Articles by Karl Rove
Think back eight years, when an eloquent young man ran for president promising to rectify U.S. politics and unite the nation. “I don’t want to pit Red America against Blue America,” Barack Obama said in Des Moines in November 2007.
This was a constant theme of Mr. Obama’s first campaign. “We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism,” he declared in Philadelphia in March 2008. “Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.’ ” Later that year, in his victory speech at Chicago’s Grant Park, he urged: “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
It’s enlightening to compare two presidential campaign announcements offering two very different visions coming from one couple.
Then-Gov. Bill Clinton’s Oct. 3, 1991, announcement in Hope, Ark., included promises of “preserving the American dream” and “restoring the hopes of the forgotten middle class.” He displayed a healthy skepticism of government, promising that his administration wouldn’t “spend our money on programs that don’t solve problems and a government that doesn’t work.”
The Republican presidential primary is a jumbled mass of competitors, with new ones joining the jostling for support seemingly every week. Meanwhile, the Democrats have more a coronation than a contest, with one figure ignoring the rabble en route to the nomination.
So why did a May 18 Pew Research Center poll find that 57% of Republicans have an excellent or good impression of their party’s candidates, while 54% of Democrats have an excellent or good impression of theirs? Bigger fields and active contests sometimes generate greater support than smaller fields and quiescent competitions.
This is a time when it’s necessary to read beyond the headlines. A May 10 Gallup survey shows that the share of Americans calling themselves social liberals has risen to 31% from 25% in 2009, while the share of self-described social conservatives has fallen to 31% from 42%. It is the first time social conservatives have not outnumbered social liberals since Gallup began asking the question in 1999. As recently as 2010, social conservatives led by 17 points.
All this was trumpeted as bad news for Republicans. But what’s driving this shift is largely Democrats lurching further leftward. In 2010, more Democrats described themselves as social moderates than social liberals, 41% to 37%.
A week that Americans started by remembering those who gave all in our country’s service is a fitting time for Special Operations Chief Brian O’Rourke to retire from the Navy. He has been a SEAL for two decades, the last nine years with the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group—“DevGru,” commonly called SEAL Team Six.
It has been a remarkable journey for Mr. O’Rourke, who entered the Naval Academy in 1990, bent on becoming a SEAL. Counselors suggested he switch to a less demanding major than physics, but Mr. O’Rourke has the constructive stubbornness that often defines SEALs.
Most politicians occasionally get upset at the media. But few demonstrate as much contempt for journalists as do Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Sometimes it appears they’d prefer a state-run media rather than a free press.
For example, last week at a Georgetown University conference on poverty, President Obama indulged in a favorite pastime: attacking Fox News (for which I am a political contributor). Mr. Obama asserted that stories suggesting “the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work” are a “constant menu” on the cable news channel. Of course that isn’t true, but how would he know? Does anyone believe Mr. Obama is a regular Fox viewer?
The year isn’t half over, and already more than a few things in the Democratic political world have left me puzzled—and in some cases downright mystified.
My perplexity starts with former President Bill Clinton. How has such a talented man become so tone-deaf? When NBC’s Cynthia McFadden asked him about potential conflicts of interest raised by large contributions from foreign governments and companies to the Clinton Foundation, the former president answered, “All I’m saying is that the idea that there’s one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else is true.”
If the Supreme Court holds in King v. Burwell that the Affordable Care Act—also known as ObamaCare—does not allow subsidies for health coverage to flow through federal insurance exchanges, Republicans better be ready to say what to do next. Under such a decision, roughly eight million Americans in three dozen states would lose subsidies worth thousands of dollars. Many would suddenly find it impossible to pay for the insurance plan they’re on now.
President Barack Obama will then accuse conservative justices of overreaching and demand that the GOP Congress immediately extend subsidies to every state. His message will be politically potent.
At last Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama declared he was determined to “make the most of every moment” left in office, saying he had been working on a “bucket list” that included executive action on immigration and climate regulation. Aware that his critics believe he’s often acted lawlessly, Mr. Obama joked that the title for his list rhymes with “bucket.”
Regardless of what items Mr. Obama checks off, he will leave to his successor a staggering array of domestic problems, some he ignored and many he made worse.
The dysfunctional Congress finally appears to be working again as the Founders intended. Lawmakers are negotiating, voting on bills and actually passing legislation. As proof of this, National Journal’s Charlie Cook points to three things: congressional approval of a permanent “doc fix” to prevent cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare; extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and passage of budget resolutions by the House and Senate.
There’s even more evidence. This week Senate Democrats agreed to move forward on a human-trafficking bill without undoing a 39-year-old ban on federal funding of abortion.