Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Conservative Victory Fund Project: Has Karl Rove's SuperPAC Declared War on Tea Party Nuttery?

by Nomad

Recently Karl Rove’s American Crossroads group officially fired the first shot in the battle for the soul (such as it is) of the Republican party when he announced the creation of a new super-PAC, the Conservative Victory Fund Project.  
Rove, Karl Conservative Victory Fund ProjectThe mission of the SuperPAC is 
"to “recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.”
Take that, Tea Party Express.
According to the New York Times:
The group, the Conservative Victory Project,[CVF] is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races.
As Insane as it might sound, it appears that the Rove Republicans are now playing the role of the old guard of the Republican Party. And apparently, the defenders of the empire have had enough of the Tea Party rebels. After all that wooing and courting, and skillful manipulation of least intelligent and most rabid right wing voters in ;last two election cycles, the GOP has finally come to the conclusion (a bit late) that maybe stitching together this pouty, disobedient Frankenstein was not such a bright idea after all. 
We, on the sidelines, stuffing popcorn in our greasy-lipped mouths, have seen this coming, of course. Look at how they treated Tea Party queen Sarah Palin at the Republican Convention in Florida last year. It was "Sarah who?" For the GOP, Sarah became their own  political form of  "Fatal Attraction." She was the drunken tryst in the backseat of the Republican Oldsmobile nobody wants to remember.

The reaction was reported by the National Journal:
The backlash on Monday was swift. Freedom Works President Matt Kibbe called the super PAC’s plans “Orwellian.” ForAmerica Chairman L. Brent Bozell III declared, “The days of conservatives listening to the moderate GOP establishment are over.” The Tea Party Express called the Conservative Victory Project “a big mistake that will lead to neither conservatives, nor victories.”
To the delight of liberals, the GOP seems to be turning against itself in exactly the way most on the left predicted about three or four years ago. If this is serious (and you should be skeptical with anything Rove is involved in) then it promises to be a knock-down drag-out. 

One thing about the “backlash” though. Only Freedom Works could consider a person like Rove a member of the “moderate GOP establishment.” Donors with any common sense have every right to question about whether Karl Rove can be trusted to know what an extremist or an irresponsible lunatic is. Is Rove, who has become the “Pig-Pen” of the Republican Party, really the right person to clean anybody’s house?

CVF: Upholding Conservative Principles
While the SuperPAC (the Conservative Victory Fund Project) may be new, that’s a bit of extravagant window-dressing. The Conservative Victory Fund (CVF) has been around for about 30 years. The organization was founded by Congressman John M. Ashbrook (not to be confused with John Ashcroft, attorney general in the Bush administration) who accused Richard Nixon of
“having abandoned conservative principles and "turned left" on issues such as budget deficits, affirmative action, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, wage and price controls, the gold standard, and most of all, improving relations with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China with his policy of d├ętente.”
As a footnote, Ashbrook died suddenly in 1982 and at his funeral, the then-president Ronald Reagan said, "John Ashbrook was a man of courage and principle.” 

Yet, the beloved father of the neo-conservative movement Reagan’s record on budget deficits wouldn’t have impressed a living Ashbrook. Reaganomics and their tax cuts, combined with a rapid increase in military spending created record-setting deficits. 

His greatest international success during his second term wouldn't have met with much approval either. By 1985, President Reagan, like despised Nixon, was working with the Soviet leader to improve diplomatic relations which led directly to “some of the most sweeping arms control proposals in history and helped usher in a new age in U.S.-Russian relations.” 
So much for those conservative principles. 

In fact, it was only by ignoring the principles of that conservatives espoused that Reagan won his major international diplomacy success. Today it is hailed “ending the Cold War” but at the time, the conservatives and hard-liners like Secretary of Defense Casper Wineberger at the time "utterly convinced that there was no potential benefit in negotiating." 
They were absolutely flabbergasted that Reagan could even think trying to work with an enemy. 

These are the actual principles of the conservative movement (non-negotiation and obstructionism) and these principles have never been productive, domestically or internationally. And the CVF are eager to foist them once again onto the Republican party and pretend as though they are principles that have led to victory.

Fox News is Going Nowhere
If the Republican party really wants to “clean house”, getting rid of the craziest of the crazies is not a bad idea. (As a liberal, I have to admit it was fun while it lasted.) However, the Republican elite’s cleaning crew really ought to add Fox News to the trash to take out. Wasn't it Fox News that openly promoted the Tea Party since 2010?

And therein lies the problem. And it is a major problem too.
It boils down to this equation: 
Fox News needs the Tea Party. Where would Fox be without extremists and right wing lunatics? The media corporation’s dependence on the worst sort of political sensationalism is its bread and butter. If Fox News didn’t have extremists to stir up right wing anger and lunatics to promote the latest Obama conspiracy, they might have to concentrate on real news. 

There’s one thing you can certain of; when it comes to anything like true journalism, Fox News simply cannot compete with the other major networks, whatever their own shortcomings might be. Without the lunatics, Fox New’s ratings would collapse and that’s exactly what is now happening since the election fiasco. 

