...But Rove's genius would show later, on Bush senior's election to the White House in 1988, when he co-opted the right-wing Christian Coalition — wary of Bush's lack of theocratic stridency — into the family camp.
Conservative Southern Protestantism was a constituency Bush Jr befriended and kept all the way to Washington, defining both his own political personality and the new-look Republican Party.
When Rove answered the call to come to Texas in 1978, every state office was held by a Democrat. Now, almost all of them are Republican. Every Republican campaign was run by Rove and in 1994 his client — challenging for the state governorship — was a man he knew well: George W. Bush.
'Rove and Bush came to an important strategic conclusion,' writes Lou Dubose, Rove's biographer. 'To govern on behalf of the corporate Right, they would have to appease the Christian Right.'
By the time George W. became President, Rove was the hub of a Texan wheel connecting the family, the party, the Christian Right and the energy industry. A single episode serves as metaphor: during the Enron scandal last year, a shadow was cast over Rove when it was revealed that he had sold $100,000 of Enron stock just before the firm went bankrupt.
More intriguing, however, was the fact that Rove had personally arranged for the former leader of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, to take up a consultancy at Enron — Bush's biggest single financial backer - worth between $10,000 and $20,000 a month.
Rove in theory has no role in foreign policy, but Washington insiders agree he is now as preoccupied with global affairs as he is with those at home. In a recent book, conservative staff speech writer David Frum recalls the approach of the presidency towards Islam after the attacks and criticises Bush as being 'soft on Islam' for his emphasis on a 'religion of peace'.
Rove, writes Frum, was 'drawn to a very different answer'. Islam, Rove argued, 'was one of the world's great empires' which had 'never reconciled... to the loss of power and dominion'. In response, he said, 'the United States should recognise that, although it cannot expect to be loved, it can enforce respect'.
Rove's position dovetailed with the beliefs of Paul Wolfowitz, and the axis between conservative Southern Protestantism and fervent, highly intellectual, East Coast Zionism was forged — each as zealous about their religion as the other.
In 1992, just before Bush's father was defeated by Bill Clinton, Wolfowitz wrote a blueprint to 'set the nation's direction for the next century', which is now the foreign policy of George W. Bush. Entitled 'Defence Planning Guidance', it put an onus on the Pentagon to 'establish and protect a new order' under unchallenged American authority.
The US, it said, must be sure of 'deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role' — including Germany and Japan. It contemplated the use of nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry pre-emptively, 'even in conflicts that do not directly engage US interests'.
Wolfowitz's group formalised itself into a group called Project for the New American Century, which included Cheney and another old friend, former Pentagon Under-Secretary for Policy under Reagan, Richard Perle.
In a document two years ago, the Project pondered that what was needed to assure US global power was 'some catastrophic and catalysing event, like a new Pearl Harbor'. The document had noted that 'while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides immediate justification' for intervention, 'the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein'.
And there you have the real bridge between the World Trade Center and Baghdad. Al Qaeda was not a target so much as a stepping stone.
The article synthesizes many strands of background into a coherent and short narrative — essential if you're just tuning in and want to catch up on the last twenty years of Dubyology in a brief 1,600 words.