Transcript: Karl Rove Interview

ROVE: I hope not … After coming into the Oval Office, which is generally just after 6:00 in the morning, he reads the overnight assessment of the threats made against our country and our people, a document called The Threat Assessment and then generally talks to Andy Card, the chief of staff; Condi Rice, the national security adviser; Fran Townsend, the homeland security advisor; the director of the FBI; the director of the CIA; and generally the secretary of state; the secretary of defense; and the vice president is somewhere in there, and that's generally how he starts his day.

JENNINGS: Where are all these stories coming from now that he is in essence, if not micromanaging the campaign, interested in every, every level of it?

ROVE: Yeah. I'm not sure if that's accurate. I mean, he's interested in the big things in the campaign obviously, and he wants to know that there is a plan and that the money being raised is being properly spent in a plan that somebody's thought out and people have approved. But, he's president of the United States. He's concerned about where he's going and what the campaign is saying and doing. But he is the last person to micromanage. Remember, he's the first president who has an M.B.A., has a Harvard M.B.A., and he is a master of management.

Winning the War on Terror?

JENNINGS: The president said the other day that it may not be possible to win unequivocally, unambiguously the war against terrorism. What's wrong with saying that?

ROVE: Well, I'm not sure that that's what he said. What he said was, as I take it, and what I know he believes — we'll prevail in this war. We're winning this war on terror, but it's not like, you know, this Thursday is, I think, the 59th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific, and we've all seen those photographs of the deck of the USS Missouri and the Japanese officials and the American officials signing a peace treaty and in terms of surrender. This is a different kind of war — different enemy, not an enemy who represents a nation state with a capital and people and assets, but a terrorist network. And we're going to know that we have won the war when we've utterly destroyed the network and discouraged anybody from taking up the cause.

JENNINGS: But what I'm trying to get at is the president said to [NBC's] Matt Lauer he doesn't think it's possible to win it absolutely, and the Democrats jumped all over him, and today he's gone over like nobody's business four or five times saying, "We will win it."

ROVE: No, he's always said, "We will win this war." What he has said is that we may never know the moment at which we win the war. We will know it only in retrospect. We will look back and say, "This is when we broke their back. This is when the cause of freedom was sustained, and this was the moment." We'll only know that in retrospect, particularly since, remember, he views this as two issues. One issue is the destruction of the network, and the other is the creation of what he calls the forward march of liberty or freedom. We need to spread democracy to the Mideast. If we want this region to be peaceful and hopeful and not a source of continuing trauma and threat to the West and to the United States, then we need to have democratic institutions and democratic societies come into being.

JENNINGS: What do you think the definition is "to win the war on terrorism?" What does it actually mean?

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