First of all, now that this blog is a week old, I wanted to thank those of you who have posted comments wishing me well in this new venture. Given the normal tenor of my emails, I'm not accustomed to the kindness. Hope I can sustain my end of the bargain.
Anyway, on to the topic at hand: Bush strategist Karl Rove, and his interview last night with Tony Snow on Fox News. I was going to touch on it in the piece I have written for the Sunday paper, but ran out of room. Just as well, because it warrants separate treatment. Let's just do a quick deconstruction of the key exchanges.
Midway through, Snow asks the big question: How did you guys allow yourselves to get "flattened" by this port deal? (i.e., Staying silent for days while congressional Republicans and the conservative grassroots went increasingly ballistic on a story that makes Bush look, of all things, weak on national security.)
Rove's response: "Well, I'm going to leave it to others to analyze the media play on this."
Whoa, there. Snow was asking about what the White House had done, not what the media had done.
No matter. Rove avoided the question and stuck with the topic of media play and said that the deal "was announced last October and November," without any public outcry. "I mean, this thing sat out there for essentially two months in the public press, known to the - printed in the business pages, printed in the press...And it didn't become contentious until the last few days."
Snow didn't contest that point. Perhaps he should have. I just went into Nexis and checked the Washington Post. That paper didn't run a single story in either October or November. Then I checked the New York Times. It ran one paragraph from the Associated Press on Nov. 1, a 537-word piece on Nov. 29 and an 1123-word piece on Dec. 1 -- all of them dry financial offerings without a word of political context. No wonder nobody got contentious.
At this point in the interview, Snow tried again: "Once more through the other thing. The president didn't know about it..."
Moments later, Rove responded, "Well, the president DID know about it" - because Chief of Staff Andrew Card "alerted him before the press kerfuffle."
Whoa again. Didn't the White House say last Tuesday that Bush DIDN'T know about it? Never mind. Even if we take Rove at his word, doesn't it therefore mean that Bush allowed the controversy to build by saying and doing nothing?
As for "press kerfuffle," it might be more accurate to describe it as a "House Republican and Senate Republican and conservative grassroots kerfuffle."
By that point in the interview, however, Snow was done challenging the president's emissary. Instead he offered all kinds of helpful remarks: "It's not like somebody comes in and shakes the president awake every time somebody has a sale that involves a foreign company...If so, he'd never get any sleep and he'd never get any work done."
Challenged by that "question," here was Rove's response: "Exactly, exactly."
Soon it was time for Fox News to let him go. Snow said thanks. Rove responded, "You bet, buddy."