Tag: karl rove

Ed Gillespie, Flip Flopper

In the March/April issue of Foreign Policy magazine, Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie opened an article titled “How to Beat Obama” with this paragraph:

In an American election focused on a lousy economy and high unemployment, conventional wisdom holds that foreign policy is one of Barack Obama’s few strong suits. But the president is strikingly vulnerable in this area. The Republican who leads the GOP ticket can attack him on what Obama mistakenly thinks is his major strength by translating the center-right critique of his foreign policy into campaign themes and action. Here’s how to beat him.

There are two basic themes here: 1) that the conventional wisdom that foreign policy isn’t a big issue in this election is wrong, and 2) that foreign policy can and should be a winning issue for the GOP candidate. They go on to outline how [Mitt Romney] should try to make foreign policy an issue. Then, oddly, the article circles back around to this paragraph:

Absent a major international crisis, this election will be largely about jobs, spending, health care, and energy. Voters do, however, want a president who leads on the world stage and a commander in chief who projects strength, not weakness.

Now one of Romney’s foreign policy advisers is going on offense, saying that Obama’s approach to strategy could be characterized as a game of “Mother, may I?

So–should the GOP try to make foreign policy an issue or not? The idea that foreign policy can be a winning issue for Romney was interesting to me, and I criticized the Rove/Gillespie article here (with Rob Farley) and here in a podcast. So I was intrigued when Chris Wallace asked Gillespie on Fox News Sunday, “In one paragraph, two or three sentences, what’s the choice for voters?” Here’s Gillespie’s response:

The choice for voters is if we are going to have a dynamic pro-growth economy based on free enterprise, that creates jobs, that lifts people out of poverty, that provides upward mobility for someone like my father who was an immigrant, who came to this country and was able to become a small business owner, versus a government-centered society – one that requires, you know, to meet mandates and comply with regulations and fill out forms and seek waivers, and try to get your subsidies, where people in Washington, D.C. are making decisions about how people their spend money, as oppose to free enterprise and personal religious freedom and personal freedom that has made this country great and has helped to create more jobs than anything, any government we’ve ever seen.

Not a word about foreign policy. It will be interesting to see if Rove and Gillespie prevail on Romney and get him to try to make foreign policy an issue. Beyond inchoate laments about Obama not understanding American exceptionalism, not “leading” and nonspecific rhetoric like that, I’m betting they won’t.

The GOP Foreign Policy Establishment Is Still Neoconservative

Karl Rove’s and Ed Gillespie have written a piece arguing that the conventional wisdom is wrong because a) foreign policy can be made into a big issue in the 2012 presidential campaign, and b) Obama is vulnerable on the subject. I did not find the piece persuasive at all, and my disagreement with it has produced not just a podcast on the subject, but an appearance on bloggingheads. The University of Kentucky’s Robert Farley and I discuss a range of subjects, from the Rove/Gillespie piece, to burning Qurans in Afghanistan, to the future of U.S.-China relations. To give you a flavor, here’s a clip where I denounce the GOP foreign policy establishment:

For what it’s worth, I think the only way to solve the problem I identify above is a decades-long project to build a counter-counterestablishment of foreign policy thinkers who could staff the foreign policy wing of a notionally sensible GOP presidential candidate. I have not yet read this book, but in reading reviews of it, my understanding is that it does a good job describing how the neocons built their counterestablishment, which I think by now has essentially become the establishment. The neoconservative insurgency benefited from remarkable largesse from their funders, a large bench of aspiring policy professionals, and a sharp-elbowed ability to successfully fight within bureaucracies. If people wish to reverse the course of GOP foreign policy, I suspect a similar effort will be needed on the part of realists. (We’re working on it. Happy to talk to any Democrats, too.)

For the entire bloggingheads video, go here. For my podcast on the Rove/Gillespie piece, go here. For my prior denunciation of the Beltway foreign-policy establishment, here.

My thanks to Farley and the bloggingheads people for having me on.

Karl Rove’s Big-Government Myth

Karl Rove, the architect of Republican victories in 2000 and 2004 and Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008, denounces President Obama’s “spending binge” and “liberal activism” as described in the State of the Union address. The Wall Street Journal’s tagline on the column is, “On Tuesday, Republicans offered an alternative to the president’s big-government vision.” What Rove omits is that he and President Bush started the spending binge, delivered big government, and indeed came into office with a big-government vision, as Ed Crane pointed out in 1999.

Just take a look at the analysis in Rove’s Wall Street Journal column:

Most of his hour-long speech was a paean to liberal activism, as the president called for redoubling outlays on high-speed rail and “countless” green energy jobs.

