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Karl Rove on the Addled Vice President Biden, and advice for the GOP frontrunners

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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HH: On Thursday night, if you’re anywhere in Southern California, Karl Rove is going to be at the Nixon Library giving a talk and signing copies of Courage and Consequence, his memoir, My Life As A Conservative In The Fight. But The Architect joins us now in advance of Thursday night’s show down in Yorba Linda. Hello, Karl, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

KR: Hugh, how are you?

HH: I’m good. And you?

KR: I’m fabulous beyond belief.

HH: I asked my audience earlier if you had a question for Rove, what would it be. And the best one that came in is this. Which is the bigger scandal – Fast & Furious or Solyndra?

KR: I think Solyndra. Fast & Furious involved the death of a U.S. law enforcement agent, and there’s no getting around that, and it’s a terrible tragedy, and our country owes his family an enormous debt. And this is a bad program gone even worse. But the reason I say a bigger scandal is because, that Solyndra is a bigger scandal, is because it involves a half a billion dollars of our taxpayer monies, and it extends much higher up in the administration. Look, I’m, right now, I will accept Attorney General Holder’s statement that he was not aware of Fast & Furious, which makes him out to be completely incompetent, because his office received a number of memos about this. It’s unclear who read them. I can’t, knowing the little that I know about the operation at the Department of Justice, I can’t believe that the Attorney General did not have a competent chief of staff who tasked these memos out for review, who you know, was there a senior staff meeting during which he said this program looks like it’s very nutty, it’s got some very unusual patterns to it, the operating procedures seem way beyond bounds, I want to raise some questions about it? I mean, nobody apparently did that, so it’s incompetence. Solyndra is a deliberate decision by the administration to use taxpayer dollars in order to reward a company with a highly risky profile, and then to compound it, by rejiggling the agreement, and putting the taxpayer behind the investors. And this has never been done before, that I’m aware of. And so…and this has literally got the involvement of the office of the Vice President, and high officials within the White House. We know Valerie Jarrett is involved. We just don’t know all of the cast of characters yet.

HH: And so it will metastasize over the next year. But do you expect the House Republicans to be able to get political mileage out of this? Or are you one of those who warn don’t count on scandals to win elections?

KR: Yeah, don’t count on scandals to win elections. What this…this is enormously revealing about the mindset of these people, first of all, that they’re willing to put politically-connected private investors ahead of the taxpayers. Look, in January of 2009, before President Obama comes into office, the career professionals at the Department of Energy look at the Solyndra request, and say this is not sufficient. We don’t believe this is worthy enough to bring it to the attention of the outgoing Secretary of Energy and ask him to make an affirmative recommendation. They turn it down unanimously. So what happens between mid-January of 2009 and six or seven weeks later when somehow, miraculously, this proposal which is unanimously rejected by the career professionals on the loan committee of DOE, somehow is miraculously resurrected and approved, and is formalized by September. I mean, what, who was involved in that? Why? What was their mindset? And who was responsible for taking this as the company was going down, when there were outside observers, when their impartial auditors saying this company’s in deep trouble, and this just not make sense, who was the official who said, was it the Secretary of Energy who said let’s put the taxpayer behind the private investor to the investigators, and subjugate, you know, subordinate the interest of the taxpayer to private investors?

HH: So Karl, in terms of next fall, do you expect the word Solyndra to be showing up in ads aimed at the President, whether from independent expenditure committees or from the nominee’s campaign on the GOP side?

KR: I wouldn’t be surprised to see it. Now look, you said scandal. Let me make certain that your listeners understand. The biggest tragedy is Fast & Furious. The biggest tragedy is Fast & Furious, because a human life, an American law enforcement official was killed as a result of this. The biggest scandal is the Solyndra, which involves using taxpayer dollars to reward politically-connected green energy advocates, and to basically throw money down a rat hole. And the administration’s attitude is well, you know what, if you want to create a green economy, you’re going to have to crack some jars, and you’re going to have to lose some money, and all of our bets aren’t going to be right. Well, you shouldn’t be betting with the taxpayers’ money in the first place.

