Blood was spilled three weeks ago when Christine O’Donnell beat centrist Republican Mike Castle in Delaware’s GOP primary. Long suspicious of the Tea Party challenge to Republican regulars, former Bush advisor and current FOX News contributor Karl Rove attacked O’Donnell as someone who says a lot of “nutty things” and whose background raises “serious questions.” According to Rove, the politically naive and dangerously eccentric O’Donnell jeopardizes November’s expected GOP takeover.
Rove was repeating with emphasis what National Review, Charles Krauthammer, and The Wall Street Journal had already suggested: The GOP should not venture too far from the center in capitalizing on popular anger against the Obama Administration. These “moderates” were ecstatically high on the Bush Administration before it fell apart. What they wish for is a more successful second act for Bush Two, a Republican government that would favor corporate interests while pursuing a liberal internationalist foreign policy.
Properly instructed conservatives gush over Rove’s conservative credentials when they’re not talking about his strategic brilliance. Rush Limbaugh, who has featured him on his broadcast repeatedly, has praised Rove’s presumed principled conservatism.
On September 15, Bill O’Reilly tried to get Sarah Palin to admit that “Rove is every bit as conservative as you and Christine O’Donnell.” O’Reilly also tried to coax Palin into conceding that Rove was right that Delaware’s GOP voters should have backed the “moderate conservative Castle,” not the “unpredictable O’Donnell.” O’Reilly then dwelled on Rove’s experience as a GOP strategist. He made it seem shameful that one would dare question any of this.
To put it bluntly, there is no evidence that Rove is a resourceful electoral strategist or a conservative of any kind. Those who talk him up can’t seem to turn their backs on the Bush Administration or on the fumbling president Rove advised. These enthusiasts view the Bush presidency as a paradise lost and Rove as part of those glory years.
Most of his work as an electoral advisor was for centrist Republicans such as Dick Thornburgh in Pennsylvania, Rick Perry in Texas, and George W. Bush—first in Texas and then in two presidential runs. Rove has worked as a party operative since the 1970s; during Reagan’s 1980 campaign, he organized campaign-leaflet distribution.
But Rove has never stood for a right-wing ideology. In fact, his primary role as Bush’s advisor was to get the GOP to reach out to minorities via subprime loans for Hispanics. He also worked to naturalize illegals and supported Affirmative Action programs targeted at Hispanics.
In 2006 Rove designed campaign literature that was distributed throughout the South, comparing Bush’s insistence on remaining in Iraq with the imposition of Reconstruction on the defeated Confederacy. Since Republicans in the South are almost entirely white, Rove’s language might have been better considered. On the positive side, he was and is effective in going after money from corporations, most recently through his fundraising organization American Crossroads. But that hardly qualifies Rove as a right-winger. The Clintons and Obama have been equally good at soliciting money from the rich.
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