Hindsight is 20-20, but Karl Rove's agenda was bound to fail. David Frum explains:
It was a politics that aimed at winning elections. It was a politics that treated the problems of governance as secondary.
Moreover, Rovian governance itself contained a fatal flaw, which Joshua Green pinpoints with libertarian precision:
As Mr. Rove sought a political realignment that would create a durable Republican majority, he seized on government as his chief mechanism. He tried to realign American politics principally through the pursuit of major initiatives that he believed would reorient a majority of Americans to the Republican Party. . . .
Mr. Rove’s entire vision for Republican realignment was premised on the notion that he could command government to produce the specific effects that he desired. But as a conservative could have predicted, his proposed policies unleashed a series of failures and unintended consequences. . . .
Mr. Rove married a liberal’s faith in the potential of government to a conservative’s contempt for its actual functioning. This was the contradiction at the heart of “compassionate conservatism.”
Green has profiled Rove twice for the Atlantic, once in 2004, and again this month.
More on Rove's big-government conservatism here.
Jonathan Martin reprints Rove's exit e-mail to colleagues here.
Update (8/23/07): On the other hand, as the Economist recently noted, Rove gave the conservative movement what it wanted:
the invasion of Iraq for the neoconservatives (who had championed it long before September 11th); tax cuts for business and the small-government conservatives; restricting federal funding for stem-cell research for the social conservatives; and conservative judges to please every faction.