HH: Now I want to play a little of President Obama’s rhetoric from today, Karl Rove, to get your sense of where he’s headed with this campaign. This is the President in North Carolina.

BHO: My plan says we’re going to put teachers back in the classroom, construction workers back to work rebuilding America, rebuilding our schools, tax cuts for small businesses, tax cuts for hiring veterans, tax cuts if you give your worker a raise. That’s my plan. And then you’ve got their plan, which is let’s have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance. All right, so, so far, at least, I feel better about my plan.

HH: Karl Rove, the Republicans want dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance. Does this work?

KR: With all due respect to the President, does he think we’re that stupid? I mean, this is insulting. What Republican is out there saying yeah, let’s dirty up the water, let’s dirty up the air? No, they’re saying Mr. President, let us apply strict standards of cost efficiency to any proposed regulation, so that the benefits of any such regulation outweigh the cost of putting the regulation in place. He used to think that that was the right thing to do. But when he gets into campaign mode, he just throws it aside. And I love it. Let’s have some tax cuts – very narrow, targeted tax cuts for you if you do what I say I want you to do, not let’s have permanent tax incentives, let’s have a tax code that encourages economic growth. It’s if you behave, I’ll give you an itsy-bitsy, tiny reward. And we do know this. We know that these things of we want you to hire a veteran, and we’ll give you a very small incentive, which will not offset the cost of adding this person to your payroll, and which will not serve as compensation for all the additional rules and regulations and costs you’re getting as a result of, say, what I’m doing as president – the Affordable Care Act, the extension of the EPA and so forth. I mean, who’s he kidding? I love this. I love this – teachers – did you know this? I was checking on this today. This so infuriated me when I heard it. So I said how many teachers are there in America, and are the number of teachers dropping? And I went to the Department of Education, which last time I saw, was under the purview and the direction of the president of the United States. And there, there was not only an enumeration of teachers, showing that there are more teachers this fall than there were last fall, and more teachers last fall than the previous fall, but also the Department of Education, without taking into consideration the so-called Stimulus measures, says there will be more teachers on the payroll next fall and the fall after that, and the fall after that. So what is this? We’re supposed to take money from every working American in order to give to the teacher unions?

HH: That’s exactly what it is. Now Karl Rove, he’s sort of put his arms around Occupy Wall Street. If you’re his political advisor, just put your hat on as a pure tactical advisor. Is that a good idea?

KR: Well look, I wrote about this two weeks ago, or excuse me, last week in the Wall Street Journal. I said no, it’s a bad idea. I mean, first of all, what do these people want? I understand part of it is a frustration with an economy in which young people don’t see the opportunity available to them for jobs, employment and career. I get that. But this is a mob that doesn’t know what it wants, that is full of nostrums and vague affections and slogans. And it doesn’t know what it wants. And a mob like that gets taken over by lunatics who do know what they want. And we’ve seen this. We’ve seen the anarchists and the self-proclaimed socialists. We’ve seen the anti-Semites railing against Jewish money. And we’ve seen the Laroucheites. We’ve seen…the U.S. Nazi Party and the U.S. Communist Party endorsed it yesterday. And look, when you’ve got something like this, just sort of vaguely, amorphously anti-capitalist, it’s going to be taken over by some ugly faces. And will this help the President with the voters who are leaving him, namely independent voters and college educated voters and young people and Latinos? I mean, look, think about it. He’s sitting there saying I’m going to identify with this mob on Wall Street, and I’m not going to be spending time reassuring some Latino small businessman that I’m going to be there to help him expand his business.

HH: Can he pivot away? We’ve got a minute to the break, Karl Rove. Can he pivot away from them if it gets that ugly?

