A political group headed by Karl Rove is spending big money on hypocritical attack ads against Democratic candidates for supporting elements of the Simpson-Bowles plan. But the Fox News contributor has previously been a supporter of the plan, calling it a "blueprint for righting the nation's finances" and repeatedly attacking President Obama for not enacting its recommendations. At one point in 2013, Rove told Fox viewers that if Obama had adopted Simpson-Bowles, he "would have had an easy reelection and his popularity would be sky-high today."
Rove is the co-founder of Crossroads GPS, an IRS 501(c)(4) group that funds attacks against Democratic candidates across the country. Their latest salvo criticizes Democrats for supporting elements of the Simpson-Bowles plan, named after the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission's leaders proposed an unsuccessful 2010 plan that aimed to reduce the federal deficit.
GPS recently released an ad claiming that Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) "is a 'big believer' in a controversial plan that raises the retirement age, reduces the home mortgage deduction, and increases out-of-pocket Medicare costs." The News & Observer reported that "GPS is putting $1.12 million toward" the ad, which the Hagan campaign has dismissed as misleading
Rove's group also devoted $705,000 to an ad attacking Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) for supporting elements of Simpson-Bowles.
As MSNBC's Steve Benen explained, the attack is strange since Crossroads "basically positioned itself in this case as aggressive liberals. The Simpson/Bowles commission fell apart when its Republican members decided the chairmen's deficit-reduction plan was simply too liberal (actual liberals disagreed). Soon after, however, Republicans - and much of the political media - excoriated President Obama and congressional Democrats for largely ignoring the plan Simpson and Bowles came up with."
Despite attacking Hagan and Peters for their support of elements of Simpson-Bowles, Rove himself has repeatedly praised the commission in his Wall Street Journal column. Rove has called Simpson-Bowles the "blueprint for righting the nation's finances," and advised Republicans "to draw many of these cuts from" the plan:
- On February 12, 2014, Rove criticized President Obama failing to enact Simpson-Bowles, writing: "Obama's pattern is to act, or fail to act, in a way that will leave his successor with a boatload of troubles. The nation's public debt was equal to roughly 40% of GDP when Mr. Obama took office. At last year's end it was 72% of GDP. The Congressional Budget Office said this month that the government's 'deficits are projected to decline through 2015 but rise thereafter, further boosting federal debt.' Yet Mr. Obama ignored his own Bowles-Simpson deficit commission and has made no effort to reduce the long-term debt burden."
- On October 10, 2013, Rove called Simpson-Bowles the "blueprint for righting the nation's finances" and criticized Obama's "bungling" in failing to enact it. Rove wrote: "This moment is reminiscent of Mr. Obama's bungling of the December 2010 Simpson-Bowles Commission report. He didn't just fail to act on its blueprint for righting the nation's finances--he acted as if he'd never heard of the commission that he appointed. If the president had embraced Simpson-Bowles and worked to pass its recommendations, he would have been handsomely rewarded. Instead he opted for partisan stalemate and acrimony."
- On January 9, 2013, Rove advised House Republicans to draw recommendations from Simpson-Bowles, writing: "House Republicans must pass a measure pairing specific spending cuts with a debt-ceiling increase that will have few, if any, Democratic votes. It would therefore be tactically wise for Republicans to draw many of these cuts from the recommendations of Mr. Obama's own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka Simpson-Bowles)."
- Rove wrote on August 29, 2012, that President Obama's "best moment may have been the 2011 State of the Union address, when he endorsed the spending, budget and tax-reform recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Commission. By bringing together Democrats and Republicans, he showed he was serious about deficit reduction."
Rove also frequently appeared on Fox News to excoriate President Obama for failing to enact Simpson-Bowles. Rove claimed politicians should embrace the plan because it puts "our fiscal house in order" and is politically attractive:
- Rove claimed supporting Simpson-Bowles was a good political idea, stating of President Obama: "Could you imagine what we would look like today if, after having appointed the Simpson-Bowles commission, that he had adopted its recommendations in 2010 and spent 2011 and 2012 putting our fiscal house in order? He would have had an easy reelection and his popularity would be sky-high today." [Fox News, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 3/4/13]
- Rove attacked Obama for failing to make "the hard choices," citing the "Simpson-Bowles commission that came with recommendations on tough choices that needed to be made to rein in the future growth of entitlement spending and he has rejected that." [Fox News, Hannity, 1/21/13]
- Rove said there is an "easy way" to get to a tax compromise in Congress, stating: "If the president -- last summer, when he said I need $800 billion in revenue, then there is a way to get there, which is to say, let us not discriminate between -- let's go Simpson-Bowles. Let's not discriminate between kinds of deductions." [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 12/10/12]
- Rove criticized Obama for being "completely unengaged with solving our debt problem," citing that Obama "made it worse. They had Simpson-Bowles in the fall of '10. He dismissed it." [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 11/22/11]
Oliver Willis provided video assistance for this post.