Andrew Sullivan makes an interesting point in criticizing Karl Rove:
ROVE AND "LIBERALS": Some defenses of Karl Rove's rolling out of the "stab-in-the-back" ploy to cover for possible future failure in Iraq have made an important semantic point. They say that the people I cited - Christopher Hitchens, Tom Friedman, Paul Berman, Joe Lieberman, The New Republic, and so on - are not "liberals". They're centrists or mavericks or oddballs like yours truly. What Rove was doing, they say, is citing hard-left types like Michael Moore and Moveon.org and Kucinich and the like. He doesn't mean all mainstream liberals. But this is too clever by half. The rubric Rove used was the "conservative-liberal" rubric, in which the entire polity is bifurcated into one type or the other. All non-liberals are, in Rove's rubric, conservatives; and all non-conservatives are liberals. This is in keeping with the very familiar electoral tactic of describing even moderate or centrist Democrats as "liberals" with as broad a brush as possible.
Really? Andrew Sullivan does some political theorizing - does he mentally divide the US into "liberals" and "conservatives", or does he think in terms of a liberal base, a conservative base, and a great unwashed stumbling about elsewhere in the political savanna?
And more to the point, what might Karl Rove have been thinking when he gave a speech to a small, out-of-the-mainstream political party in New York City? Was Rove caricaturing liberals at a partisan event (horrors!), or thinking in base terms?
Some evidence for the latter can be found earlier in Rove's speech when he says that "liberals believe there is an absolute unlimited right to abortion." C'mon - all liberals? Karl Rove is surely aware that the partial-birth abortion ban passed the Congress with Democratic votes under both Bill Clinton and George Bush.
White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, speaking with Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC, hewed to the line that "liberals" meant "MoveOn liberals", and tried to switch the conversation back to Dick Durbin. And in Friday's press briefing, Scott McClellan said "Soylent green is people". NO, he said that "It's still puzzling why Democratic leaders were coming to the defense of liberal organizations like moveon.org and people like Michael Moore."
As to the merits of the charge that the far left lacked martial ardor, I lack polling data on the specifics views of the liberal base. However, someone was opposed to the use of ground troops in Afghanistan (and a smaller group of someones opposed bombing).
Well. The truth of what was in Karl's heart may be unknowable, and is probably irrelevant - the larger question is, how will this play out as political theatre.
As a straw in the wind, if Dan Bartlett is relying on the "parse my lips" defense, that will be hard to spin as a proud display of force and conviction by the White House. One might almost use the word "backpedaling".
As a matter of political tactics, Karl will be a genius if, a week from now, the media is replaying every foolish thing any liberal ever said about war. But no whining from the right about media bias if they don't - Karl has to know the water in which he swims, and in which he floated this story.
And might Karl not be a genius? Republicans have made a great effort linking the war in Iraq with the war on terror. However, Karl's rhetorical sally opens the door for Democrats to separate the war in Afghanistan from the war in Iraq. If the next week delivers a parade of Smart, Militant Democrats who favored the war in Afghanistan but opposed the war in Iraq (or oppose its current conduct), then Rove was something other than a genius.
That said, Karl does know his opponent. Chuck Schumer of NY manages to ride in exactly the wrong direction:
"I don't think people should play politics with 9-11. We all have our different political views, but 9-11 is sacred to all New Yorkers and to all Americans,” Schumer said.
Uh huh. If someone could point me to Schumer's comments denouncing Fahrenheit 9/11, and his denunciation of Moore's presence as a guest of honor at the Democratic Convention, I'll be quick to post it.
From the Friday Times, Sen. Reid repeats the Schumer silliness:
"Karl Rove should immediately and fully apologize for his remarks or he should resign," Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader, said in a statement. "Dividing our country for political gain is an insult to all Americans and to the common memory we all carry with us from that day."
Does Hillary get it? In the video featured at her website, she lectures Don Rumsfeld on the perils of partisanship, and respectfully exhorts him to encourage others to raise the tone of the national debate. Rumsfeld's response is not included, so I can not tell you whether he laughed out loud, or mentioned Harry Reid's "liar and loser" description of George Bush.
My free advice to Dems is simple - whining about partisanship and divisiveness is beside the point; explaining that Martial Dems support smart wars, but not the war in Iraq, is the more promising road.
MORE: MoveOn responds:
"My own then-unaffiliated Web site, which I started prior to joining MoveOn, said U.S. response should be 'moderate and restrained,' to avoid provoking more terrorism and enmity against the U.S.," he went on. "Only two days after the attack on the towers, with no proof of who was responsible, urging care was appropriate. Of course I believe the attack on the camps in Afghanistan, which came weeks later, was appropriate, as was other military action against Al Qaeda," Pariser said.
Here is a timeline about the related organization - since the petition was submitted on Oct. 9, the "two days after" argument is a bit disingenuous.
Karl Rove spoke to Joe Scarborough the day after his speech.
A bit of a reader revolt at RedState.org - some commenters think that if Rove meant "MoveOn, Michael Moore, and Howard Dean", he should have have said "liberals".
And in her remarks to Rumsfeld, Hillary opposed setting a timetable for pulling out of Iraq. Tell Krugman.
And I stand by my earlier waffling.