KR: Yeah, but only if he doesn’t keep throwing his arms around them, and as long as the Vice President doesn’t keep saying things like they’re the Democratic equivalent of the Tea Party. Keep your distance, Mr. President. Stop now.

HH: Is Joe Biden going to be on the ticket in a year?

KR: Yes, yes, yes.

HH: Yes, yes? Why, Karl, he doesn’t put anything on there, does he?

KR: No, but look, who says these guys are geniuses? They put him on last time around in a spasm when they were worried, you know, candidate Obama is off on a Hawaii vacation, and there’s an international crisis, Russia invades Georgia, and they say oops, you know, we don’t have any international experience, let’s find a guy to add to the ticket who looks like he does, and so they add the addled chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose advice they haven’t taken on any major foreign policy decision since.

– – – –

HH: Karl Rove, let’s turn to the GOP side. How significant are endorsements, generally, and the Chris Christie endorsement, specifically?

KR: Endorsements, it varies on, it depends on who it is. And Chris Christie is, not to overuse a metaphor, a pretty weighty endorsement. And a lot of people were sort of encouraging him to run, and those people would be more inclined to sort of follow his lead. But let’s not kid ourselves. Endorsements, you have to have a lot of them, and they have to be people who will work. And that’s one of the interesting things, is he not only endorsed him, he went to New Hampshire to make the endorsement, and then one of the first things I saw shortly thereafter was a very powerful and personal email from Chris Christie asking people to support Romney financially. So that’s a good endorsement. But at the end of the day, we vote for the candidate. The endorsement is like, you know, some very nice covering on the whole thing.

HH: Put on your architect hat, Karl Rove, and give advice to these three frontrunners – Perry, Cain and Romney, as though you were in the room with them, and they’re trying to figure out what to do over the next six weeks.

KR: Well first, Perry, I think, is on the course that is necessary in order to mend himself. And that is he is going to make some substantive policy speeches. The first one was on energy. I’m not certain, if I were the governor of Texas, that the first significant policy speech I’d give would be on energy. That’s just too, you know, that’s so expected. You’re the governor of a big petroleum-producing state, so you’re going to go give a speech that says drill. And if you’re going to say something about energy, you need to say something new and different. That speech could have been easily given by, and probably was given by Newt Gingrich with Drill Here, Drill Now, and the other Republican candidates. But I think that’s the wise thing to do. If you’ve performed poorly in the debates, underperformed, then you need to get yourself back into it. And if you can’t do it by performing well in debates, then go give some substantive, meaty speeches. And I think you need to go give some meaty interviews, where you perform well on your feet, one on one. Maybe a debate just doesn’t work for Perry. But I think that’s the right way to go. The other thing for Perry is that the temptation is going to be for Perry to take the $14 million dollars he’s got in cash, and go try and irradiate Mitt Romney with negative TV ads. Now wisely, I think they’re not going to go that direction. I was interested that Dave Carney, Perry’s strategist, said no, no, we’re not going to go that direction, in essence implying we’re going to go flesh out the record of Perry in office. The more people know about Perry, the better off Perry is. If he goes after the other candidates, particularly if he goes after the other perceived frontrunner, Mitt Romney, in a multi-candidate effort like that, the guy who releases the first set of negative attacks on somebody else is generally the guy who goes down. Mitt Romney – Romney’s had very good debate performances. Now, he needs to build on it, in my opinion, by being bold in his prescriptions. He’s done well in those debates, because he’s outperformed expectations. Well now, why doesn’t he outperform the expectations on things like tax reform and entitlement reform, where he could signal to economic conservatives I’m not only the business guy who knows how to heal the economy, but I’m also the bold reformer. Herman Cain? He needs to do two things. One is he needs to take advantage of the opportunity given to him by winning the Florida Straw Poll, and giving these good debate performances, and being on national TV, by focusing on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which you know, he’s going to go to Iowa on Saturday for the first time since August 13th. I mean, think about that. Two months was the last time he was in the place where we’re going to be voting first. And South Carolina and New Hampshire have been almost as infrequent on his schedule as Iowa. So he needs to go build an organization, because I don’t care how good you are. Remember four years ago? Who was leading with 28% in the national polls? Rudy Giuliani. But he didn’t perform well in any of the early states, and was gone. And the number two? Fred Thompson. He didn’t get out there and develop a strong organization, and he was gone. The final thing about Herman Cain is he better do a better job of defending 9-9-9, or pretty soon, we’re going to stop thinking about it as being an economic program, and start thinking about it being a pizza slogan, you know, 9 toppings, $9 dollars, nine days only, because this performance, particularly over this weekend, I mean, he was alleging that if you make $50,000 dollars a year, you pay $10,000 dollars in federal taxes, payroll and income taxes. And in reality, you pay about $3,515 dollars. And under his plan, you’ll end up paying at least a $1,000 dollars more in federal taxes, federal income taxes, and then probably another $3,000 dollars in a 9% federal sales tax. So your tax bill, if you’re making $50,000 grand a year, goes from about $3,500 dollars to $7,500 dollars.

