Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 18, 2009

THE ORIGINAL KING OF IRONY STRIKES AGAIN.... Karl Rove is just outraged that the White House would snub a news outlet it considers partisan. He complained incessantly about the Obama team's disdain for Fox News this morning.

"The administration is making a mistake for itself," Rove continued. "But more importantly, it is demeaning the office of the president by taking the president and moving him from a person who wants to be talking to everybody and communicating through every available channel the same, if you oppose me, you question me, if you are too tough on me, by gosh, me and my people are not going to come on, we are going to penalize you. That is just wrong, fundamentally wrong."

Now, one can debate whether the White House's decision to treat Fox News like a partisan propaganda outlet is wise or not. I believe it's the right call. But putting that aside, let's pause to appreciate the comical irony of Rove's whining.

It was, after all, George W. Bush who became the first modern president to refuse literally every interview request from the New York Times over the span of nine years. The NYT's Sheryl Gay Stolberg explained about a year ago, "[Bush] White House officials are quite open about the fact that we have not gotten an interview because they don't like our coverage."

Did Rove find this decision "demeaning" to the presidency? Was Rove in the West Wing, arguing at the time that the president should be "talking to everybody and communicating through every available channel"?

For that matter, the Bush White House went after NBC News in May 2008, accusing the network of deceptive editing and blurring the lines between "news" and "opinion." Officials from the Bush team began treating NBC and MSNBC as political opponents.

Did Rove find this "fundamentally wrong"? I don't recall him complaining at the time.

I can appreciate the fact that Karl Rove is an embarrassingly partisan hack. It's been his role for so long, it's entirely expected. But it's the kind of attacks he launches that I find interesting.

Rove ran a White House that embraced a "permanent campaign," so he's accused the Obama team of embracing a "permanent campaign." Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he's accused Obama of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted " political events, so he's accused Obama of relying on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted" political events. Rove looked at every policy issue "from a political perspective," so he's accused Obama of looking at every policy issue "from a political perspective."

It's hard to launch political attacks that are ironic, hypocritical, and examples of projection, all at the same time, but Rove is a rare talent.

Steve Benen 11:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

It isn't projection, it is an active strategy. Karl Rove is the absolute master at attacking opponents with the exact same thing his opponents would attack him with.

The strategy was pioneered back in 1988 when the first Bush went after Dukakis for being a polluter. Dukakis didn't have the balls to fight back against the strategy, and it's been a Republican mainstay ever since.

It is a very effective strategy, given the way the political media works. If you attack your opponents with your own weaknesses, then when your opponent attacks you for the same thing, "balance" demands that reporters simply say, "Everyone does it, that is just how the system works."

Posted by: skeptic on October 18, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

That's always been a Rove strategy - attack your opponents for doing what you do (even if the opponents are not doing it), attack them for their strengths, attack them for your weaknesses, etc. In large measure, he's thinking of his opponents' next move and trying to preempt it.

Posted by: foosion on October 18, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Whenever you're feeling lazy and would like to give your brain cells a rest, just take a few minutes to listen to whatever Karl Rove is saying.

Then go, do, say, believe the opposite. I guarantee you'll be correct every time.

Posted by: K in VA on October 18, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds like 2004 all over again. The strategy worked then. Think swift boats. We'll see if voters buy it now.

Posted by: E L on October 18, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

If Rove is producing Karma through his life's actions, the consequences will be indescribable.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on October 18, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone paying any attention at all knows that Rove is guilty of whatever he projects onto his opponents. He knows that the audience he is addressing will not recognize that, so it doesn't matter.

Posted by: qwerty on October 18, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Great write up, too bad most people will ignore it.

Somewhere in Texas, there is a blossom that is missing its turd.

Posted by: dan robinson on October 18, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Please stop referring to this man as having "talent"...actually your descriptions preceeding that are the more telling. He is not a GENIUS either...he just had/has way too much support from other misleading, hypocritical, projectionists who have far too much influence in 'merica...and add to that that: YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID...which we are overun with! Go SNOWE!!!

Posted by: Dancer on October 18, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

...if you oppose me, you question me, if you are too tough on me, by gosh, me and my people are not going to come on, we are going to penalize you. That is just wrong, fundamentally wrong.

This is disingenuous at best. Fox traffics in lies and thus stacks the deck against any meaningful back & forth.

