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The Continuing Power of Karl Rove

If you want to see the personification of how the Citizens United decision is playing out in this campaign, look no further than Karl Rove.

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BILL MOYERS: And he then writes a column to the effect in the Wall Street Journal that Romney won, even though the votes are still not all counted. And then, he directs his super PACs to go after that candidate, after Santorum. So, in effect, he's naming the winner before the votes are counted, and then carrying his story out into the public.

CRAIG UNGER: Right. He does two things. He directs the funding, but he's also creating a narrative, and he's brilliant at crafting a narrative, and having not just Fox News, but large portions of the press run with it as well.

BILL MOYERS: Rove once personified the Republican establishment that the Tea Party detested. Now you say he's coopted them, defanged their uncontrollable elements, marginalized their leaders, and seized their resources. How did he do that?

CRAIG UNGER: Well, he did it partly because he got the candidate and they had nowhere else to turn. He also, you see it playing out in a very interesting way now with the Todd Akin case, the fiasco, really, in Missouri that's going on now. Because here you have a real Tea Party candidate and Rove was pouring money in. If you looked at the Akin campaign, and he was leading Claire McCaskill by about five points.

BILL MOYERS: Rove was pouring money behind Akin?

CAMPAIGN ADS: Here’s Claire McCaskill, using special interest cash to hide the fact she’s voted against what’s best for Missouri. […] Obamacare? More like Obama Claire. […] Sorry Senator McCaskill. No more reckless spending . No new taxes. And no more blank checks.

CRAIG UNGER: Akin's campaign had about $2.2 million if I'm not mistaken. Rove's super PACs had put in more than $5 million in the campaign. So, they were crucial to its success. And now, what happened immediately after the episode came to light, Rove acted swiftly and brutally. And he said, “Akin’s got a lot of explaining to do.” He immediately pulled the plug on all funding. And again, this is the party boss announcing on national TV, "You are finished, we're not giving you another dime."

BILL MOYERS: And he has no public office of, for himself. He's not elected to any office.

CRAIG UNGER: He's not elected to any office even within the Republican party. He—

BILL MOYERS: Yet, he's the boss as you said.

CRAIG UNGER: He is. Absolutely.

He's brutal, he's ruthless, he, it's a scorched earth kind of partisanship. If you're not on his side 100 percent, he will destroy you. There are Republican, other strategists who were with him 95 percent and they found their careers destroyed. And he will go after you. And he, but he's managed to retain the loyalty of these multibillionaires for decades.

BILL MOYERS: What does it mean, Craig, that a man like Karl Rove can keep secret the sources of huge sums of money coming into his control?

CRAIG UNGER: I think if there's no transparency, then there's no accountability. And here you have billionaires, really, who are funding a political party, a political candidate, and they want certain favors in return. And I think Rove is playing a very, very long game. And he's sort of in a win-win position. That is, Romney is a deeply flawed candidate.

The Republicans are probably at a disadvantage and may well not win. If Rove pulls it out of the fire, Rove, he'll be declared a genius. And if Romney loses, Rove can blame it on the undisciplined behavior of Tea Party candidates like Akin. He can blame it on their extremism. And come back in 2016 with none other than Jeb Bush.

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