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Rove’s White House Role Expands Into Policy

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Times Staff Writer

White House advisor Karl Rove, described by President Bush as the architect of his reelection last year, will have an expanded second-term role in policymaking as he seeks to build a lasting Republican majority.

The White House announced Tuesday that, in addition to his job as Bush’s chief political strategist, Rove will become deputy chief of staff -- giving him new power over policy councils that advise Bush on national security, economics and the environment.

Rove’s role on foreign policy issues would be “limited,” White House officials said.

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“He is one of the president’s most trusted advisors, who has played an integral role in the strategy and policy development for a long time,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “So now he has a more expanded role.”

McClellan said Rove, 54, would “coordinate” the National Security Council, the National Economic Council and other advisory panels to ensure that their ideas were “complementary.”

But Democrats, who have accused Rove of orchestrating political trickery both in his days as a GOP operative in Texas and in Bush’s national campaigns, were quick to criticize the appointment.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe called Rove an “ideological strategist” and said that expanding his duties “shows that Bush cares more about political positioning than honest policy discussions.”

“Bush knows that Rove is neither an economic nor a national security expert,” McAuliffe said.

Dubbed “Bush’s brain” by one biographer, Rove has emerged as a high-profile and controversial figure since the 2000 campaign -- a strategist who has been criticized for politicizing policymaking in executive branch agencies.

Democrats accused him of presenting a slide show on political strategy to federal agency managers in the months before the 2002 midterm elections. That slide presentation said GOP candidates should focus on the war on terrorism to score political points -- a position that drew scorn from Democrats.

In 2004, Rove was credited with boosting turnout among the Republican base through an unprecedented grass-roots approach built on high-tech databases and voter targeting. The party also increased its share of the vote among African Americans, Latinos, women and Jews.

Now, GOP strategists say, Rove is focused on a “realignment” strategy built on second-term policy initiatives that are designed in part to lure new voters to the Republican fold -- a goal that could be aided by his new job title.

Rove becomes one of the most influential advisors to serve a president. Experts said it was unusual for any White House aide other than the chief of staff to straddle the worlds of politics and domestic and foreign policy.

“This now puts Rove not necessarily in the king’s seat, but on stage with the king,” said Lawrence R. Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political scientist who has written books on the executive branch.

“This move formalizes and solidifies the preeminence of Karl Rove as the political architect not only of the campaign but of the presidency, and it represents the centralization of political control in the administration in the very highest echelons of the White House.”

One former Republican White House staffer, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of discussing Rove, called Rove’s new job “the mother of all portfolios.”

“I hope he likes going to meetings,” the former aide joked.

William B. Lacy, White House political director under President Reagan and now director of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, said that Rove had amassed a rare degree of influence -- particularly given that he did not hold the chief of staff title.

But, Lacy said, now that Bush plans to run a campaign-style operation promoting his plans to transform Social Security and other programs during the next four years, the decision makes sense.

“There’s nobody better than Karl to coordinate that and develop a strategy for it on these big policy issues,” Lacy said.


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