The Rove Warrior

No adviser has ever dominated the White House like Karl Rove. So what does the President see in him, and what's he planning to do next?

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The most sinister theories have it that Rove even injects his political calculations into global affairs. After he advised G.O.P. candidates in 2002 to emphasize the new war on terrorism in their campaigns, the New York Times reported that a friend of Colin Powell's teased the Secretary of State, "Who runs foreign policyyou or Rove?"

That he has so many roles fits the personality of the consummate multitasker. Rove keeps two computers in his office: a PC for government work and a Mac (his preference) for politics and his book-ordering addiction. His BlackBerry has every appearance of being surgically attached to his hand, and he uses color-coded folders to keep track of his business with those who orbit in his universe. The blue one marked POTUS goes home with Rove on Friday because he knows he will talk to Bush several times over the weekend.

That's probably why he arrives at 7 a.m. each Monday with a new list of things to do after he puts in for a breakfast of creamed chipped beef from the White House mess. Rove returns from presidential trips loaded with paper scraps noting which county Republican chairmen are expecting an autographed photo. He pores over the White House Christmas party's invitation list to make sure no swing-state legislator who has been helpful (or could be) has been missed. What has a habit of falling by the wayside is his twice-a-week appointment with the personal trainer he shares with Budget Director Josh Bolten at the gym in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

All those around, including the President, are sensitive to the often repeated tagline that Rove is "Bush's brain." They are happy to let it be known that the President will cut off one of Rove's bombasts with a curt "Thank you for that brilliant idea" and that when Bush is feeling cranky or overscheduled, Rove is the one who gets yelled at. When the National Journal put Rove on its cover two years ago, Vice President Dick Cheney told one of its writers, Carl Cannon, that such star treatment by the serious weekly was "grossly excessive." Ask someone who has seen the dynamic between Bush and Rove to describe it, and the answer always comes back the same. "Karl is incredibly deferential," says outgoing G.O.P. chairman Ed Gillespie. "It's a friendly relationship but a subservient one."

The next thing Bush insiders invariably point out is that Rove is part of an ensemble cast--the most cohesive and tightly disciplined one in memory. Rove has "an encyclopedic mind, and he thinks several steps ahead of anyone else," says counselor Karen Hughes. "He is the strategist, but there are other important parts of the President's team as well."

What makes the pairing of the President and the Architect so intriguing is its allegorical possibilities--the instinctual politician and the political technocrat; the pedigreed C student with degrees from Yale and Harvard and the middle-class intellectual who attended five colleges but never managed to graduate; the self-assured firstborn son whose family turned its humming functionality into a brand and the second son of a broken home that kept its secrets from the children.

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