I can see Karl Rove standing outside the restaurant, on the phone, yakking, pacing, occasionally peering at me through the etched-glass window and sticking a stubby finger in the air to indicate that he'll just be just one more minute.
Eighteen minutes pass. He enters brusquely, with apologies and a crack about my "bright red purse" but also with the clear message that he is in control. Uncomfortable in this position, somewhat wary, constantly checking his watch ("Gotta go soon.… Gotta go.… Couple more minutes.…"), not diggin' it, but always in control.
Karl Rove is not a guy who kicks back with a drink -- even coffee's a stretch ("I'm a decaf guy," he says) -- and shoots the s- - - for a few hours.
This isn't about a charm offensive -- he gives the impression that he's not even sure why he's doing this. But: To be with Rove is to listen to a man who is utterly articulate and insightful and at the same time utterly...what's the word? Plain? Normal? Caucasian?
If you didn't know he used to be Bush''s Brain, if you didn't know he is widely credited/blamed with leading the Republican Party to an era of total world domination, if you didn't recognize him (as numerous gawkers inside the Muse hotel restaurant do) as the man W. famously dubbed "Turd Blossom," you'd think he was a middle-management sales lackey in town to sell Ginsu knives or something.
The nondescript gray suit and overcoat, the geeky glasses and bald-on-the-top-with-peach-fuzz do, the briefcase (in middle school, he was the only kid with a briefcase, which pretty much sums it up). In what ways is he cool? We can't help but ask.
"None," he says. "I am the antithesis of cool."
We should also point out that Rove is exceedingly polite and well-mannered and, at moments, as prickly as the little cactuses on his tie. He has the demeanor of a man who had more power than he'll ever admit but is never really far from the 9-year-old who once got into a schoolyard fight over Richard Nixon, and lost. To a girl.
Karl Rove: Sorry to be late. I have a lunch with the Big Boss shortly.
GQ: The Big Boss? Mr. Murdoch.
Ah, that big boss. Does that mean you'll be getting more money out of Fox? No, it doesn't.
Do you like being a TV analyst? Uh, it's odd. You know, it's weird for me. But it's interesting.
Do you think Fox News is fair and balanced? I do. I think they go out of their way to be fair and tough in questioning. I'm really impressed with the people I've gotten to know. Brit Hume is a very bright person; Chris Wallace has got a lot of integrity.
You also sold a book recently. I did.
What'd ya get? A lot.
And you're doing speeches, too, right? I read that you just gave one at Penn -- I like speaking to the college campuses.
And the first question, someone called you a cancer. Right. Oh, sure.
You must get that all the time. Uh, I get it some. When I go to campuses. But did you hear what I did? I just let him rant. And when he was finished, he had no question, he just wanted to accuse me of undermining the Constitution and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. And I said, "Thanks for your thoughtful rant." And he sat down. And I said, "Now do you feel better about yourself?" And he said, "Yeah." And I said, "Well, I want you to feel better about yourself." And everybody laughed, and we went on.
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