Sarah Palin and her allies have not taken kindly to comments by Karl Rove this week that the former Alaska governor is not ready to be president, firing back at the former Bush White House political adviser in a fight that illustrates the simmering tensions within the Republican Party.
Palin herself made a crack about Rove Thursday but refrained from making pointed comments. But nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin went after Rove with passion.
“I have to say, nice guy aside, this guy needs to get off the stage. He is yesterday’s operative,” Levin said. “There is a movement going on in this country, a movement that is trying to do serious things and substantive things, and this guy’s just running around, gassing off at the mouth, attacking some of the most conservative candidates in the field.”
“You know, Karl Rove is sort of becoming our Joe Biden, how many times he puts his foot in his mouth,” said Levin, an attorney who was chief of staff to the attorney general in the Reagan administration. “I think he’s got a Joe Biden problem.”
“There is a conservative uprising taking place, a conservative rebellion against Washington, against big government. And I don’t happen to think Rove and those guys are exactly the best face to put on it, because they had nothing to do with it. And in part – you want to know the truth? – in part it’s a reaction to them,” Levin said (see below for a transcript of Levin’s remarks).
The comments by Rove came during an interview with the London Telegraph that was published online late Wednesday, in response to questions about whether Palin would be a good Republican candidate for president.
Palin, who will star in a Discovery Channel “eight-week television event” titled “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” told Entertainment Tonight this week that she would run for president “if there’s nobody else to do it.”
Rove was clear that he thinks there are serious questions about whether Palin is ready to be president.
“Well, ’08 I think she did a terrific job. But being the vice presidential nominee on the ticket is different than saying I want to be the person at the top of the ticket,” Rove said. “And there are high standards that the American people have for it, and they require a certain level of gravitas.”
“You know, they want to look at the candidate and say, that candidate is doing things that gives me confidence that they’re up to the most demanding job in the world,” Rove said. “And, with all due candor, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I’m not sure how that fits into the American calculus of, ‘Yeah, that helps me see you in the Oval Office.’ Particularly if the promos of it are you, outside, saying, ‘I would rather be here than in any political office in America.’”
Palin herself was asked Thursday about Rove’s comments by Glenn Beck on the Fox News personality’s radio show.
“Isn’t is amazing that the establishment, the GOP establishment, you know, people like Karl Rove, who by the way has announced that you’re just not qualified to — It’s a good thing you’re in the kitchen, Sarah, it is,” Beck said.
Palin, who was talking to Beck from her kitchen by phone, laughed and quipped, “I’m barefoot too.”
Beck responded: “Are you really? Are you pregnant? Are you announcing? If you’re not pregnant, get Todd. He’ll explain how it all works.”
Beck and Palin then kept discussing the Senate race in Alaska, where Palin’s candidate, attorney and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, is in a dogfight with the incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. The roots of the feud between Palin and Murkowski, who was defeated in the primary with Palin’s help, are deep.
“It is amazing to me that they have all said that the worst thing that could happen is a third party. And they were afraid of the Tea Parties creating a third party,” Beck said. “Well the Tea Party goes in and works within the system, and gets their candidates within the system, and the system itself starts to create a third party, an establishment party.”
Palin said: “It’s an entitlement party. That’s their thinking, is, ‘How dare anyone challenge me, my position, my authority. Mine, mine, mine.’ That’s where they’re headed.”
It is the latest sign that the GOP is facing incredible internal fissures created by a grassroots Tea Party movement that resents both the condescension they feel from the party establishment — at the national, state and local level — and the governance philosophy of the GOP, which they see as weak-kneed and insufficiently proactive in fighting liberalism and expansions of government.
This latest episode just days before the midterm elections, which will signal the unofficial beginning of the process to determine who becomes the Republican nominee for president to run against President Obama, is a sign that the tension inside the party is likely to become even more of a factor in the days and months ahead.
Palin is the lightning rod for all of this energy. She is a symbol of true conservativism to some — the only politician independent enough of both parties in Washington to dramatically roll back the corruption and creeping statism they believe now dominates — and a standard-bearer of their grievances. To other conservatives, she is a mortal threat to GOP hopes of defeating Obama in 2012, and potentially the captain of the GOP Titanic, holding the possibility of dashing to the party to pieces.
Rove has been one of the few, maybe the only nationally known conservative to voice what many others in the GOP are thinking and feeling about Palin, who in fact evokes a strong dislike from some in the party.
Rove and Palin came to a head in September when another of Palin’s endorsed candidates, Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell, who defeated moderate Republican congressman Mike Castle in the primary with Tea Party support.
