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The Peculiar Politics of Karl Rove's 'Outrage' Over the IRS Flap

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Source: The Nation


Karl Rove addresses the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. (Steve Helber)

Karl Rove is offering America a super-sized serving of political cynicism.

Since the controversy over the targeting of grassroots tea party groups for extra scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service arose, Rove has engaged in the sort of political sleight of hand that could only be practiced in a country where elite media have no skepticism -- and no memory.

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Just a few months ago, after the 2012 election, Rove was widely portrayed as having declared war on grassroots conservatives in general and the Tea Party movement in particular. The former White House political czar was frustrated: During the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, Republicans had been positioned to win control of the US Senate. Yet, in each cycle, they fell short after the party's grassroots activists upended the candidacies of relatively more moderate candidates in Republican primaries. The Tea Party favorites frequently proved to be weaker contenders and -- in the cases of candidates such as Delaware's Christine O'Donnell in 2010 and Indiana's Richard Mourdock in 2012 -- were seen as having snatched defeat from the jaws of certain victory.

Rove had enough of that. So in February of this year he declared his intent to use his gold-plated political operations to police the party. Specifically, the veteran operative who says his hero is "Gilded Age" political boss Mark Hanna, declared his intention to "avoid having stupid candidates who can't win general elections. Who are undisciplined, can't raise money, aren't putting together the support necessary to win the general election campaign -- because this money is too difficult to raise to be spending it on the behalf of candidates who have little chance winning in the general election."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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