Rove admits GOP will play politics with ‘war on terror’


    Scandal-tained White House adviser Karl Rove admitted Friday Republicans will seek to capitalize on the war
    on terrorism as a central campaign issue in November.

    His admission confirms Capitol Hill Blue reports from November 10, 2005, that the GOP planned to use terrorism as a way to reverse the party’s sagging fortunes.

    “Republicans have
    a post-9/11 view of the world. And Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of
    the world,” Rove told Republican activists. “That doesn’t make them
    unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong — deeply and
    profoundly and consistently wrong.”

    Democratic Party chairman
    Howard Dean denounced Rove’s remarks and renewed his call for the
    deputy White House chief of staff to be fired for his role in leaking a
    CIA official’s name. “That is both unpatriotic and wrong,” Dean said.

    In November, Capitol Hill Blue revealed a private GOP memo, circulating among top Republican operatives, “suggests that a new
    attack by terrorists on U.S. soil could reverse the sagging fortunes of
    President George W. Bush as well as the GOP and “restore his image as a
    leader of the American people.”

    Rove,
    making a rare public address while under investigation in the CIA leak
    case, joined Republican Party chairman Ken Mehlman in warning GOP
    leaders against falling prey to the corrupting nature of power.

    “The
    GOP’s progress during the last four decades is a stunning political
    achievement. But it is also a cautionary tale of what happens to a
    dominant party _ in this case, the Democrat Party _ when its thinking
    becomes ossified; when its energy begins to drain; when an entitlement
    mentality takes over; and when political power becomes an end in itself
    rather than a mean to achieve the common goal,” Rove told Republican
    National Committee members ending a two-day meeting.

    “We need to learn from our successes,” he said, “and from the failures of others.”

    The
    admonition reflects growing concerns among senior Republicans that
    ethics scandals in the Republican-led Congress could hurt the party in
    November, even among staunch GOP voters who may begin to blame
    corruption for Congress’ runaway spending habits.

    Mehlman
    couldn’t have been more blunt: “One of the oldest lessons of history is
    that power corrupts,” he said, telling RNC members that any Republicans
    guilty of illegal behavior should be punished.

    The investigation
    of lobbyist Jack Abramoff threatens to ensnare at least a half dozen
    members of Congress of both parties and Bush administration officials.
    His ties to GOP congressional leaders and the White House pose a
    particular problem for Republicans. Abramoff, who has admitted to
    conspiring to defraud his Indian tribe clients, has pleaded guilty to
    corruption-related charges and is cooperating with prosecutors.

    In
    an unrelated scandal, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff
    to Vice President Dick Cheney, is expected to stand trial in the CIA
    leak case this summer, just ahead of the midterm elections.

    The
    special prosecutor’s inquiry is still under way, leaving the fate of
    other senior White House officials, notably Rove, in doubt.

    Bush’s
    political guru opened his remarks with a joking reference to the
    unwanted attention the case has brought him. “Anybody want to get their
    picture in the paper? Come on up here,” he said.

    In 2002, Rove
    caused a stir among Democrats when he told RNC members to make the war
    on terrorism an issue in the midterm elections. “We can go to the
    country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a
    better job of protecting and strengthening America’s military might and
    thereby protecting America,” he said at the time.

    Rove made the
    same case Friday, though his words were a bit more measured. Reading
    from a prepared text, he began with a call for election-year civility _
    “Our opponents are our fellow citizens, not our enemies” _ and quickly
    turned to portraying Democrats as weak on defense.

    “The United
    States faces a ruthless enemy _ and we need a commander in chief and a
    Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity that
    American finds itself in,” Rove said. “President Bush and the
    Republican Party do. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many
    Democrats.”

    He said some Democrats want to abandon Iraq too soon,
    which would cause enemies to “laugh at our failed resolve.” Rove added:
    “To retreat before victory would be a reckless act _ and this president
    and our party will not allow it. This is worthy of a public debate.”

    Rove
    also criticized Democrats for opposing extension of the USA Patriot Act
    and warrantless eavesdropping, before turning to Alito, newly minted
    Chief Justice John Roberts and their Democratic opponents on the Senate
    Judiciary Committee.

    “Every effort to smear the name of these
    good men blew up in the face of those making the malicious charges.
    Some committee members came across as mean-spirited and small-minded _
    and it left a searing impression,” Rove said. He specifically accused
    Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., of creating “an ugly display” during
    Alito’s hearing.

    Before the RNC members returned to their home
    states, they approved an immigration resolution supported by the White
    House. A competing measure backed by hard-line conservatives opposed to
    Bush’s guest worker program was withdrawn under pressure from White
    House allies.