Rove: Tea Party Is “Wholesome” and “Patriotic”

On “Face the Nation,” Crossroader celebrates the movement, says his recent comments taken out of context by his “friend” Rush Limbaugh.

Face the Nation
October 24, 2010

SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. And we welcome to the broadcast this morning Fox News contributor Karl Rove, who has emerged as one of the key players and fund-raisers in this election, which the Center for Responsive Politics estimates will cost $3.7 billion. Mr. Rove, thank you for joining us.

ROVE: You bet.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just do a little shorthand here, because, if you add up the money raised by the congressional committees in the two national parties, Democrats have raised $750 million to the Republicans’ $500 million.

But when you turn to these so-called outside independent groups, when you add up what they are bringing in, Republicans seem to be outraising Democrats about 2-1.

The two groups that you’re associated with alone expected to raise around $65 million. And a lot of that money is coming from anonymous donors.

So I want to just start with this. Why is the public interest served by flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want other people to know they’ve contributed?

ROVE: Well, this has been going on for a long while. In fact, you left out a big player in this. Four unions alone will have, according to their own announcements, spent $222 million in money on elections this year.

SCHIEFFER: But we know who they are.

ROVE: No — no you don’t, Bob. Here’s the disclosure report for the — for one who is going to spend $87.5 million, the American Federation of State Local and Community Employees. There’s their disclosure of where the money has come from, that one line right there. They’re going to take in $190,477,829. And that’s the extent of where you know where it’s coming from. So there’s a lot of money floating around in politics that’s not disclosed.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let’s get back to my question, though. Why is this in the public interest…

ROVE: Look, Democrats….

SCHIEFFER: … to have these anonymous donations.

ROVE: Bob, I don’t remember you having a program in 2000, when the NAACP spent $10 million from one single donor running ads, anonymously contributed, attacking George W. Bush. Suddenly, everybody’s gotten spun up about it this year when Republicans have started to follow what the Democrats have been doing and create 501(c)(4)s which can use less than half their money for express advocacy.

But you have the Environment America, Feminist Majority, Humane Society Legislative Front (sic), NARAL, Vote Vets, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and a bunch of others, which are all liberal groups that have been using 501 (c)(4)s with undisclosed money for years and years and years and years, and spending tens and billions of dollars.

And it’s never been an issue until the president of the United States, on the day when we have a bad economic jobs report, when we lose 95,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, the president of the United States goes out and calls conservatives at the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads GPS and says these are threats to democracy because they don’t disclose their donors.

I don’t remember him ever saying that all these liberal groups were threats to democracy when they spent money exactly the same way we are. Once we copied what the liberals did, liberals got upset.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I want to go back to the original question, I mean, because, by your logic, we might as well go back to the days when people just brought cash.


ROVE: No, Bob, not at all. Remember, every one of these donors to those 501 (c)(4)s has to be reported to the IRS. And the IRS reviews those reports, and if they’re foreign donors or other illicit donors, I’m sure the IRS acts on it.

It’s not the old days when Democrats — when Lyndon Johnson Democrats came in with big bags of money and so forth.

And let’s just be honest. I would like to have a different system, but we have the system we have. And if liberals do it and nobody complains about it, it strikes me as somewhat hypocritical when conservatives begin to adopt their strategies and follow their models and conservatives get criticized by the president of the United States by name.

I appreciate he’d helped our fund raising. In fact, anybody who still wants to contribute can go to our website and contribute. But the president of the United States had no problem at all when Democrats did this.

In 2008 President Obama received the benefit of over $400 million of spending by outside groups on his behalf, most of whom did not report a single donor. And it was not a threat to democracy when it helped get him elected.

SCHIEFFER: All right. One of the people who did contribute to one of your organizations and whose name was made public was the man named Bob Perry, I think, a Texas home builder. He gave $7 million. What does someone expect for a $7 million donation?

ROVE: Well, I can’t speak to others, but I know what Bob Perry expects, and that is absolutely nothing. I’ve known him for 30 years. He’s one of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever known. And I’ve never received a phone call from Bob Perry asking for a darned thing.

