps Bush become president, himself becomes RNC chairman, is struck by a brain tumor, and dies.

August 10, 1973: The WashingtonPostsays it received tape of Rove telling about some of his "dirty tricks." Rove is rumored to have participated in "dumpster-diving" (looking through opponents' trash for information to be used against them), crimes such as identity theft, petty larceny, and campaign fraud, and tours to teach College Republicans to perform these tricks.

November 1973: Rove first meets George W. Bush when the elder Bush asks Rove to deliver a set of car keys to the younger Bush. Rove later recalls his initial impression: "Huge amounts of charisma, swagger, cowboy boots, flight jacket, wonderful smile, just charisma—you know, wow."

1976: Rove marries Houston socialite Valerie Wainwright.

1977-79: Rove starts raising money for George H.W. Bush's eventual presidential campaign, begins advising George W. Bush in his unsuccessful congressional bid, and, as a Texan political consultant put it, has to "baby-sit Bush back when [he] was drinking."

1979: Wainwright divorces Rove.

1981: Rove's mother commits suicide. Rove forms direct-mail firm, Rove & Co., to back Republican candidates.

1982: Texas Republicans suffer heavy election losses. Rove uses opportunity to develop campaign strategies targeting suburbs.

1984: Rove helps ex-Democrat Phil Gramm win Senate seat as Republican.

1986: Rove marries Darby Hickson, a graphic designer for his company. Advises Bill Clement in his tight but successful Texas gubernatorial race.

1988: Rove hits on "tort reform" as winning issue for Republicans. His candidates win five out of six open seats on the Texas Supreme Court.

1994: Becomes political adviser to George W. Bush in his race against incumbent governor Ann Richards, aided by $1 million pumped into the race. Rove dreams up idea of staging calls to voters from supposed pollsters who ask such things as whether people would be "more or less likely to vote for Governor Richards if [they] knew her staff is dominated by lesbians."

2000: Rove is at heart of Bush's vicious smear job on John McCain in South Carolina primary: Thinly disguised Bush surrogates claim McCain was a stoolie while a POW. Rove also credited with spreading rumor that McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter is black and illegitimate and his wife a drug addict.

2000: Rove is required to sell his Enron stock before Bush takes office. Reportedly still holds between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares when appointed.

2001: Rove launches "72-Hour Task Force" aimed at evangelicals, Hispanics, Catholics, and other faith-based groups.

June 2002: A PowerPoint presentation Rove created to explain strategies for 2002 and 2004 elections is found without explanation in Lafayette Park. The presentation portrays war on terror as an important issue throughout the upcoming campaigns.

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