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Karl Rove On The Path Forward for the GOP


Karl Rove, “the Architect,” joined me this morning to discuss the way forward for the GOP:




HH: Texas is paralyzed by a few inches of snow, clearly not an Ohioan among them. But one Texan joins us now, Karl Rove. Karl, why can Texas not prepare for a little snow?

KR: Well, because we get it so rarely. I mean, I can’t remember in my many years in Austin that we had eight inches in one day. So our power plants are not winterized properly, and in part that’s a regulatory issue. In part, that’s just a desire to avoid unnecessary costs. But we’re paying the price with cold. And I’m now in my fourth day without power.

HH: Oh, my goodness. You’re down. You know, I told Senator Cotton yesterday he was making a similar complaint. Eight inches of snow in Ohio, we call that May. And so I’m glad that you are adjusting. Are you okay? Is everybody safe?

KR: Everybody’s safe, a little cold. You know, I’m sort of used to it. I grew up in Colorado, Nevada and Utah, so I’m used to driving on snow. But let me just tell you, not too many people in Austin are.

HH: Not too many Texans, no. Hey, I want to go to the Mitch McConnell-Donald Trump fight, but by prefacing it with these pairings – Huckabee and Romney, McCain and Romney, Bush and McCain, Reagan and Bush, Reagan and Ford, Ike and Taft. Indeed, I could go to Rove and Stone in 1974 College Republicans. The Republican Party has always been the UFC with pin stripes. Is this any different from anything we’ve seen before?

KR: No, it’s happened before. I think it was, you know, look. Mitch McConnell had a responsibility to explain why he voted the way he did to his constituents. I thought that the President, or the former President, should have just let it be a one-day story. But instead, and you know, his speechwriters and wordsmiths cranked up a thermonuclear assault on McConnell. So now, rather than McConnell’s speech on Monday being gone by Tuesday, we’re now Wednesday morning, and we’re going to be talking about it for a couple more days, and it’ll be all on the Sunday talk shows. And I thought it was needless. The President should have just let it go. He got what he wanted, vindication, but now he’s declared civil war. Think about this. If he lost the presidency with a united party and all the powers of incumbency, how does encouraging a civil war make him stronger? And how does encouraging something that’s not going to happen, saying Mitch McConnell ought to be replaced. Do you think Mitch McConnell’s going to replaced by his colleagues?

HH: Not in a thousand years.

KR: No. No.

HH: Most effective Republican leader of my lifetime, in the Congress.

KR: Yeah, yeah. So Friedrich Nietzsche and Kelly Clarkson are both right. If it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger. And the loser in this is going to be the guy who declared I want Mitch out, and Mitch ain’t going to be out.

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HH: So let me ask you about the idea of a split. I went back earlier today to Disraeli-Salisbury in 18, I think it’s 67. They split in the Conservative Party, and it’s bitter. I mean, it’s deeply bitter. They’re calling each other liars. They hate each other. Seven years later, they’re holding hands, and they’re running the world because winning overcomes everything. Will that happen in the Republican Party come 2022 and 2024?

KR: Well, I think the difference is you had two relatively big people in the form of Salisbury and Disraeli. We know Disraeli more, because he was, you know, he was sort of a celebrity of his time, a novelist as well as a politico of Jewish descent but an Episcopalian in a deeply-Episcopalian, Anglican England. He had, you know, he had an incredible relationship with Queen Elizabeth, which was known to the public. And so you know, I’m not certain we’ve got to the same caliber of statesmen. Certainly, I mean, the statement yesterday by the President did suggest it, but the Salisburian or Disraeli view of that would have been to probably make a snide remark at some proper club in downtown London and let it go. You know, you want to strike when you can wound, not strike when you are going to lose.

HH: Well, that’s very well put. They would have done it in the Commons when Salisbury was in the Commons.

KR: Right.

HH: But then, I don’t know, have you ever read Andrew Roberts? I’m holding it up, Salisbury, Karl Rove. Have you ever read this book?

KR: Exactly. I certainly have. I’m walking in…

HH: It is such a…

KR: I’m walking into my library. It was one of my first exposures to Andrew Roberts, who’s now become a close personal friend of mine. He’s a wonderful human being.

HH: He was on last week. He’s working on a George III book right now, and he’s going to follow it up with Disraeli. And I don’t think you can improve upon Blake’s Disraeli except perhaps to make it more accessible to Americans. But that period of intra-Conservative Party fighting from Robert Peale through the reunion of Salisbury and Disraeli is what we’re in right now. I just hope it doesn’t take 40 years.

