By MATT CANHAM and THOMAS BURR
Salt Lake Tribune
November 08, 2005
In the 1992 letter to the die-hard Democrat, Rove wrote, "My career has been to fight for causes and candidates I'm certain you disapprove of, but I am equally confident that you approve of my being in the fight." Rove, who considers Williams to be one of his first political mentors, may have been a little overly confident.
Williams believes President Bush's top adviser and famed GOP mastermind failed to grasp one of the two key lessons he was taught at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
One: Participate in politics. Two: Do so in a decent and honorable way.
"Karl Rove magnificently fulfilled the first goal," Williams says. "He never learned the second part of the message."
If true, that would explain why Rove is in the biggest crisis of his long political career. A federal investigation continues to focus on Rove's possible role in unmasking a covert CIA agent. Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, has been indicted on charges related to the incident, and in the coming weeks, Rove could be charged as well. Or he could be exonerated and continue to serve as the most powerful political strategist in the nation.
Rove was born in Colorado, but his father's job as a geologist forced them to move periodically. The Roves spent a few years in Nevada and then came to Holladay, Utah, where Rove enrolled at Olympus High School as a sophomore.
Already showing a great interest in history and politics, Rove was first spurred to participate in politics by the late Eldon Tolman, an Olympus High civics teacher.
"He was a wonderful person, a huge person in my life, despite the fact we didn't agree on a thing politically," Rove said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune before Bush became president. "In Eldon's political science class he turned to me and said: 'Mr. Rove, it will be easy for you to get an A in this class, but to get an A you must join a party. I care not which.' "
In response, Rove volunteered for the re-election campaign of the late U.S. Sen. Wallace Bennett, whose son, Bob Bennett, is now a senator and, reportedly, a member of the network Rove checks with regularly.
Rove's political activism permeated his classes and social activities, too.
"(Whether) munching Oreos or politicking, Mr. Karl Rove was a man of the people," proclaims his 1969 yearbook. "He put the Olympian (student body) Senate into motion with his characteristically well-versed arguments and witty comments."
Classmate Robyn Seldin described Rove as "thin. He wore black-rimmed glasses. He was sort of the intellectual geek, so to speak."
The reputation as an "intellectual geek" followed Rove to the University of Utah, where he worked as an intern in the state Republican Party.
"He was constantly on the phone," recalls Seldin's husband, Charlie, a fraternity brother, and Rove wasn't talking to girlfriends, either. While other classmates were trying to get out of the draft, or protesting the Vietnam War, Rove was organizing causes in support of the Nixon government.
Rove spent only two years in college before embarking on what turned into a famed political career. He never obtained a bachelor's degree.
During his college years, Rove spent much of his time at the Hinckley Institute, where Williams served as the director.
"He was simply gung-ho," Williams says. "Of the 300 interns my staff and I worked with, Karl would be one of the two most turned-on students that we saw." Williams could not recall the name of the other "turned on" scholar.
Rove professes fond feelings for Williams, whom he previously called "a wonderful man" and "the big man on campus."
And Williams is impressed with Rove's drive, intellect and passion, if not his methods.
"The issue that has permeated his whole career has been his ethical standards in his use of political power," Williams says.
Williams laments Rove's role in pushing "the family values campaign," faith-based initiatives and the Iraq invasion.
On Iraq, Williams says: "Part of Karl's motive, I believe, was to paint the Democratic Party as not committed to the security of the United States. I regard that as mean politics."
And Williams says he is "certain" that Rove played a vital role in outing the covert CIA agent Valerie Plame as retribution for criticism of the White House by her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Rove remains under investigation for his role in the leak.
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