On Thursday, Karl Rove was added to the long list of people and companies that Donald Trump would like to see canceled—a list that includes so-called cheating “dog” Kristen Stewart and the “no money, no success” survivors of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. The former president released a statement through a political action committee called Save America that described Rove as “a pompous fool with bad advice” and a “RINO of the highest order,” adding that Fox News “should get rid of Karl Rove and his ridiculous ‘whiteboard’ as soon as possible!”
The tirade was seemingly triggered by Rove’s latest Wall Street Journal column, which criticized Trump’s return to the limelight by way of a “divisive, controversial, and embittered” address at CPAC over the weekend. The longtime GOP strategist, who is famous for helping George W. Bush win in 2000 and 2004 and who most recently worked on the Trump campaign, titled his op-ed “Trump’s Appeal Rings Hollow at CPAC” and concluded that the former president’s speech lacked a “forward-looking agenda” and was “simply a recitation of his greatest hits. People like fresh material. Repetition is useful to a point, but it grows stale.” He also noted the results of CPAC’s straw poll this year: Just 68% of conference guests—presumably the Trumpiest of Trump fans—said they wanted to see Trump run again.
Rove has since responded to Trump, telling Reuters that he has “been called a lot of things in my career, but never a RINO. I’ve voted for every Republican presidential candidate since I turned 18 and have labored only for GOP candidates since then.” He went on to assure the former president that he wouldn’t be leaving Fox News anytime soon. “I’ll continue to use my whiteboard and voice to call balls and strikes,” he said.
The feud is something of an about-face for Rove, who, as Business Insider reported, was assisting with the 2020 Trump campaign’s voter-outreach and swing state tactics less than a year ago, working directly with Jared Kushner and Brad Parscale in an informal, behind-the-scenes role. In the immediate aftermath of the media calling the election for Joe Biden, however, Rove jumped ship and began distancing himself from the former president. “[Trump] should do his part to unite the country by leading a peaceful transition and letting grievances go,” Rove wrote in a November op-ed.
In a way the rift is emblematic of the slew of questions facing the Republican Party as a whole. With the former president knocked onto the sidelines, those in his party are faced with a choice: continue to bow to his influence or attempt to forge a new path. Central to that binary is the question of just how much sway Trump will have going forward, and whether his attacks will still carry the weight they used to. Trump’s Rove offensive was published shortly after he lashed out at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board and its support for “globalist policies”—a reaction to the paper blaming him for the Republican Party’s White House and Senate losses. “Nobody cares much about The Wall Street Journal editorial anymore. They have lost great credibility,” he wrote in response to the paper’s editorial warning that Trump-related “intra-party fights will sap GOP energy and resources when their priority now should be retaking Congress in 2022.” He may be proving its point.
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