Liberal boondogglery indeed. But Rove’s former colleague, White House speechwriter Michael Gerson, wrote on the same day in his Washington Post column:

 In his 2006 State of the Union address, which I helped write, President George W. Bush proposed a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Energy Department, a doubling of basic research in the physical sciences and the training of 70,000 high school teachers to instruct Advanced Placement courses in math and science. I have no idea if these “investments” passed or made much difference. I doubt anyone knows.

Green nonsense is rampant in Washington.

Rove criticizes Obama for

a federal budget that’s increased 25% in two years, raising government’s share of GDP to 25% from roughly 20%.

Obama is a world-class spender. But spending increased 83 percent during Bush’s presidency, from $1.863 trillion to $3.414 trillion. He increased federal spending faster than any president since Lyndon Johnson. And yes, Obama is pushing the government’s share of GDP up; but Bush increased the federal government’s share of GDP by 2.2 percentage points, before the financial crisis, the bailouts, and TARP.

Rove writes:

The challenge is about more than budgets and debt. It is about government’s basic purposes and its role in our lives. If we don’t act soon, the nature of American society will change in deep, lasting ways.

Yes, that is the real problem. I have written critically of Obama’s “sweeping statist agenda.” But the Bush administration gave us stepped-up federal intrusions into our local schools, the biggest expansion of entitlements in 40 years, a proposed constitutional amendment to nationalize marriage law, unconstitutional restrictions on core political speech, intrusion of the federal government into Terri Schiavo’s hospital room, and, in the words of Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch,

a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech — and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;  a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;  a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as “enemy combatants,” strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror — in other words, perhaps forever; and  a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.

Bush and Rove, too, changed American society in deep and lasting ways.

Rove writes that Paul Ryan, the new Republican chair of the House Budget Committee, “knows that reforming these programs, especially Medicare, is the only path to fiscal sanity and economic growth.” Too bad the Bush administration made the Medicare problem $18 trillion worse.

Rove writes that

the debate about the role and purpose of government has been joined in a way America hasn’t seen in three decades.

Let’s hope so. We at Cato have been trying to have that debate for years, including Ed Crane’s 1999 critique of the Bush-Rove big-government vision and Michael Tanner’s 2007 book, Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution. And certainly Rove’s comrade-in-arms Gerson has been vigorously arguing against the limited-government libertarian vision that opposes Bush-Obama statism.

Finally, Rove reminds us:

The total debt was $10.6 trillion before [Obama’s] inaugural and $14.2 trillion today.

True. President Obama is increasing deficits and debt even faster than President Bush, under whom the national debt rose by $4.9 trillion. But it takes a lot of chutzpah for the architect of the biggest debt increase ever to criticize the guy who comes along and tops the record.

Surely the Wall Street Journal can find more credible critics of President Obama’s big-government vision than people who ran the “big government disaster” that was the Bush administration.

The New York Times Undermines its Narrative

The New York Times has an odd story today on campaign finance on its front page. The story argues that organizations which do not have to identify their donors are sponsoring ads that criticize candidates for office. Complaints about secrecy notwithstanding, the third paragraph of the story discloses one of the major contributors to a group and reveals his putative interests in becoming involved. It also goes into great detail about the donor, his political associates, and even meetings his associates attended and what decisions were made therein. Later parts of the story recount the already disclosed names of supporters of Karl Rove’s efforts in this cycle. True, the story does not reveal everything the reporters believe should be disclosed about donors. But the groups and their donors are hardly secret given what is revealed in the story itself.

The story also cannot get its story straight. The Times’ reporters evidently wanted to fit what they have found into a standard, “special interest” template: the organization in question - the American Future Fund - as a front for energy interests. The story also says the group has sponsored ads on general themes like too much spending,  Obamacare, and another stimulus. But the reporters are determined to see “suggestions of an energy-related agenda,” their own reporting notwithstanding. This forcing of facts into a template comes along with a recognition that the politics of energy and ethanol have become more complicated making it difficult to say what interests are actually being advanced in the American Future Fund effort.

So the story discloses, while decrying secrecy, and both asserts and denies the domination of special interests. In the end, the story holds fast to a simple, conventional theme which is then undermined by its reporting. We should admire, I guess, that the Times’ reporters were willing to undermine their own narrative. But why not just embrace complexity? They are writing the first, not the final, draft of history.

The story also reports that donors desire anonymity because they wish to avoid taking sides in political disputes in public. The story does not say why they desire to avoid taking sides. Perhaps a quick call to the Koch family or George Soros might have provided an answer to that question.

