Rove is not a genius, or even very clever: He's totally and completely immoral. It doesn't take genius to claim, as Rove ludicrously did last fall, that it was the Democrats in Congress and not George W. Bush who pushed the Iraq War resolution in 2002. It doesn't take brains to compare a triple-amputee war veteran to Osama bin Laden; you just have to be a mean, rotten cocksucker.
The reason Rove continues to survive is the same reason that Johnnie Cochran was called a genius for keeping a double-murderer on the golf course — because this generation of Americans has become so steeped in greed and social Darwinism that it can no longer distinguish between cheating and achieving, between enterprise and crime, and can't bring itself to criticize winners any more than it knows how to be nice to losers. He survives because an increasing number of Americans secretly agree with Rove's vision of rules, laws and "the truth" as quaint, faintly embarrassing rituals that only a sucker would let hold him back.
Rove's comeback is evidence that the attack on our civic institutions in the Bush years wasn't an isolated incident, something we can pin on a specific group of now-deposed politicians. It's a trend, a thing that grows in direct proportion to our greed and ignorance. We may be a country at war, facing one of the greatest financial meltdowns of all time. But in the end, the thing that could be our undoing is the kind of generalized boredom with legality and honor that empowers Rovian behavior. If we let it.