He is a true believer. He believes in our country. He’s concerned about its future. He gives away most of what he earns to charitable and political and philanthropic causes and lives a modest lifestyle and is the kind of person that Americans should be proud to have.

SCHIEFFER: I have to say, if we ran a poll around the country, how many people do you think would agree with you when you say that someone would give $7 million to anything and not expect something in return?

ROVE: You know, I don’t care what the poll might say. I just know the man. And the man is a decent, deeply religious, patriotic American. And God bless him for doing something.

SCHIEFFER: You know, we’ve talked about these outside groups, some of which require disclosure of the money that they get, some of which don’t. You’re tied to two of them, one that does it one way…

ROVE: And Bob — and Bob Perry gave to the 527, which was disclosed.


ROVE: … and disclosed all of its donors.

SCHIEFFER: But, you know what, Mr. Rove, back in 2004, in August, you talked to John King of CNN. Here’s what you said then about these groups.

ROVE: I remember — I remember well what I said.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let’s listen here.


ROVE: I’m against it, all the 527 ads and activities. I don’t think they’re fair. I don’t think it’s appropriate. They’re — they’re misusing the law. There’s — they all ought to stop.

SCHIEFFER: So why is it, if they were that bad back then, they’re so wholesome now?

ROVE: I’m not suggesting — it is what it is. And the choice is whether you fight the battle with one arm tied behind your back or not.

As I say, I wish we had a different system, but we’ve got the system we’ve got.

Think about this, Bob. In 2004 — this doesn’t count the unions. Remember, each election we have hundreds of millions of dollars of activity on behalf of the Democrats from the unions, $231 million spent by Democratic 527s, $116 million for Republicans.

In 2008 it was $287 million for Democratic 527s and $187 million for Republican 527s. I didn’t want my party to sit there — and that’s the 527s. That doesn’t count the 501 (c)(4)s, where, for all of these elections, have been virtually all Democrat and virtually no Republican money through 501 (c)(4)s.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this. If you feel so strongly about it, would you pledge this morning that you’ll work to have new campaign laws where we make all of these contributions transparent and we’ll know who is giving them?

ROVE: Well, I’m — I’m for a new system, Bob. But I’m — I’m focused on 2010. Right now, I’m focused on trying to level the playing field. When you have — when you have an organization that spends $87 million — it’s announced it’s spending $87 million. They said, we’re the big player, but we don’t like to boast about it. And that’s the amount of disclosure. We’ve tolerated this for decades. The system may need something else.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me ask you about these private groups. I can’t speak for the unions this morning. What happens…

ROVE: I wouldn’t defend them either, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: What happens after the election? Will you keep these organizations going?

ROVE: Absolutely.

SCHIEFFER: Are they going to have some money there? Are they going to continue to be in existence? Will they start running ads against — against Democrats?

ROVE: Well, yes, The goal of these groups — and, look, there’s a chairman — there’s a Board of Directors chaired by Mike Duncan, the former Republican national chairman. The executive director, president of it is Steven Law, the former general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And I believe their goal is, yes, to continue it, and to serve as a permanent counterweight to the activities of the labor unions and these liberal groups.

SCHIEFFER: Let’s talk about the Tea Party, a little bit. Rush Limbaugh said you feel threatened by the Tea Party because you and the other establishment folks didn’t have anything to do with it.

ROVE: No, no, I welcome it. I think it’s one of the most positive and wholesome developments. What he took out of context was a comment I made in an interview with a hostile German reporters in which I said the Tea Party’s not sophisticated.

And my definition of the word “sophisticated” — I was using the one about “pretentiously or superficially wise.” These are not people who are skilled in the ways of Washington. They don’t want to be. They’re ordinary Americans from Main Street America who have created a massive grassroots effort driven by a sentiment in this country — even more important than the groups is the sentiment that’s driving it — that the government is on a terribly dangerous course of spending too much money, running up too much deficit and taking up too much of our — too much control of our lives with things like Obamacare.

ROVE: And I consider it to be wholesome, patriotic, and incredibly positive for the country.

