Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 23, 2010

THE ORIGINAL KING OF IRONY LIVES.... Karl Rove thinks the Obama White House, unlike its predecessors, is filled with mean people who say bad things about their political opponents.

"President Bush, for example, never allowed a White House staffer or administration spokesman to go out and do what this administration and our predecessor routinely did -- that is to engage in calling the leaders of the opposition party disparaging labels and question their motives," he said.

The underlying complaint is itself dubious. This White House has its flaws, but in the face of hysterical criticism from clowns like Rove, the president and his team have shown considerable restraint when it comes to using "disparaging labels" and questioning critics' motives.

But the irony of Rove's criticism is that he's guilty of engaging in the very tactics he's whining about now. In 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration's torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of "Soviets in their gulags." As Alex Seitz-Wald reminds us, Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin's quote was evidence that liberals are anti-American traitors.

If Bush "ever allowed" his aides to question rivals' motives, why did Rove specifically question, to use his words, "the motives of liberals"?

But the larger, and arguably more entertaining point, is that Karl Rove has made a habit of blasting Obama and his team for doing the exact same things Rove did when he helped run the White House.

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." Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he's accused Obama of snubbing snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he's accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons.

A lesser hack may find it difficult to launch political attacks that are ironic, wrong, hypocritical, and examples of projection, all at the same time, but Rove is a rare talent.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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As I've commented before, it's been clear for some time that Rove wrote down all the criticisms that were leveled at the Bush White House at the time, and is simply going down the list firing them back at the Obama White House. It's a schoolyard strategy designed to enrage, and by and large, it's worked. I'm glad you're starting to recognize it. Might be better to ignore it, no?

Posted by: Shag on May 23, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

A philosophical question:

Who will reside in the deeper level of hell. Rove or Cheney?

Satan's going to have a tough call on his hands.

Posted by: oh my on May 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm glad you're starting to recognize it. Might be better to ignore it, no?

Posted by: Shag on May 23, 2010 at 8:43 AM |

I disagree. Vermin scurry from the light of day.

Posted by: FitterDon on May 23, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

I think that ultimately, Obama's biggest mistake as president will be that his administration didn't say enough bad things about the Republicans once it became clear that bipartisan cooperation was not going to happen.

Coming into office, Obama had the Republicans on their knees and reeling. But Obama did not figuratively kick them in the head until they couldn't get up again. He could have relegated "Supply-side economics" to the scrap heap of history's debunked ideas, along with conversation enders like the earth-centered universe. But instead Obama chose to reach out his hand and help the Republicans, along with their discredited ideas, get back to their feet.

As a result, what's most likely to happen is that after Obama's second term the American people will once again be convinced by the Republicans to believe in the Supply-side Fairy -- that they can cut taxes but maintain federal spending without raising the deficit. Then we'll be back to another Republican president using Bush-o-nomics, making the rich richer, deregulating the corporations and putting us on the short road to another economic collapse.

Posted by: SteveT on May 23, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

I am always surprised and hugely chagrined that the rock Rove lives under has never fallen back on his head.

Posted by: stevio on May 23, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

I sometimes wonder how people like Rove reconcile to themselves what they do for a living. When the bulk of your daily existence consists of actively distorting events in order to misinform and confuse, even if it's about a political enemy, it's got to have an effect on your mental health at some point.

Posted by: DelCapslock on May 23, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm teflon, you're glue..."
The dissonance in his own head must be deafening, but I bet it's got a great light show.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 23, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

You left out a good one.

Karl Rove, who was Bush's "Domestic Policy Czar" and never elected to anything, openly criticized Obama for having Czars who were unelected.

Posted by: Mark-NC on May 23, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Rove is sticking to the only thing he knows. That's his view of politics and, like an old dog, he's not about to change now.

Posted by: J on May 23, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Well, of course, Obama and Company, a.k.a. "The Regime," actually do engage in all of those things, and do so to about 10% the degree that Rove and Company did. There might be times when Obama and Company might be well served to engage in them just a slight bit more than they do, but I hope they would never indulge themselves to the degree that their predecessors did.

Posted by: Bill H on May 23, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Can you even wrap your head around what the next round of Texas school books on Bush/Cheney/Rove will read like?

