Saturday, June 19, 2010
In 1969 the budding political operative was enrolled at the University of Utah and had joined the College Republicans. In 1970 he interviewed for and won the opportunity to work as a student organizer for the special election campaign of Illinois Senator Ralph Smith. It was during his mission in Illinois that Rove pulled off his first notorious dirty trick. As he recounts the story in his autobiography, an attractive young volunteer in Smith's Chicago office brought in an invitation that her Democratic parents had received for an event celebrating the opening of state treasurer candidate Alan J. Dixon's campaign headquarters. In an attempt to impress the young woman, Rove and a few of his cronies created a mock variation of the invitation with the amended copy reading "Free Beer, Free Food, Girls, and A Good Time for Nothing." With copies of the faux flyer listing the real date, time and address of the function, Rove and his team handed them out to "vagrants, homeless, and drifters and at a free rock concernt in Grant Park." The hungry have-nots showed up at Dixon's gala and the media reported on the prank, but Dixon turned the publicity to his advantage and won his race (Smith, the Senate candidate for whom Rove was working, lost his contest to Adlai Stevenson III).
Rove's involvement in the Dixon episode remained secret until 1973 when he was running for chairman of the College Republican National Committee with Lee Atwater as his campaign manager. The Washington Post reported on the incident based on tape recordings that had been leaked to them from an internal meeting (Rove is heard on the recording discussing his prank and another student is heard discussing other malfeasance). The results of the election were contested and none other George HW Bush--then the Chairman of the Republican National Committee--led a committee to review the matter. But, according to Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater, the review panel did not even consider the tape and transcript--the strongest pieces of evidence against Rove. Their rationale for setting aside the incriminating material was that the tapes could have been tampered with. A few weeks later Bush sent the victorious Rove a letter informing him that he was the duly recognized chairman. Atwater and Rove met with Bush for the very first time in Washington, D.C. shortly thereafter (upon winning, Rove had appointed Atwater to his former position--Executive Director of the College Republican National Committee) and became fast friends with both young men.
Rove would go on to help George W. Bush win the Texas governorship and the presidency twice. For his efforts he was rewarded with the nicknames Turd Blossom, Boy Genius and the Architect. He also had the honor of being allowed to "rap" at the 2007 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. For video of a younger, even less rhythmic Rove see this CBS News report from 1972. The future Turd Blossom appears at approximately the four-minute mark.