Obama, by any measure I've seen so far, actually enjoys the challenge of debating issues. (Remember how he inadvertently delivered to us Joe the Plumber?)

Fox is also fanning the flames of delusion & victimization on the right. They will, of course, cry foul whenever one of their viewers starts shooting up a church or a school or whatever, but blood is on their hands. Why would anyone, of any political stripe, want to be associated with such?

Posted by: zhak on October 18, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Did Rove find this decision "demeaning" to the presidency?

Of course not. By the time that decision would have been made, Bush had so thoroughly demeaned the presidency that one more thing wasn't gonna make much difference.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on October 18, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Karl, STFU. We're onto you already...

Who gives a rat's ass what you say, except for the pitiful sheeple that still watch and believe the crap spewed by Faux.

Posted by: George on October 18, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I can see the strategy behind this kind of thinking, but I wonder if it's going to work. I assume Rove is looking ahead to the 2010 elections, and the conventional wisdom seems to be that the Republicans will pick up some seats in Congress, but I don't know that this is based on anything other than the idea that it would be the normal thing. If that's the case, you also have to consider that it isn't normal for a political party to go completely insane.

To me it seems at least as plausible that the Democrats will pick up some seats. The Republicans are giving them a gigantic amount of ammunition to use, and Rove's nonsense only adds to the stockpile. I would guess it's mainly a question of whether the Democrats are willing and able to throw all the hatred and obstruction and lies back in the Republicans' faces. With Obama at the head of the party, and if we can get maybe a few more Alan Graysons on the team, there's got to be some reason for optimism.

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on October 18, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, please, Rove is not being ironic, nor is it ironic that he's saying this crap. At most, it's hypocrisy, and that's only if he truly believes what he's saying. Otherwise, it's just calculated political bullshit. Either way, there's nothing ironic about it.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on October 18, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

"It's hard to launch political attacks that are ironic, hypocritical, and examples of projection, all at the same time, but Rove is a rare talent."

And, the second irony is that Fox News will back every word that he says!

Well, not actually ironic - just Republican.

Posted by: Mark-NC on October 18, 2009 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Rove is a one-trick pony.

He's been doing this same trick for years, and it's boring.

Only Faux News would find some value in giving the Turdblossom a second act in American life.

Posted by: biggerbox on October 18, 2009 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Projection has been the best word to describe what conservatives have been doing since Obama's election. It has to be. Conservatism was a disaster for the country when it was in power over the past decade. The only way for conservatives to get back in power is to cover that up by projecting all of its sins and failures on the new administration. The GOP is a radical party so it has to make its radicalism seem a mainstream failure shared by Democrats. The public has identified a number of key traits that cause it to distrust conservatives, so FOX, Rove and others must transfer those traits to Democrats -- as Gingrich tried to do by throwing George Bush under the bus and making Obama his heir apparent with his rhetorical formulation "the Bush Obama big government bailout plan." Bush was known for ignoring the Senate with his appointments, as when he gave a rejected John Bolton the UN position on a recess appoinbtment, so FOX naturally focuses on all the czars that are being appointed without Senate confirmation. Projection is how the Right Wing is trying to get back into power by having us forget all about why they are so disasterous for the country.

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 18, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

The first two comments have it exactly right: it is a simple, effective, conscious, political strategy.

It consists of assessing your own possible weaknesses and then accusing the other side of those exact faults. With a straight face, manufactured outrage, and repetition, repetition, repetition.

Running a candidate who avoided serving in Vietnam against a Vietnam medal winner? Accuse the LATTER of cowardice.

Running a campaign with racist overtones? Accuse the other side of racism.

Take a record surplus and turn it into a record deficit? Accuse your opponents of profligate spending.

It doesn't require a genius or projection. You too can do it at home ...


Posted by: SFE on October 18, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK
I can appreciate the fact that Karl Rove is an embarrassingly partisan hack. It's been his role for so long, it's entirely expected. But it's the kind of attacks he launches that I find interesting.

In part, it is a means of asserting dominance over the interviewer: a show that he can say something abjectly ridiculous and get no pushback. The interviewer probably knows it's bullshit as well, and Rove is reminding the interviewer that he can say whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

The other side of it is a means of control over loyal Republicans: Rove's job is to get Republicans to say and believe ridiculous things in order to prove their loyalty to the cause.