The night of O’Donnell’s win, Rove appeared on Fox News and told the network’s Sean Hannity that the upstart candidate had been saying “nutty things,” that she was a bad candidate, and that she would cost the Republicans a chance at a Senate seat that Castle had been virtually guaranteed to win.
“It does conservatives little good to support candidates who, at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and characters that are looking for,” said Rove.
Palin held back somewhat in her response then as well, but engaged in a bit of repartee with Rove on on Fox.
“Well, bless his heart. We love our friends, they’re in the machine, the expert politicos,” Palin said when asked about Rove’s comments. “But my message to those who say that the nominee is not electable, or that they’re not even going to try, well I say, ‘Buck up!’”
After that incident, conservative blogger and author Michelle Malkin said much the same thing that Levin did on Thursday, that a large component of the Tea Party is driven by a backlash against the Bush administration’s policies.
“The conservative base is in full-scale revolt. This is a good and healthy thing,” Malkin wrote. “Close political observers of and on the Right know that the revolt against Big Government/Open-Borders Rove/Bush-ism has been brewing a long time.”
Here is a partial transcript of Mark Levin’s comment on his radio show Thursday:
I met Karl Rove once in the Oval Office. Very nice guy. I met him at a recent wedding … But I have to say, nice guy aside, this guy needs to get off the stage. He is yesterday’s operative. There is a movement going on in this country, a movement that is trying to do serious things and substantive things, and this guy’s just running around, gassing off at the mouth, attacking some of the most conservative candidates in the field. He’s free to do whatever he wants and I’m free to say whatever I want in response. He cozies up to conservatives, he goes on their cruises, he goes on their networks, he’s friends with a lot of conservatives. Does this guy sound like a conservative to you? Defends Harriet Miers nomination to this day. Defends amnesty to this day. Trashes Christine O’Donnell before she even gave her victory speech, on Fox. Now, apparently he’s trashing Sarah Palin in the Telegraph. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I’m just reading from the article. If it’s inaccurate I will certainly stand corrected. But some of these guys who really are not Reaganites and never have been, who really are not conservatives and never have been, their comments are very very destructive.
You know, Karl Rove is sort of becoming our Joe Biden, how many times he puts his foot in his mouth. Let’s think about the key point there in the article … I think he’s got a Joe Biden problem … Honestly, I just assumed when President Bush, who I have great respect for, is a classy man, went back to Texas, Rove would go to. But I guess I’m wrong. ‘Hey he’s backing all these Tea Party candidates!’ No he’s backing some. He’s trashed one. And in the primaries I don’t know that he backed any, although I’m willing to see what he did. That said this is very problematic … The Bush operatives and the McCain operatives are almost interchangeable. Even though you heard about how McCain hated Bush and so forth these guys talk all the time, they eat at the same places, they drink at the same places, they socialize at the same places. It’s very incestual, or if you prefer incestuous. Both are correct.
But that said, there is a conservative uprising taking place, a conservative rebellion against Washington, against big government. And I don’t happen to think Rove and those guys are exactly the best face to put on it, because they had nothing to do with it. And in part, you want to know the truth, in part it’s a reaction to them.
Here are the two questions from the Telegraph to Rove about Palin, and his response in full:
AS: I’ve got to ask you about Palin. She’s the subject of such huge fascination back in England. Do you think she’d be a good candidate if your party wants to win the White House?
KR: You know, this is why I think the 2011year is going to be so interesting. Every one of these candidates on paper has strengths, and every one of them has challenges. And you can make a plausible case for any one of them on paper. But it’s not going to be paper in 2011. It’s going to be blood and it’s going to be sweat and it’s going to be tears and it’s going to be, you know, hard effort, and it’s going to be reality. And how people fare in the powerful crucible of the 2011 run up is going to determine whether they’re good candidates or bad.
AS: You seem to be stressing she might not be one for the crucible because she likes to do things on her own terms and she had a bit of a wobble in the ’08 campaign.
KR: Well, ’08 I think she did a terrific job. But being the Vice Presidential nominee on the ticket is different than saying I want to be the person at the top of the ticket and there are high standards that the American people have for it and they require a certain level of gravitas and a certain level of, you know, they want to look at the candidate and say, that candidate is doing things that gives me confidence that they’re up to the most demanding job in the world and, with all due candor, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I’m not sure how that fits into the American calculus of yeah, that helps me see you in the Oval Office. Particularly if the promos of it are you, outside, saying, I would rather be here than in any political office in America.