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on May 23, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

What We Need

would be for everyone - studio audience, talking head interviewers and their guests, basically everyone present - to spontaneously burst into laughter whenever Rove or other wingnuts make this kind of self-serving, blatantly false statement.

And then have the videomontage ready to roll, illustrating their hypocrisy.

Jon Stewart could do it. Of course, as a half hour comedy program, he has an army of trained and dedicated researchers at his beck & call, something the big 24 hour world news outfits like CNN, CBS, NBC and its cable spinoffs, ABC, and even PBS could never hope to match.

... or so they say.

Posted by: Zandru on May 23, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

This is a classic Rove tactic - accusing the opposition of doing exactly what you do yourself, then blasting them for it.

What else would we expect from this worthless hack?

Posted by: Okie on May 23, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Karl just needs a good cry! Then he may actually clear his mind and become a better human being! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 23, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Since Rove accuses Dems of things that he's done, can we take a look at Republican voter fraud? I suspect that every rich guy with a vacation home is absentee voting in both places.

Posted by: Jim7 on May 23, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Typo: "If Bush 'ever allowed' his aides to question rivals' motives...." was clearly missing an "N", because in that sentence you're challenging Rove's claim of "never".

Posted by: Raven on May 23, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Benen keeps calling this 'irony', but it's not. Rove is just a flat-out liar, who doesn't care whether what he says is true or false. There's nothing ironic about that; it's merely evil.

Posted by: MattF on May 23, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

But has Rove ever accused Obama of loudly accusing his opponents of things he is obviously doing himself? Then the snake would truly be eating its own tail!

Posted by: Redshift on May 23, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

But has Rove ever accused Obama of loudly accusing his opponents of things he is obviously doing himself? Then the snake would truly be eating its own tail!

Posted by: Redshift on May 23, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Irony is when the meaning stated is the opposite of the meaning intended. Hypocrisy is when you hold one standard for others and another for your self. Rove's behavior is a lot of things, but 'ironic' isn't one of them.

Posted by: Johnny on May 23, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush was an extremist. His entire administration was extremist, and that is why it is rated by most to be the worst in US history. Karl Rove knows that. He also knows that the only way to improve on the Bush legacy is to make Bush's extremism seem less, well, extreme. The best way to do that is to mainstream it. And the way you do that is to pretend everyone else is doing what you did too. That is why Rove's chief media tactic has been, ever since Bush left office, projection. Whatever supposed wrong Rove attacks Obama for you can be pretty sure George W. was a worse offender, and the failing that Rove is trying to cover up. This goes beyond hypocrisy on Rove's part. It's the method behind his madness.

Posted by: Ted Frier on May 23, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

This is one of the rhetorical devices used by Rove listed years ago in 'Fraud" by Paul Waldman -- accuse your adversary of doing exactly what you yourself have done. Rove has always done this, going back to the Texas days. Read Waldman.

Posted by: Rpf on May 23, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Redshift, I don't know if Rove has done it yet, but his minions certainly have.
I've seen, within the last few weeks, at least one comment on at least one major site (sorry, can't remember if it's one that's nominally "ours," like HuffPo, one that's nominally "theirs," like the NYDailyNews, or one in nominal "neutral" territory (ie, one that they'd call ultra-left extremist Marxist), such as the NYTimes), that said exactly what you suggest, though about "libs" in general, not President* Obama per se.
Since the reichwing commenters all seem to get the same talking points that the Publicans and pundits get, at the same time and with identical verbiage, we can reasonably assume it's not going to remain an isolated instance.

*despite everything, it still thrills me to be able to write that

Posted by: smartalek on May 23, 2010 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

How do you know Karl Rove is lying?

His lips are moving.


Posted by: Bob on May 23, 2010 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

"So ridiculous it must be sorta true" is a basic tool of Rove's trade. Almost any politician, or really anyone engaged in a heated debate will engage in hyperbole and "spin". So if you say something that sounds dubious or self-serving people figure it's mostly bullsh*t with probably a kernel of truth. The real victory of propaganda is if you say something totally 180 from the truth, some people will still figure it might be 10% true, so you have moved the debate that much in your direction.

Posted by: The Captain on May 23, 2010 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Completely nihilistic. At his root, Rove is an anarchist who lived a century later than most. Completely shameless and immoral. By is his works is a man known: the Antichrist would have a similar portfolio.

Posted by: Sparko on May 24, 2010 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK



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