Clearly, The Republican party has belatedly realized that it cannot win elections as long as the Tea Party extremists are out messing things up. Their candidates cannot be trusted to talk about rape, gay marriage, gun control, government spending or.. well, anything. They are quite likely to say anything and at the wrong time like a dead sailor's parrot. And, worst of all, the Tea Party doesn’t care if the Republicans win or not. It’s all a matter of principle to them.

The Republican Party needs Fox News to promote its agenda. (And, more importantly, it very much doesn’t need Fox News as an enemy.). It is doubtful whether the conservative movement can survive without all of Fox News’ free air time. When you have a treasure- a veritable propaganda machine that will broadcast any nonsense as long as it falls under the “I hate Obama” category- how on earth can you put them on the history train with a kiss goodbye? 

Well, you can’t. 

There’s the conundrum. Fox News isn’t going any place and that’s that. Fox News has always  drawn eyeballs by tapping into irrational anger and insanity. It has no other viable business model.

In short, 
Fox News and a Republican house cleased of Tea Party lunatics cannot co-exist. The media corporation’s dependence on the sensational and outrageous are its bread and butter. If Fox News didn’t have extremists to stir up right wing anger and lunatics to promote the latest Obama conspiracy, they might have to concentrate on real news. Nobody can imagine that ever happening.

Clearly Fox News saw the writing on the wall.
According to New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Roger Ailes, president of Fox News has issued an edict: Neither Karl Rove or Dick Morris can be booked without the approval of top management. 
Along with Sarah Palin, Rove. it seems, has just joined the Fox News, persona non-grata club. He will be missed.. but not by too many.

Geese, Not Swans:
In any case, many cynics have cast some doubt on the whole CVF project idea. They dismiss it as little more than re-branding the same poisonous product. So don’t expect that long awaited internal war inside the Republican party just yet. 

According to the New York Times article:
The Conservative Victory Project, ... will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.
That may be easier said than done. For the moment it is probably better to be a doubting Thomas when it comes to Rove’s sincerity about weeding out losers. Just look at the candidates that the Conservative Victory Fund itself salutes.

Douglas Lamborn
One of the Conservative Victory Fund’s chosen, Colorado’s Doug Lamborn, (named “the most conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives”, by The National Journal) drew lots of dubious attention to himself by calling for euthanizing Big Bird by cutting all federal funding of PBS and NPR. He told reporters:
"I have been seeking to push Big Bird out of the nest for over a year, based on the simple fact that we can no longer afford to spend taxpayer dollars on nonessential government programs. It's time for Big Bird to earn his wings and learn to fly on his own." 
Cute but it wasn’t even honest. The real motive behind killing Sesame Street was that many on the far right saw the television program as a propaganda tool to immature and naive minds (like say, Fox and Friends). Can you guess who propagated this ridiculous idea far and wide? Sean Hannity on Fox News.

The negative public reaction to the Big Bird remark was instantaneous and somewhat amusing. Democratic strategists probably could not have wished for a more golden opportunity. Conservatives were painted as being at war with a six and a half foot Sesame Street character. 

That ridiculous imagery called to mind, perhaps subconsciously, the almost forgotten war that one arch-conservative evangelist fought against a purse-carrying purple creature with a television implanted in its stomach. The former Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell claimed that a character on the children’s TV show “Teletubbies” (Tinky Winky by name) was gay (even without discernable sex organs) Mr. Winky was, by example, “a moral menace to American youth.” 
Somebody should have warned Lamborn about what happens when conservatives decide to duke it out with an adorable children’s show characters. Politicians usually end up with a black eyes. 

That’s not all lurking in Lamborn's resume. Other highlights of Lamborn’s career include his refusal to attend the President’s 2012 State of the Union address, citing it would little more than a "campaign speech." Most people saw this as peevish and unprofessional. It wasn’t merely disrespect for the president, it was disrespect to the presidency itself. 
And there was his (in)famous “tar baby” remark which, some thought, was racist. 
On July 29, 2011, Lamborn appeared on a Denver radio program to discuss the debt crisis and the failure of Democrats and Republicans to reach a compromise on the problem. Lamborn stated "Now, I don't even want to have to be associated with [President Obama]. It's like touching a tar baby and you get it, you're stuck, and you're a part of the problem now and you can't get away." 
In fairness, his tar baby remark might have been misunderstood. ( Unlike so many other remarks conservatives have made, this term was incidentally offensive and racist.) The Oxford English Dictionary defines "tar baby" as "a difficult problem which is only aggravated by attempts to solve it."  The more you struggle with it, the more wrapped up in it you get, like, say, the Republican Party and the Tea Party. 
Example: The Tea Party is the Republican Party's tar baby.
What's more important is Lamborn’s lack of forethought about how using that particular term when describing the first black president might be misinterpreted. That is the very same problem that Todd Akin faced.  They seem to missing that part of the brain that asks" but how would it sound if I didn't happen to be rich, heterosexual, or white or male in other words, Republican?"

