Political Animal


February 11, 2013 2:47 PM Who’s Afraid of Karl Rove?

By Ed Kilgore

In all the commentary over Karl Rove’s announced intention of making his American Crossroads outfit a big crazy-crushing player in Republican primaries in 2014, I’ve mainly confined myself to criticizing the planted axioms that Rove and the candidates he is likely to support are “moderates,” or that his wars of words with Tea Types represent some actual ideological (as opposed to strategic/tactical) division in the GOP.

But like a lot of observers, I am beginning to wonder what Rove was thinking about in undertaking this initiative, and particularly in making it so loud-and-proud. He is not what you’d call a beloved figure in conservative politics, having (a) authored most of the Bush administration policy initiatives more recently denounced as “betrayals of conservative principle,” and (b) raised and spent an awful lot of money in 2012 without particularly impressive results.

On the very face of it, Rove’s primaries initiative doesn’t make a great deal of sense in that money has rarely been the main shortcoming of the kind of candidates his group will apparently be backing, as 538’s Nate Silver convincingly demonstrates today. And even if in theory some quiet last-minute money could help an “establishment” candidate survive a challenge from tomorrow’s Christine O’Donnells or Richard Mourdocks, why broadcast in advance that your contributions are going to be triggered by the fear that the party rank-and-file is perpetually in danger of nominating idiots and losers?

More to the point, Rove’s high visibility and the provocative challenge he is issuing to the Tea Folk is going to paint a great big bullseye on the back of anyone the “Conservative Victory Fund” chooses to support or even consider supporting. Rove underling Steven Law went out of his way to finger Iowa’s Steve King as the sort of Senate candidate the group would try to intimidate and/or spend into withdrawal or submission. King immediately used the threat to raise money of his own in anticipation of a possible race. How do you think presumed Rove beneficiary Tom Latham, whom King would likely destroy in a primary, feels about how that’s all working out?

Rove is certainly arrogant enough to try this sort of stunt anyway, and devious enough to have some hidden agenda or secondary plan. But at this point he seems to be setting himself up as a punching bag.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Perspecticus on February 11, 2013 2:55 PM:

    "But at this point he seems to be setting himself up as a punching bag."

    Best use for the ratty little fucker I've ever heard.

  • esaud on February 11, 2013 2:58 PM:

    That an unscrupulous bagman like Rove is considered "mainstream" or "moderate" shows just how broken are the GOP and their VSP media connections.

  • MikeH on February 11, 2013 3:01 PM:

    Think there's any chance that Rove is doing this FOR the Tea Party? If Freedom Works can pay Glen Beck million to "say nice things about them," how much would they pay Rove to get the base really fired up before the midterms?

  • c u n d gulag on February 11, 2013 3:14 PM:

    Punching bag, my fat posterior!

    Usually a guy who costs his bosses that much money, and is so hated by the rest of the mob, ends up with a quick one or two in the back of the head, bada-BING-BANG! - and a trip to a hole in the NJ Meadowlands.

    Or, if they really hate his guts, they fit him for some cement galoshes, and take him out on a long fishing trip.
    You know, just to see how much a fat boy like Turdblossom can sweat, and for how long - before they finally get bored, and use him as a rope-free anchor.

  • boatboy_srq on February 11, 2013 3:17 PM:

    Count me in with MikeH. This screams of Turd Blossom's wheels-within-wheels strategies: make a case for "moderates," bring out the big guns to chase out the "crazies" - but do it in such a way that the crazies get all the backing they need and it's the "moderates" that end up getting chased away. Rove can disavow the entire Teahad, but watch it win as if in spite of his best efforts to return sanity to the political process.

    My only concern is where all those campaign funds will wind up getting spent: bilking Koch and Adelson out of billions for mere political theatre strikes me as a good thing, as long as it doesn't add to the fortunes of volk like the Waltons...

    More popcorn, please.

  • Josef K on February 11, 2013 3:18 PM:

    at this point he seems to be setting himself up as a punching bag

    A trait he shares with a great many others just now. The only thing that seems to distinguish Rove from the rest is that his face is a bit more "punchable" than, say, Mark Rubio or John Boehner's.

