Speed Reads

Hard Sell

Karl Rove urges certain Republicans to stop 'soft-pedaling' Jan. 6, hold Capitol attackers to account

Prominent Republican strategist and super PAC founder Karl Rove usually aims his criticisms at Democrats, he said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Wednesday night, but "on the anniversary of Jan. 6, I'm addressing squarely those Republicans who for a year have excused the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, disrupted Congress as it received the Electoral College's results, and violently attempted to overturn the election." 

The part about addressing only Republicans wasn't strictly true — he did advise Democrats at the end of his column to resist "their leadership's petty habit of aggravating partisan fault lines by indiscriminately condemning all who came to Washington that day." But "we Republicans have a heavier burden," Rove wrote. "There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged, and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less."

That may be a hard sell to a Republican Party still enamored of former President Donald Trump bent on, as The New York Times puts it, "transforming his lies about a stolen 2020 election into an article of faith, and even a litmus test that he is seeking to impose on the 2022 primaries."

But Rove tried to illustrate his point with "a simple thought experiment: What if the other side had done it?" 

If "Democrats similarly attired and armed had stormed the Capitol and attempted to keep Congress from receiving the Electoral College results for the 2016 presidential election," and "insisted that in his role as Senate president then-Vice President Joe Biden had sole authority to seat Hillary Clinton's electors from any contested states and thereby hand her the presidency," Rove wrote, "Republicans would have criticized them mercilessly and been right to do so. Republicans would have torched any high official who encouraged violence or stood mute while it was waged and been right to do so. Republicans would have demanded an investigation to find who was responsible for the violence and been right to do so."

Some Republicans have done that, and they're struggling with the consequences. You can read Rove's column at The Wall Street Journal.