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Rove admits to error on Iraq as Bush strategist

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 2:32pm

NEW YORK - Republican strategist Karl Rove says in a new memoir that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq badly damaged the Bush administration's credibility and led to dwindling public support for the war.

The former White House political adviser blames himself for not pushing back against claims that President George W. Bush had taken the country to war under false pretenses, calling it one of the worst mistakes he made during the Bush presidency. The president, he adds, did not knowingly mislead the American public about the existence of such weapons.

In "Courage and Consequence," Rove argues that history will look favorably on Bush's two-term presidency, particularly his decision to invade Iraq. He calls the 2003 invasion the most consequential act of the Bush presidency and a justifiable response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, even though al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, not Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, were responsible.

In the run-up to the war, Bush and his national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney, attempted to link Saddam to the attacks as a way to build support for the invasion.

"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 depicts Bush as a courageous and resolute leader whose conduct in office was forever shaped by the Sept. 11 attacks. He calls Bush's achievements over two terms "impressive, durable and significant" and says many of the controversies that weakened his presidency were falsehoods perpetuated by political opponents.

Rove staunchly defends Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated states along the Gulf of Mexico in September 2005. Bush came under withering criticism for the federal government's response to the crisis; his memorable praise for FEMA administrator Michael Brown - "Heck of a job, Brownie" - was fodder for those who said it revealed the administration's detachment and incompetence.

In the book, Rove blames state and local officials for botching recovery efforts, particularly Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, both Democrats.

He also has sharp words for President Barack Obama, calling him a stereotypical Chicago politician who plays fast and loose with the facts.

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