It’s going to drive turnout up this election. Four years ago, 82 million people voted in races for the U.S. House of Representatives. I would not be surprised to see it be 85 or 86. I wouldn’t drop over if it got 90 million. And a large amount of that new participation in this year’s election is being driven by a vast army of local grassroots organizations, organized around a kitchen table, organized in a community center, organized over a — in a coffee shop of people who want to do something to save America.

SCHIEFFER: I want to get back to that but I must ask you about something you just said. Are you saying — have you come on FACE THE NATION this morning and said for the record that Rush Limbaugh takes things out of context?

ROVE: Well, in this instance, he may have commented before he saw the entire interview. Look, he’s a friend of mine. And he almost more than anybody else is responsible for helping encourage people to educate themselves about the impact of the spending, the deficit, and “Obama-care” so that they have become politically active.

He has a vast audience. And that audience and others have talked to that audience as well. And people have come to — think about it. The president of the United States has the biggest bully pulpit in country. He has got vast majorities in the Senate and the House. And yet the health care bill goes from being, as a general concept, favored by American people in the early part of 2009 by 2 to 1 to when the bill actually passed, 44 percent of the Americans favored it, 47 disapproved of it.

And today if you take a look at the average of the polls over the last several months, it’s an average of 40 percent of the American people favor the bill, and nearly 50 percent today don’t favor it. It’s the only piece of major social legislation that I’ve seen in modern times that became less popular after it was passed.

SCHIEFFER: Let me get right to it. Do you think Sarah Palin is going to run for president? And if she does, do you think she would be a good president?

ROVE: Well, I don’t know whether she’s going to run or not. And if she runs, she would be a formidable candidate. But look, there are going to be several geological ages that are going to come and go before the 2012 Republican presidential nomination fight gels. It’s going to be like the Democrats.

Who at this point in 2006 was saying, oh, yes, it’s going to be that guy Obama, he has got it? And I think we’re going to face the same process on the Republican side where every one of these prospective candidates, if they decide to enter the race, has strengths that they need to work on magnifying and weaknesses that they need to endeavor to overcome, or challenges that they need to overcome. And, you know, we don’t know how that is going to play out. It’s going to be a very interesting contest to watch.

SCHIEFFER: You’ve been very hard on the president. You at one point called him an “utter disaster.” Can you think of anything good that this president has done?

ROVE: Well, sure. He has continued President Bush’s policies in Iraq by not engaging in a precipitous withdrawal. I think he has done very positive things in some of his education policies by insisting upon standards and by taking on the idea of pay-for-performance with teachers.

Absolutely there’s things that I think he has done well. In Afghanistan, I think he made a courageous decision in Afghanistan, much against the hard left base of his party, but the right decision. Now that doesn’t mean that I agree 100 percent with the decision in Afghanistan. I think he has shown too much interest in making that July target a hard date for withdrawal. And I think that would be a mistake.

SCHIEFFER: Final question. What’s going to happen on election night?

ROVE: This week Charlie Cook, the respected analyst, said there were 91 Democrat seats up for grabs. Stuart Rothenberg said 91 up for grabs. Politico said 99 Democrat seats up for grabs. And between five and nine Republican seats.

There’s a very smart academic at the American Enterprise Institute named Henry Olsen who said, you know, if you look at these wave elections like we’re facing, the Republicans or the out party gains about 70 percent of those seats.

That would translate into a gain of 64 to 69 seats in the House, and about eight or nine seats in the Senate. Now I think there is going to be slightly less than that in the House because the Democrats have an advantage in money. But money doesn’t win it for you. We had more money than they did in ’06. You have to have sufficiency or adequacy. And I think the Republicans are going to get that.

And then the other thing is, is the intensity. If you look at Gallup this week, for example, the Republicans maintain a huge advantage, 13 points — or excuse me, 11 points in a low turnout — a high turnout election and a 17-point advantage in a low turnout election that would look like four years ago. And the intensity maintains itself.

SCHIEFFER: Karl Rove, it’s always fun to interview you. ROVE: Thank you. You bet.

SCHIEFFER: Thanks for coming by.

We’ll be back and get an entirely different point of view in just one minute.

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Related Topics: Karl Rove, Midterm Elections, Republican Party

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