Young Karl Rove Understood the Power of ‘Babes,’ Color-Coded Index Cards

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The nose looks fine, honestly. Photo: Getty Images

Yes, Karl Rove once got a bloody nose from a girl in his neighborhood because of the Nixon sticker on his bicycle basket. And in the most recent excerpt from his memoir, Courage and Consequence, we see why he was so easy to pick on. He was a quirky little guy!

He found a like-minded group of peers on the debate team — "his tribe" — and learned to use research, color-coding, and references to esoteric political figures to crush his opponents.


For example, we were obsessive about preparation. We wanted better research and more of it than any of our competitors (a habit I still have to this day). We spent a small fortune on 4-by-6-inch cards on which we wrote our information in precise block lettering or typed it with a small manual typewriter we had scored at a secondhand sale. We then meticulously arranged the cards in giant boxes behind dividers that made possible the quick recovery of facts, quotes and authorities. I developed an elaborate color scheme to help us pluck just the right card at that special moment to confound the opposing pair of debaters.

His campaign for student assembly was also beyond sophisticated, which in high school means that he used jocks and “babes” to win the election.


As my name was announced over the sound system, we fired up a VW convertible, flung open the gym doors, and drove the bright Bug into the packed arena with a basketball hero in the front seat behind the wheel and me in the back waving to the crowd, flanked by two attractive girls ... a VW driving across the gym with the nerd in the back between two babes brought the students to their feet cheering and laughing and made my remarks almost unnecessary. I won.

To review: sticker on his bicycle basket, elaborate color schemes, and hot, platonic girl friends. We’re thinking it, but we won’t say it. Sorry you got beat up, Karl.

The Girl Who Beat Up Rove [WSJ]