Monday, February 25, 2013

Karl Rove's War on the GOP's Lunatic Base

Make no mistake.  I loath Karl Rove, not the least because he used anti-gay marriage hysteria to turn out the haters in 2004 to secure the reelection of George W. Bush and the horrible Dick Cheney.  But I do have to admit that I am savoring Rove's new declared war on the very lunatics that he helped empower nearly a decade ago out of what was short term expediency with no thought to the long term effects of rallying the Christofascists and allowing them to take over the GOP.  Rove helped crerate the GOP's Frankenstein Monster and now he is trying to kill it.  It will make for entertaining spectator sport.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the Rove's effort to use the equivalent of radiation and chemo therapy to rid the GOP of the cancer he helped metastasize.  Here are some column highlights:

What in the hell was Karl Rove thinking? This has been the question on the minds of many political observers since the Republican super-strategist opened up a nasty new front in the ongoing civil war between his party’s purists and its pragmatists.

The storm broke February 6, when Rove, via the front page of The New York Times, debuted his newest venture, the Conservative Victory Project: an aggressive battle plan for the midterms that involves his super PAC, American Crossroads, intervening in the GOP primaries to try to ensure that the strongest, most electable candidates—not necessarily the most ideologically pristine ones—prevail.
The plan itself seems sound. The widespread sense among Republicans is that the party blew an opportunity to retake the Senate last year as a result of several not-ready-for-primetime candidates—Todd “legitimate rape” Akin being the most notable—winning primaries.

Unsurprisingly, however, the purist wing takes exception to all the finger pointing in its direction. And following the unveiling of Rove’s project, it went ballistic. Tea Party types, as well as conservative radio hosts like Mark Levin and Steve Deace, lined up to take their swings at Rove for plotting to marginalize conservatives and, as a seriously miffed Deace told me, “rubbing our noses in it publicly.” In The New York fricking Times, no less! “There will be no fixing this,” asserted Deace. “The civil war has been brewing in this party” for a couple of years now, he said, and people are operating with “short fuses.” “What Karl is providing is a face to our frustration.”
As the Karl-versus-conservatives story line took hold, Rove launched a Fox News apology tour, hopping from show to show, explaining to Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Chris Wallace how his plan had been misconstrued, how he had nothing against hard-core conservatives

Many Republicans, meanwhile, clucked their tongues and marveled at why Rove had chosen to kick the hornet’s nest. As some strategists noted (mostly sotto voce), there are things in politics that you sometimes have to do but that you simply do not talk about. Mucking around in primaries is one of those things. Don’t announce it, just do it—and for God’s sake tread lightly, taking great care to work with local leaders and play nice with everyone.  .  .  .  .  By so indelicately trumpeting his plans, Rove seemed to violate this basic precept. With just a bit more tact, political watchers note, he could have avoided this whole nasty fight.

But what if, for Rove, the fight was key to the strategy?  Arguably no Republican had a deeper post-election hole to climb out of than Rove. His personal brand was badly damaged by his triumphal forecasts last cycle, including an embarrassing election night that found him on Fox News disputing the network’s decision to call the race for President Obama. More materially, American Crossroads and its sister organization, Crossroads GPS, failed to deliver. Big time.

Post-election, big Republican donors have been demanding answers as a condition of future support for various groups—and players in the money game report that there has been barking, profanity, and not-so-veiled threats.  .  .  .  .  .    Rove’s donors were no exception to this trend, meaning he needed to do something to unruffle their feathers. Fast. “This is all about the donors,” says another veteran strategist. And what better way to make a statement to donors than to formulate a brand-new strategy and splash it across the front page of the paper of record? Message: lessons learned. Course correction set.

As for the backlash among purists, some political watchers assume this too is all part of the larger plan. How better to reassure anxious donors that their distaste for Akin-like candidates is shared than to poke a stick in the eye of the party’s anti-establishment forces—and, for good measure, to do so in the newspaper that symbolizes all that hard-core conservatives despise?
Deace and his team have, in fact, vowed to make Rove pay for his insults. “Anybody that he supports is toast,” says Deace. “Anybody Rove is attached to will get a scarlet letter. At this point a candidate would be better off getting Barack Obama’s endorsement than Karl Rove’s.”   Already the Iowa Senate race is shaping up to be an early test of this grudge match.

Of course, Rove isn’t the only one poised to benefit from this spectacle. Even as he pokes purists in an apparent effort to jumpstart his 2014 money machine, the purists are looking to fill their coffers by poking back. “They need their shiny ball strategy too,” observes the veteran strategist. “Everybody is trying to raise money.” And just like Rove, these groups play rough—at times a little too rough. Last week the Tea Party Patriots had to issue an apology for a help-us-fight-Karl-Rove fundraising plea that included a Photoshopped image of their target dressed as an SS officer.

You know it’s been a rough run when members of your own party start comparing you with Nazis. But don’t feel too sorry for Karl—or for those at war with him. As long as the dollars keep flowing in, both sides can walk away from this skirmish feeling like winners.

I hope this all turns into a blood sport with both sides seriously wounding each other.

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