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Senior adviser says Bush is same person as before Sept. 11

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While polls show President Bush's popularity has leapt since the terrorist attacks three months ago, his senior adviser Karl Rove maintains that Bush has not changed as a leader -- that he's "exactly who he was before September 11th."

"When Andy Card went in and told the president that the second plane had flown into the World Trade Center, there was a lot of fog of war and confusion. The president came walking into the room and took one look at the television set and said, 'We're at war, get me the vice-president, get me the director of the FBI,'" Rove told reporters at the American Enterprise Institute Tuesday.

"The great moments require great things of people and he's exactly who he was before September 11th, just called to this moment, and people either do or they don't."

Rove spoke at an AEI program called "The Bush Presidency: Transition and Transformation," which brought together many of the Washington press corps elite to discuss the presidential campaign and Bush's first year in office.

Asked how Bush plans on spending his new-found political capital, Rove responded, "There are various things plotting and thinking about that at the White House. People don't vote retrospectively. That's why presidents don't fare so well in the aftermath of war."

According to Rove, early on during the campaign for the presidency, Bush and his advisers realized they needed to change the image of the Republican Party to be successful.

"Our hope was to move the party, and to move the party on important issues, to not simply accept the Congress as it was and the image of the Republican Party as it existed but to change. And that's why we spent an extraordinary amount of time talking about education."

But, Rove admitted, the strategy drove away some of the Republican core constituency, namely self-identified white evangelical Protestants, Pentecostals and fundamentalists, which in turn contributed to last year's election debacle.

When asked what Bush's biggest surprise was when assuming the presidency Rove replied, e-mail.

Bush, Rove explained, was used to simply and efficiently handling minor correspondence on his own; now every correspondence is a matter of presidential record and must be officially archived.


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