    Honestly, the entire GOP is out of control and completely rudderless right now. Or perhaps more accurately its got a bunch of oarsmen, each of them convinced they're in charge, who are rowing in a dozen different directions at once. It would almost be funny if the party didn't have so many people in so many positions of actual authority.

  • Ronald on February 11, 2013 4:08 PM:

    Sure- lining his own damn pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars of 'consulting fees'.
    *shrug* Not much more 'motivation' than that, really. At least none that I've observed.
    It's all about the money...

  • Doug on February 11, 2013 5:11 PM:

    Rove's main (only?) modus operandi in politics is accusing his opponent/s of whatever it is HE'S doing or planning to do. So I think he's merely doing a CYA for himself.
    It's my opinion that the people Rove is fronting for really think their money CAN buy anything (it's bought Rove, hasnt' it?) and that the failure last year was due to "wrong" candidates being nominated and tarnishing the brand nation-wide. "Wrong" in this instance being people who can't keep their mouths shut on issues that cost Republicans votes. Rove's backers care not whether the candidate does or does not believe in "legitimate" rape, they just don't want them talking about it.
    The difference between a Scott Brown and a Steve King, for example, is that the former is much better at hiding his beliefs and voting record behind platitudes, the latter, no way. Thus, Rove's backers want more "Browns" to be nominated before the Republican brand becomes so toxic they start losing districts previously carried by 55+% voting margins.
    I think they're too late and those donors will be really upset when all the money they give him doesn't buy sh*t in the 2014 election.
    Except for the aptly named "Turd Blossom", that is...

  • gyrfalcon on February 12, 2013 12:37 AM:

    Most of you are giving Rove way too much credit for 11-dimensional thinking. It's really pretty simple. His big financial patsies are establishment types who (rightly) fear the Tea Party people. So they want him to go after them. End of story.

    Rove himself has no particularly ideology, as far as I can tell, but his gravy train is establishment conservatives. He did really badly last time around, so he has no choice but to do what his funders want or lose them completely.

    It's faintly possible he might achieve enough to keep the gravy train going, but if not, he can retire from the field with plenty of dough. It's a reasonable gamble on his part, given where he is these days. He's had a pretty good run, and he knows it can't go on forever, though he'd like to be 85 and still spoken of with awe as "the architect."

  • boatboy_srq on February 12, 2013 9:42 AM:

    gyrfalcon may be right here.

    We saw for eight years how bumbling and visibly inept the Shrubbery was: bad decisions, no planning, no follow-through, and complete and total disregard for fact - especially when it diverged from their worldview. FEMA response to Katrina, for example, was bumbling, not deliberate refusal to provide aid; likewise, GWoT planning for Afghanistan and Iraq did not consciously and deliberately create the messes that existed as a consequence of the [mal]administration's actions (though the messes certainly proved useful and profitable for certain Shrub supporters). Rove was a key player in the spin game for all of this, trying to make ineptitude some kind of virtue.

    This may be simply another totally inept, ham-handed attempt to right the GOTea ship; it has all the hallmarks of a "heckuva job." So far, though, all similar efforts have done is land the proponents cushy jobs at reichwing think tanks and lobbying firms; if Rove were interested solely in his own personal future (as most others have proven), he'd have done that already. The latest push should be sufficiently obviously damaging to its own stated intents that even he could grasp that.

    I'm willing to allow that Rove is simply too thick-headed to understand that he's not helping. But the blatantly counterproductive nature of this effort ought to be visible even to him, which keeps me wondering if a) he even cares that it most likely won't work, and b) the counterproductivity isn't somehow intended.

  • just someone anonymous on February 24, 2013 5:05 PM:

    Rove looks deficient in vitamins, fish oil, basic nutrients, love, caring, appreciation---shit caught up to him. Pasty guy looks real bad

  • Renai on February 28, 2013 11:13 AM:

    Rather than pay more taxes to help their own nation, rich people like Adelson and the Koch's spent their precious lucre on backing losers.

    The priorities, the motivations, the intentions of our nation's 1% are mean and little. This country, this planet needs people with courage to see and act on the big picture.

    If the conservatives are too afraid, too selfish to bother looking beyond their personal comfort and security, they should at least have the grace to stand aside and stop inhibiting the people willing to step up to the plate and work on the challenges of our critical issues, like climate change.

    But they aren't. They're doing their best to make matters worse.