A glance back at the last campaign clearly demonstrates that the inability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, to think like somebody with a totally different mindset and background, is one of the Republican’s greatest weaknesses. And with Lamborn on their team, Rove has obviously learned nothing from the fiasco of the last election.

Matt Salmon
Another of Conservative Victory Fund’s swans that turns out to be a goose is Rep. Matt Salmon from Arizona. According to its website: 
Matt is a conservative leader who does what he says he will do.
And that is a worrying statement since only last month Salmon went on CBS’ Face the Nation and enthusiastically supported the idea of a government shutdown if the conservatives did not get their way on fiscal policy negotiations. He cited as a success the 1995 government shutdown. However, even conservative politicians would point out that that shut down backfired in the faces of those engineered it.

Even the recently-resigned head of Koch-founded FreedomWorks, Dick Armey, understood that lesson. The former Texas Republican,former House Majority Leader and one of the engineers of the "Republican Revolution" of the 1990s, gave this assessment of the doomed strategy of 1995:
My position was, Republicans get blamed for shutdowns. I argued that it is counter-intuitive to the average American to think that the Democrat wants to shut down the government. They’re the advocates of the government. It is perfectly logical to them that Republicans would shut it down, because we’re seen as antithetical to government. I said if there’s a shutdown, we’re going to get the blame. 
So despite what Salmon thinks, shutdowns are bad news for Republican candidates. And it's not just about self-inflicted damage to the party. According to the New York Times, an estimated 800,000 federal employees who would feel the financial pinch of a government shutdown. That's quite a lot of lost voters to bring back to the party by 2014. 

The degree of damage from a shutdown depends very much on how long it would last. If Congress finds a solution quickly, a strong economy can recover quickly. (No economist would call the American economy strong at the moment.) If the shutdown dragged out for weeks, the ripple effect on growth from government contracts would handicap the nation’s already slow recovery. Conservatives like Salmon have chosen the disastrous combination of non-negotiation and brinksmanship in the past and it hasn’t worked. 
Whether or not the Republican Congressmen want to admit it, each time they played this game,  Obama won and the blame for the political failure fell squarely on the backs of the GOP and its Tea Party radicals.
So that's another point that Rove and the others still haven't learned.

Jackie Walorski
The endorsement by CVF demonstrates that the organization is not cleaning house of the Tea Party extremists as much as many think. Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski is also on CVF’s list of rising stars. Of course, they neglect to mention that Walorski apparently only won her seat through the skillful use of redistricting- which heavily favored Republicans-and then only by a mere 1% of the vote.

Sly Walorski followed the Tea Party fashion but she has wised up since then. Now she not so into them. Unfortunately  for Walorski, her record is chiseled in stone. As one source reports: 
There are several TEA Party organizations in Northern Indiana and Jackie has been affiliated with each of them as a speaker, supporter, and fundraising recipient. The Michiana 912 Project is one of the larger of these groups and has sponsored fundraising rallies with a recent event featuring Jackie Walorski and right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck: http://www.meetup.com/WCO9-12/events/14686864/ 
Walorski won her own claim to infamy during her campaign with some billboard advertising which read:
Navy Seals removed one threat to America. Voters must remove the Other.
Leaders on both sides condemned the attack advertising, as “appalling.” Careless and inflammatory rhetoric was Palin's specialty and it was the turning point in that wretched career.

Critics claim that Walorski has received hundreds of thousands of dollars “in support from some of the most extreme voices on the right” including the Koch Brothers, the very founders of the Tea Party. 
Recent history has verified the truth in the statement made by one opposition site:
The Koch Brothers aren’t the type of millionaires that are looking for someone to be an “independent voice.” They are looking for someone that is going to be a rubber stamp for policies that help their businesses at the expense of the middle class.
Even without their support, her political positions would place her smack dab in the Tea Party camp. Positions like her consistently- stated view that Social Security must be privatized or her support for the Paul Ryan Budget, which cuts the slack on the taxes on the pitiful super rich. 

Although the Republicans would like to promote Walorski as one of the female GOP voices, she has agreed completely with the statements of Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock on the issue of abortion. (Mourdock famously said that when a woman becomes pregnant during rape "it is something that God intended."
Need further evidence? Warolski authored legislation that would specifically outlaw abortion in the case of rape. 
Incidentally, Walorski was assigned to Sarah Palin’s "truth" squad (which pledged to "set the record straight against Internet and liberal smears of Governor Palin.") Palin and Walorski have been gal pals ever since. 
Add this to the list of unlearned things: The trick to stopping the next Palin is to begin early, not after they have taken a place on the national stage. 

If Rove is serious about distancing himself with losing candidates like Mourdock and Akins, then the CVF’s support of Walorski is really a head-scratcher. But then maybe these are the best choices from a not-so-hot selection. 
If that selection of CVF supported candidates is anything to go by, then we wish Rove and his Conservative Victory Fund Project organizers baskets full of luck because they are going to need it. But, luck will not be enough. 
As President James A. Garfield once said,
“Luck is an ignis-fatuus. You may follow it to ruin, but never to success.”
_____________________________ 
For further analysis on this subject:
The New York Times:  New Rove Group Could Backfire on G.O.P.

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