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Clarence Page: The GOP's civil war stumbles on

Oklahoman Published: February 14, 2013

Rove is “a total loser,” scoffed Donald Trump, who knows a thing or two about losers.

Town Hall's Terry Jeffrey tallied various Bush administration affronts to conservative orthodoxy in a piece titled “Karl Rove is Not a Conservative.” Indeed? If Rove isn't conservative enough for this crowd, moderate GOP presidential hopefuls like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie don't have a prayer.

For more invective, see the Twitter hash tag #CrushRove.

Welcome to the circular firing squad that inevitably assembles after a party has suffered a big loss. Some say, “We were too extreme” while others argue, “We weren't extreme enough.”

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus has announced plans for “Republican renewal.” Other leading GOP voices express sentiments like those Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal stated bluntly, “We've got to stop being the stupid party.” But the tea partiers seem to want to double down.

To Democrats, the feud may bring to mind the sentiments that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reportedly expressed during the Iran-Iraq War: What a pity that one of them has to win.

No wonder the biggest fear of the party establishment is that tea partiers will stage another big comeback in 2014 midterm elections, as they did in 2010, and learn all of the wrong lessons from it.

Even though the turnout in mid-terms is much smaller, older and more conservative than it is in presidential election years, as one Republican operative told me recently, the right wing might well “get the wrong message that they don't have to change — and we get clobbered again in 2016.”

Nevertheless, this is a soul-searching process that the GOP needs to have — just as Democrats did after their disastrous landslide defeat with presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972.

Until now, attacking President Obama was all it took to unify the party's factions. Now the factions are attacking each other. Before they can take their argument about the country's direction to the Democrats, they first need to settle it among themselves.

E-mail Clarence Page at cpage(at)


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