Karl Rove’s Spending

Former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove enjoys complaining about the spendthrift ways of President Obama and the Democrats. But I noted in a Wall Street Journal letter today:

 Annual average real spending grew faster under President George W. Bush than any president since Lyndon Johnson… Even leaving out defense, President Bush was the biggest spender since Republican Richard Nixon.

My letter pointed to two prior op-eds by Rove, but he was at it again yesterday in the Journal. He said that his former boss “cut in half the growth of discretionary domestic spending from the sizzling 16 percent rate of President Bill Clinton’s last budget.” Call me crazy, but I don’t think supporting domestic spending growth of 8 percent during a time of very low inflation is an acheivement to crow about.

Over at National Review, Veronique de Rugy apparently gets just as annoyed as I do hearing big-spending Republicans complain about big-spending Democrats.

Mr. Rove’s columns are usually very interesting, but I’d like to see him accept at least some of the blame for the exploding size of government during his tenure at the White House.

Here are the data on spending by presidents.

Pinocchio Rove Strikes Again

George Bush ranks as one of America’s most fiscally irresponsible presidents. He increased overall spending from $1.8 trillion to $3.5 trillion and most of that new spending was used to create or expand domestic programs (no-bureaucrat-left-behind education spending, pork-filled highway bills, sleazy Wall Street bailouts, corrupt farm spending, new Medicare entitlements, etc.) that are not legitimate functions of the federal government. So it is galling to see his former senior adviser writing columns complaining about Barack Obama being a big spender. Many of the criticisms about the Obama Administration in his latest WSJ column are correct, to be sure, but Karl Rove has zero moral authority to make those arguments. Moreover, Rove once again engages in sloppy or dishonest (you choose) analysis by blaming Obama for some of Bush’s mistakes. In the excerpt below, he blames Obama for any of the Fiscal Year 2009 debt that was incurred after January 20 of last year. But as I’ve already explained, 96 percent of the spending in FY2009 is the result of Bush’s policies:

Consider that from Jan. 20, 2001, to Jan. 20, 2009, the debt held by the public grew $3 trillion under Mr. Bush—to $6.3 trillion from $3.3 trillion at a time when the national economy grew as well. By comparison, from the day Mr. Obama took office last year to the end of the current fiscal year, according to the Office of Management and Budget, the debt held by the public will grow by $3.3 trillion. In 20 months, Mr. Obama will add as much debt as Mr. Bush ran up in eight years. …Mr. Bush’s deficits ran an average of 3.2% of GDP, slightly above the post World War II average of 2.7%. Mr. Obama’s plan calls for deficits that will average 4.2% over the next decade. Team Obama has been on history’s biggest spending spree, which has included a $787 billion stimulus, a $30 billion expansion of a child health-care program, and a $410 billion federal spending bill that increased nondefense discretionary spending 10% for the last half of fiscal year 2009. Mr. Obama also hiked nondefense discretionary spending another 12% for fiscal year 2010.

Correction: In an earlier post on one of Rove’s columns, I incorrectly claimed that Bush never vetoed a bill because it spent too much.That was wrong. He did veto a handful of bills once Democrats took control of Congress.

Ponnuru: Stop Socialized Medicine, in All Its Forms

As usual, National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru offers sound advice on how Republicans, etc., should approach the Democrats’ health care reforms:

Karl Rove’s WSJ op-ed on health care reflects the thinking of a lot of Republicans. He concludes, “Defeating the public option should be a top priority for the GOP this year. Otherwise, our nation will be changed in damaging ways almost impossible to reverse.” In my view, Rove is defining Republican goals too narrowly.

Congress and the president can expand federal control of the health-care system a great deal without a “public option” (that is, a new government program to provide health insurance to people who choose it). They could set mandatory minimum standards for health insurance, impose price controls, mandate that individuals or employers buy insurance, and so forth. If Republicans say that the public option is the chief defect of liberals’ approach to health care, they may be leaving themselves with no rationale for opposing these steps if the Democrats drop it—which they might just do. (Or they might cosmetically weaken the public option in various ways. They could, for example, set up a “trigger” that brings the option into being only if certain conditions in the health market are met, and then design those conditions so that they will be met.)

The public option appears to be one of the biggest political vulnerabilities of the Democrats’ emerging health-care plan, but it isn’t the only one, and it shouldn’t be targeted to the exclusion of the plan’s other features—or of its general government-first orientation. Republicans ought to be making the case against individual mandates and employer mandates as well, both of which are disguised tax increases.

It isn’t incumbent on Republicans to see that a health-care bill passes Congress. To warrant conservative support, a bill should have no public option—but also no mandates and no price controls. Which is to say: No government-directed health-care system.