KEEP ON TALKING, KARL…. Three of the least respected, least admired figures in contemporary American politics are Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove. If Democratic leaders had their way, these three would be up front and center as much as possible. Especially as far as the White House is concerned, the more three on the attack, the better President Obama and his team look.

And wouldn’t you know it, in these early months of the Obama presidency, it’s working out pretty well.

Limbaugh has strengthened his reputation as the de facto leader of the party; Dick Cheney is annoying Republicans by making so many public appearances and taking cheap shots at the nation’s leadership; and Karl Rove is arguably an even more rabid attack dog now than he was when he helped run the White House.

For eight years, George W. Bush had a White House political and public relations machine to defend his legacy and lash his rivals. Now that Bush is out of office, the same man is still leading the charge: Karl Rove.

The onetime chief political adviser to the 43rd president has emerged as the most frequent critic of the 44th. In a weekly newspaper column and appearances as a Fox News analyst, Rove offers sometimes-caustic assessments of President Obama and his administration.

“Caustic” is an understatement. Rove has been doing exactly what one would expect him to do — attacking Democrats without regard for facts, decency, or reality. Rove, after years of practicing the art of character assassination, has a singular focus: destroy.

That, however, is the predictable part. He is, after all, Karl Rove. The more interesting angle to this is that Republicans have clearly picked the wrong guy to lead the charge in trying to tear down the president.

Rove not only represents the Republicans’ past, he also represents failure and sleaze. Americans have seen Rove, seen how he poisons politics, and found it repulsive. The more Rove presents himself as the establishment’s go-to hatchet-man, the more it reinforces the notion that the broader political fight boils down to Obama’s approach vs. the Bush/Cheney/Rove approach.

And this, of course, suits the White House just fine.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.