Posted by: Tyro on October 18, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Great Steve, for pointing out Bush's refusal to talk to NYT, and Rove's hypocrisy thereby. But the really interesting question is: how many interviewers brought that issue up to Rove, or did "Media" commenters at all (as when talking about the story lines)? - My guess, very few.

BTW, a certain type of literally psychopathic person loves to make projective accusations that way.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on October 18, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Only Faux News would find some value in giving the Turdblossom a second act in American life."
No, sorry to say: Rove has a column in WSJ - no surprise - but also in the WaPo! Journamalism reigns!

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on October 18, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

OK, three's a crowd so I'll wait -
"Rove is reminding the interviewer that he can say whatever he wants, whenever he wants."
I've heard the reasons for that sort of thing, but really: the interviewer couldn't get away with any push back?

Posted by: Neil B ♫ on October 18, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Never forget, Karl Rove is a traitor.

He outed CIA agents working to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

If this had happen during Bush senior, he'd be in jail.

Posted by: Glen on October 18, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK


Accusing Rove of hypocrisy in doing to NBC and the NYTimes what the Obama White House is doing to Fox News is insulting to NBC and the NYTimes.

The proper comparison is this:

How many times did Bush grant an interview to The Onion? How often did Bush go on John Stewart's show?

Fox is "entertainment", no more and no less. Equating it with heavily storied and well-respected news organizations is a disservice to those news orgs and plying right into Rove's hands.

Posted by: Tom Dibble on October 18, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

The next step must be to rescind their WH press passes.

Posted by: bob h on October 18, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Bob h, I don't think that would be a good idea - it's enough to call them out on their fraudulent operations, and not cooperate directly until they can show improvement (REM that granting interviews is a matter of choice.) But Obama should still call on even their reporters on an individual basis, according to their known conduct.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on October 18, 2009 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Neil B, please repost without typos, cannot parse.

Posted by: anomaly on October 18, 2009 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Phoney outrage from the Turdblossom is nothing new. Fired by Bush I for his dirty dealings, Rove is a partisan political media manipulator without conscience. The man has not a shred of integrity, honor, or crediblility. To Karl Rove, this is all a game. Like a hot shot bully, so certain that he is the strongest, toughest kid on the playground, Rove is convinced that he's much smarter than everyone else. He's sure that he can outsmart everyone else every time. Every word is a measured part of a political strategy designed to deceive, denegrate, or deflect, depending on the topic and which party is in power.

Over the past several weeks, the clown show of Faux News entertainers, CNN's Mr. Indigestion Lou Dobbs, and talk radio's bombastic blowhard Rush Limbaugh have revived the worn out "poor little ole me" strategy. To garner sympathy, the belligerent bullies whine and complain that boogeyman Obama and the big bad Democrats are freezing them out by refusing to appear on Fox, calling them out for not being a news organization, discriminating against them on Obama's enemies list, and preventing Americans like them from owning a football team- that's reverse racism. It bolsters their arguments to give the impression that Fox, Limbaugh, and Dobbs are being victimized and exploited and their audiences are being cheated and deceived by the Obama administration. It serves to reinforce their claim that Obama is scary and unlike "real Americans" memes. It further supports their wacko "new order" conspiracy theories.

Posted by: Carol A on October 18, 2009 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Better question: Why isn't Rove in prison for treason???

Posted by: Hmmmm on October 19, 2009 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

Where is the indictment for Karl Rove?

Posted by: ML johnston on October 19, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

The FOX/Rovian right needs its own little label to describe its behavior - short, punchy, gut level, and thoroughly demeaning. For me that's in the ballpark of "hysterical," as in modern conservatives screech like hysterical women. I know that's sexist as hell, but that's how I categorize them. Powerless, hysterical, petrified women eternally furious because they didn't get enough attention from daddy. Or maybe weak, scared little boys whose mommas never taught them how to behave. But that's the general direction - weak, terrified children; overgrown babies whose collective tantrum has gone on far, far too long. The concept "Peter Principle" has been redefined in perpetuity as "late 20th century American conservatism." So hit these Pillsbury Doughboys/girls where it counts. And my money, for what it's worth, is being targeted to reinforce Grayson, the White House, and whomever has the cajones to call out weak and hysterical, or vicious, or sleazily hypocritical behavior.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on October 19, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Rove should call Obama "Turd Blossom", and then accuse him of having a stupid nickname.

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