HH: All right, let’s talk a little technical side. You mentioned in that analysis of the three candidates that New Hampshire will be going after Iowa. The Secretary of State up there is playing the game and saying I’ll move it into December, because it doesn’t fit within our law to put it between Iowa and Nevada. What do you think is going to happen there, Karl Rove? And who does it benefit if New Hampshire goes into December, because Romney probably wants it after he’s lost Iowa, doesn’t he?

KR: Well, look, we don’t know whether Iowans would pay attention to New Hampshire or not, so I don’t know. But look, first of all, I think Gardner, the Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, is just trying to get attention. And I think it is unlikely that he would move it forward to December. And that would speed things up way too much, and I just think he’s drawing attention. I think we’ll end up having the 3rd of January be the Iowa Caucuses, and I think we’re likely to see the 11th of January be the New Hampshire primary. But we’ll see. But so far, I think it’s a lot of bluster. I don’t think he’s going to follow through on it.

HH: And I’ve got to ask you about Governor Palin, your colleague from the Fox News Channel, because of the endorsements that are left out there, DeMint matters, Rubio matters, but he won’t endorse. Vice President Cheney would matter. I doubt he’ll endorse, though you can tell me what you think about that. But what about Sarah Palin? What do you think she’s going to do?

KR: You know, I’ve given up trying to figure it out. I mean, she sounded like, she looked like, she had a schedule that looked like a presidential campaign, and then at the last minute, you know, I think because of some sort of personal reactions to an ugly book that was written about her, she bailed. And so I don’t know. It would be an important endorsement. I think it would have limited impact, however, because I think she’d bring some of her friends but not all of them. But who’s she going to go for? I mean, she’s attacked Rick Perry as being a crony capitalist, she’s attack Mitt Romney as being insufficiently conservative. I can’t remember if she said anything of substance about Herman Cain, but it’s just, you know, I think this process has not elevated her. Sometimes, when you, you know, I think frankly, Chris Christie left the field with a lot more people feeling enthusiastic about him than not. I think Mitch Daniels left the field leaving a lot of people upset with his thinking, and I think Sarah Palin has done the same.

HH: All right, last question, Karl, I can’t do the rest of the endorsements, but I’ve got to ask you, as these drones take out terrorists in places like Yemen, do you sit around and wonder what that rhetoric was in 2008 that the now-president was using about the former president?

KR: You know, I’m glad people can sometimes grow in office. And after suggesting that we were not fighting a war in conformity with our values, I’m glad that President Obama is coming around to the theory that if you can find a bad guy and deliver a Hellfire missile up the tailpipe of his SUV, you ought to do it. Good for him.

HH: Karl Rove, more on that, I hope, Thursday night at the Nixon Library in Southern California. The book, Courage And Consequence is Rove’s memoir. Get it, get it signed on Thursday night.

End of interview.

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