Uber-Strategist Karl Rove Urges California Republicans To Be Open To New Ideas
Story By Juliet Williams, Associated Press | The Mercury News STOCKTON, Calif.
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SACRAMENTO — GOP uber-strategist Karl Rove on Saturday told California Republicans they need to modernize their message while holding tight to their party principles.
But absent from his lunchtime address Saturday to delegates of the California Republican Party’s spring convention was the kind of blistering criticism he’d earlier aimed at tea party and ultra-conservative activists, whom he blamed for widespread GOP losses across the country in November.
Rove’s appearance was nearly eclipsed by a controversy stirred up by Celeste Greig, the head of the conservative California Republican Assembly, a grass-roots group that Ronald Reagan once called “the conscience of the Republican Party.” Greig made national news when she told this newspaper on the eve of the convention that pregnancies from rape were rare “because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized.”
Ironically, Greig made the comment while she was criticizing former U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, who in August told an interviewer that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” It was a remark that many believe led not only to his November defeat by Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill but also helped tarnish the Republican brand around the country.
It wasn’t what Republicans had in mind as they gathered over the weekend to try to create an environment of embracing broader views. Tom Del Beccaro, the California GOP’s outgoing chairman, refused to address the issue.
Greig’s remark seemed to stem from the debate over abortion and whether exceptions on limits to women’s right to abortions such as rape or incest should be allowed, said Stephen Frank, a GOP political consultant, conservative talk-show host and fellow member of the California Republican Assembly.
Many Republicans share the belief that neither rape nor incest should be exceptions to bans on abortions, he said.
“Regardless of the method of conception, a human life has been created,” Frank said. “Do you kill a human life because of the method that conceived it? It’s about conception and innocent life. It’s about what do you do with an innocent life that is conceived. I don’t want to commit a second crime ending the life of a fetus.”
Greig, however, told this newspaper Saturday night that she supports the right of a woman to choose abortion in the case of rape or incest. And she acknowledged that she didn’t have the medical background to know what percentage of rapes result in pregnancies. She said that her Facebook page has been bombarded by “people who’ve been saying terrible things about me.”
Rove, who was President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, urged the conservative GOP activists assembled at the Hyatt Regency and Sacramento Convention Center to be open to new candidates and new ideas.
“We’re going to have to have a little forbearance in listening to the ideas and suggestions of other people in our party about how we modernize ourselves and get ready for the next contests in the future,” Rove said, “because we don’t own all the answers right now. I don’t want to snuff out the next Jack Kemp by saying well, don’t worry, he’s not a principled person.”
Rove was referring to the former NFL quarterback-turned-congressman from New York state who was one of the first politicians to embrace the so-called Laffer curve, the supply-side economic theory behind President Ronald Reagan’s historic tax cuts in 1981. Kemp, who died in 2009, was seen as a moderate on social issues while pursuing conservative economic policies.
“Ronald Reagan, who was smart as hell, said this is a great way to modernize the Republican Party and (the) Kemp-Roth (tax cut) became a key element of the 1980 presidential campaign,” Rove said. “It changed America.”
Rove’s appearance had little to do with California’s importance on the national level for the Republican Party. He said he was “summoned” by longtime friend Jim Brulte, the presumed incoming party chairman, whose task is to dig the California Republican Party out of the deep hole it finds themselves, in because of the state is becoming bluer and bluer as it becomes more Latino and Asian American.
The state party is still reeling from humiliating defeats in November that gave Democrats two-thirds majorities in the Assembly and state Senate. It’s $500,000 in debt and doesn’t even have offices for its staff, which has dwindled to a handful of employees who work from home.
The California GOP’s only gubernatorial prospect for 2014 is a conservative assemblyman who was once a border vigilante and was once caught with a loaded gun at an airport. And Republican voter registration in the state is at an all-time low of 29.3 percent.
“Losing has one great benefit to it,” Rove said. “It gives you the chance to start fresh to look everything anew and start rebuilding from the ground up in innovative and thoughtful ways that will expand our reach and expand our members.”
Rove said the party would not improve its brand simply by tweaking “tactical stuff” such as walking precincts.
“We’ve got a strategic issue,” he said. “We have great principles, but we sometimes talk about those principles in a way that makes it sound like it’s in 1968 or 1980 or 2000 — and it’s not. It’s 2012 on its way to 2014.
Republicans, he said, need to take their “timeless principles and apply them to the new circumstances that the country finds itself in. And we need to talk about our principles in a way that people can get their hands around them.”
Rove saved his sharpest barbs for President Barack Obama, who he said is more “concerned with beating his Republican opposition, breaking us apart, putting it at war with each other, creating a civil war among Republicans, making us dispirited, disorganized and on the sidelines.”
Read the article in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Republican strategist Karl Rove speaks at a luncheon at the California Republican Party convention in Sacramento on Saturday, March 2. Rove told California Republicans to “get off the mat”, and to find candidates to reflect the party’s diversity. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)