• With: Dan Henninger, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Matt Kaminski, James Freeman, Bret Stephens

    GIGOT: You mean without not having to justify it? Just leave it go without having to justify it?

    RABINOWITZ: Just let it go.

    If you listened to Brennan yesterday, you could see this absolute perfect emblem of confusion about everything, not only the drones, but waterboarding and everything. This is perfect exemplar of the administration's muddled view on this. What they wanted above all was not to have to go invade and not to have to go fight.

    GIGOT: So the drones are a kind of default for them?

    RABINOWITZ: Yes, indeed.

    GIGOT: All right.

    Thank you all.

    When we come back, the future of the Republican Party, from Karl Rove's plan to pick winning candidates to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's red state model. Who or what will drive the Republican revival?

    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

    GIGOT: Well, it's the latest intra-Republican feud and it came to a head this week with the unveiling of a new super PAC called the Conservative Victory Project, and effort headed up by American Crossroads founder, Steven Law and Karl Rove. The group's aim is to rebuild the party in the wake of the 2012 elections and win back control of the Senate. To that end, they pledge to take sides in primary races, backing candidates they see as more electable. All this has set off a fierce backlash from some conservative activists who see the move as a way to sideline conservative candidates in favor of more establishment choices.

    We're back with Dan Henninger and Dorothy Rabinowitz. And assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman, also joins the panel.

    So I should say at the start, Dorothy, Karl Rove writes for the Wall Street Journal and is a Fox contributor. Get that out of the way.

    So what do you think of his effort in the primaries?

    RABINOWITZ: I think he's doing a great service. It was overdue that someone would take this completely rational position. Yes, it is the latest -- underscore the latest. This has happened before. If you remember Barry Goldwater Rights. The Goldwater Rights were very angry people, too, but compared with today's base, they were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They were calm. We have seen Karl Rove (INAUDIBLE), motivate a lot of Republican heart, who actually watched what went on with the primaries, who heard the extremist views of so many of the candidates. In deference to what is now known as the Republican base, they sounded a very solid word, but it is not.

    GIGOT: All right.

    But what about the fact that a lot of the establishment so-called candidates that Rove backed also in the last primary lost, also in the last campaign also lost -- Tommy Thompson, in Wisconsin, for example; Danny Rayberg (ph, in Montana -- they were not Tea Party candidates and they got beat?

    RABINOWITZ: But there was a wave. There was a ground swell. You could be swept up. But nobody should be forgetting Karen Angle, O'Donnell --

    GIGOT: Sharon Angle.

    RABINOWITZ: Sharon Angle, sorry.

    GIGOT: Christine O'Donnell.

    RABINOWITZ: Were sure fire old time Republican candidates. Castles, Mike Castle who could have been elected --

    GIGOT: This is in Delaware, 2010 --

    RABINOWITZ: In Delaware, yes.

    GIGOT: -- beaten by Christine O'Donnell, who came up of nowhere, supported by Tea Party and --

    (CROSSTALK)

    RABINOWITZ: Nowhere. And passionately so.

    GIGOT: Letting Democrats hold the seat.

    James, what do you think of this effort by Rove?

    JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: I think you understand why conservatives are skeptical. When William F. Buckley Jr., years ago, said, I think we should support the right-ward most candidate that could win the election, it had a lot of creditability because he defined American conservatism. Karl Rove for years has been the guy in political and policy debates arguing against conservatives in the Republican Party. So the idea that conservatives would trust him to find conservatives who can win is a little strange.

    But I think there is also a tactical question of tactical campaign operation, too. I think a lot of Republicans are looking at Karl Rove and saying he raised a lot of money this time. Are you fighting the last war - -

    (CROSSTALK)

    FREEMAN: -- a lot of TV instead of getting into social media? I think there's also the question of, look, the Republicans nominated the squishy moderate in Mitt Romney, and he lost. So it's a little strange afterwards to say we went too far right.

    GIGOT: Mediate this dispute, Dan.

    HENNINGER: Oh, I'll mediate, indeed with a little bit of cynicism. Politics is now an industry. While this is to a great extent about principle, it's also a lot about money. There is tremendous resentment among Rove's competitors that he has been siphoning all of these tens of millions out of the donor universe. There are these deep-pocketed donors out there that, by and large, decide whether to give to American Crossroads and withdraw that money and give it to somebody else. There is an enormous competition out there for that money.

    GIGOT: If you are a Republican donor and you see the results of the last election, you know, $350 million was spent on Senate races or whatever it was -- please correct, someone, if I'm wrong. But it was a lot of money. What were the results? They lost two seats.

    HENNINGER: Trust me, these donors have opinions about that.

    GIGOT: Shouldn't they? Shouldn't they say, let's get a higher class of candidates, somebody who doesn't blow up his own candidacy with stupid statements.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: Is that too much to ask?

    HENNINGER: But, you know what? Politics is also a public performance art. You can't nominate people who can't perform in public. That's the dilemma.