KR: Well, you know, I have a slight dissent. We’re in something like it, but those were about big things. Those were about big issues, a different view of vital pieces of public policy in a vital…you know, there was a disagreement about the direction of the nature of the Conservative Party of Britain, but this, it was based around big ideas. And look, I understand we’ve got slogans – Make America Great Again, American First. But you know, let’s be honest. Our former President does not, is not a Tudor Conservative. That is to say he’s not been brought up by thinking about these big policy ideas. He basically adapted, his great successes were traditional conservative ideas.

HH: Well, I’m going to have to file a separate dissent here, Karl.

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KR: Here we go.

HH: If you go back and read Salisbury, you’ll see that Salisbury did not disagree, he did disagree on reform with Disraeli, but his antipathy for him was deeply personal. He loathed him, because he believed he was without honor and a liar. That’s why Salisbury loathed Disraeli. He got over it.

KR: Yeah, well, I get that, but they also then found common cause in an agenda that allowed them to propel Britain forward in the last half of the 19th Century.

HH: Yes.

KR: I’m not certain that I see Trump being capable of, you know, President Trump rising to that level of acuity. I don’t know, we’ll see.

HH: Now talk to me a little bit about, I have been saying shorthand, switching metaphors, that Tom Cotton, Ron DeSantis, and Mike Pompeo are the Lincoln, Pompeo is the Grant, and DeSantis is the Sheridan-Sherman of the Republican Party. They’re the three fusion Republicans right now. Am I leaving anybody off of the fusion list?

KR: Well, you know, it’s early. We’ll see. The successful 2024 aspirants are going to be fusionists, and people who are able to do three things simultaneously – make certain that we keep that working-class, blue-collar element of our party that’s been growing for the last 25-30 years, restore our strength in the suburbs to some degree, and deal with an increasingly diverse electorate. And the person who’s able to do that is going to be the person who I think is going to have the best shot at the 2024 nomination. I’d add Nikki Haley in there, but I still think it’s very early and very premature, and we’ll see how well they do. I’m one of these people that’s going to withhold my judgment on and keep my heart from falling in love with somebody until they sort of demonstrate that they are capable of unifying us and doing so with touching, you know, to different degrees, all three of those touchpoints.

HH: Absolutely. I’m going to Switzerland, because I want to do the debates when the Republicans line up in ’24, and I’m not going to commit to anybody. But I do wonder about the ability to bring everybody back around the campfire, especially in 2022. By all measures, and you’re the fellow who wrote about the great realignment of William McKinley. By all measures, we could be in a realignment that is being obscured by the result in the fall, and by the invective between parts of the party against other parts of the party. The great realignment is the Latino vote actually got as high almost as George W. Bush, who was uniquely suited to the Latino vote. And the working-class vote has never been higher. Are we in a realignment, Karl Rove?

KR: Well, we might be. You know, you’re right. Actually, we saw higher percentages in all likelihood among working-class, blue-collar Americans in the, starting in 1896 running through the late 1920s. But there’s a very interesting study out by two Johns Hopkins professors who say you know what? Let’s not think that the problems with the blue-collar, working-class people, that they have with the Democratic Party, is ended by the defeat of Donald Trump. In essence, they’re saying this problem has been growing for a long period of time. Trump is the beneficiary, not the originator. And his disappearance from the scene, therefore, is not going to necessarily mean this problem goes away for the Democrats, because these are value-driven voters. They think the Democratic Party is out of sync with them, and guess what, I think that’s absolutely right. You know, you’ve got some blue-collar family in Ohio who’s sitting there saying you know, we go to Mass, we stand for the Pledge, we put our hand over our hear, we think cops are trying to do the best thing they can to protect us. And you know, we believe in work. And now, we’ve got a bunch of snotty-nosed elitists from academia and Hollywood looking down their nose at us from either coast. And we don’t think that party that they embraced embraces us. So that problem is not…

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HH: Academia, Karl, not just academia, media, and that’s my last question.

KR: Yeah, yeah.

HH: I have said to people the best media analyst is that analyst who is a partisan, but who can accurately and objectively state with fair detail the position of the other side. Are any of those people left?

KR: Very few. I mean, I read the New York Times out of professional necessity, and I’m just astonished at how often you get editorial comment in a, you know, not in one or two paragraphs, but in virtually every paragraph. And no, I mean, and they’re few and far between and becoming fewer and fewer as they retire. And I was listening to one former Timesman yesterday who was talking about the kind of journalists that you brought up, and he was talking about them in the past tense as if all of his associates from the New York Times whom he felt represented that kind of journalism were now gone, or going shortly.

HH: That is, that’s a sad situation. Karl, you always manage to do it. I appreciate you coming back. Keep coming back through this period of transition for the party, because nobody knows politics like Karl Rove. Nobody with a capital N. Thank you, Karl.

End of interview.

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