Republicans need more than opposition: Rove

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Karl Rove, architect of George W. Bush’s two presidential election wins, says he believes Republicans need to offer more than just opposition to Democrats in the November congressional elections.

Former Bush White House official Karl Rove drives by reporters after being interviewed by federal prosecutors at his attorney's offices in Washington, May 15, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Giroux

Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate have been largely in lock-step opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposals on healthcare and spending, drawing charges from Democrats that they represent the “party of no.”

Rove sees nothing wrong with a strategy of opposition, but thinks Republicans should offer an optimistic vision of the country and alternatives to Democratic proposals, such as their recently proposed moratorium on targeted pet spending projects called “earmarks.”

“It’s got to be measured and reasonable dissent from Obama, criticism based on the facts and hard evidence and not just hard rhetoric, matched with a positive and optimistic agenda,” Rove said.

“They can’t be content to surf the wave of discontent with Democrats through the fall,” he said.

Rove spoke in an interview as part of the roll-out of his memoir, “Courage and Consequences -- My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.”

Popular with conservatives, Rove is a man Democrats love to hate for advocating what they called a “Rovian,” take-no-prisoners style of politics.

For all his successes in helping Bush win back-to-back terms, his vision of seeing a more lasting Republican majority collapsed in 2006 when Democrats took advantage of Americans’ fatigue with Bush and gained control of Congress and then won the White House in 2008.

Rove, like most Republicans, believes Obama and his Democrats are headed for trouble on healthcare if their sweeping overhaul passes, because many Americans are unhappy with it.

“This is one of those odd pieces of legislation that the longer the public discussion has gone on, the greater the opposition and the more ardent the opposition,” he said.

Obama has rejected this kind of thinking, saying the goal of changing the healthcare system is more important than short-term politics.

“You don’t govern by the polls; you govern by principles. You don’t put your finger to the wind; you put your shoulder to the wheel,” Obama said last week at a fund-raiser for Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

Rove said Obama could put Republicans in a tight spot on the subject by scaling back his plan and forcing them to vote on banning health insurance companies from discriminating against anyone based on a pre-existing condition.

Other snippets from Rove’s interview with Reuters:

* Bush’s book on 12 important decisions he made as president is coming out in November, and its roll-out will prompt him to take on a more visible role than he has had since he left Washington in January 2009.

Bush is about to enter a challenging phase when he has his book edited.

* Republicans considering a run to challenge Obama in 2012 are in “the training season” in which they try out themes and find their voices.

* One presidential wannabe, Mitt Romney, will face questions of consistency and how to explain why the healthcare system adopted in Massachusetts when he was governor is different than Obama’s proposals.

* Sarah Palin will face greater scrutiny than other potential Republican candidates such as Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, because she gained a high profile as John McCain’s running mate in 2008.

* Daniels could emerge as a sleeper candidate for Republicans with his nerdy, low-profile competent style.

* One of the more amusing experiences of Rove’s political career came when he was 25 years old and helping Senator John Warner of Virginia with a speech at a time when Warner was married to movie star Elizabeth Taylor.

Rove, arriving at the Warner home for breakfast, was goggle-eyed when Taylor answered the door wearing a revealing nightgown.

“Dang it, that was one weird experience,” he said.

Editing by Eric Beech