Karl Rove set off a firestorm with a red-meat speech to the New York Conservative Party.
Reaction at Memeorandum here and here; NY Times and AP coverage of speech; Dems Say Rove Should Apologize or Resign from the AP. [Speech transcript from Dec '08, who had guts, and the Spurs]. And we liked Lori Byrd (still do, actually).
Kevin Drum pulls out the Tabasco sauce - here are the key quotes as he sees them:
Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.
Here's excerpt (2):
Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.
OK. First, let me say that they don't pay me quite enough to wade into this - even though Karl was speaking to a partisan audience, he had to know this would make news, and he might have opted for a more temperate tone.
Second, let me say that they don't need to pay me - I live for this nonsense, so let's bring it on!
Let's start with John Cole, the Contrary Conservative, who is outraged. Mr. Cole reminds us that on Sept. 14, 2001, Congress passed the Use of Force resolution by votes of 420-1 and 98-0, with no mention of the word "therapy".
Good point. Let me remind Mr. Cole that last Palm Sunday, Congress passed the Terry Schivao Relief Act with the unanimous consent of the Senate. Does he consider the two parties to have been equally enthusiastic in her defense, and equally responsible for the subsequent turns of event? Or, is it possible that one of the parties went along for the ride, since they had not had time to do any polling or focus-grouping?
OK, lets get some momentum here. First, some news accounts are a bit more careful than others in extracting the red meat. With respect to excerpt (1), the Times tells us that "Citing calls by progressive groups to respond carefully to the attacks, Mr. Rove said...".
Emphasis added - if Mr. Rove was citing progressive groups such as MoveOn, then his first quote is directed at specific liberals, not all Democrats [The transcript verifies this - see UPDATE]. Perhaps the Reps were ready for this line - the Mehlman delivers a list of specifics (but I don't see the word "therapy" anywhere, not even at the NRO). Since the phrase "moderation and restraint" appears in both Rove's comments and the MoveOn petition, we are on solid ground here. If you missed that subtlety, don't worry - both Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall missed it as well; too angry to read, maybe.
And I had so much fun mocking Gen. Wesley Clark's proposed "response" to the 9/11 terrorists that I will recycle it here. My Unsympathetic Summary - [Clark] would have talked them to death, and then commenced boring their heirs".
The second Rove quote is trickier, so we will rely on the time-tested "out of context" defense. It is certainly the case that some of Durbin's critics last week focused on his ghastly judgment in his choice of words, and belabored him for handing a propaganda victory to our enemies and endangering our troops. These critics may well have thought that Durbin let his desire to attack the Administration supercede his judgment and responsibility as a Senator - there was a time when politics stopped at the water's edge.
If that was how Mr. Rove was approaching this, then "No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals" means "these guys will say anything to attack Bush", not "these guys want to endanger our troops".
And a bit of free advice - the Dems leapt immediately to the defense of their own honor, but let Durbin's criticism of our troops hang out there for a week. Different priorities might work better another time.
MORE: Did Rove criticize "liberals" or "Democrats"? Although the news accounts use them interchangeably, the direct quotes from Rove seem to refer to "liberals". Of course, Durbin is a Democrat, but finding a liberal isn't so easy - just ask John Kerry.
And the AP is walking back a bit - their first story by Sam Dolnick says this:
Rove said the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks.
But a follow-up by Jim Abrams modifies that a bit:
He added that groups linked to the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks.
Emphasis added - since "moderation and restraint" is in the Move On petition and the Mehlman press package, we know who he meant.
UPDATE: The NY Times one day later, on page A16 (roughly); Glenn has lots; Rich Lowry makes us laugh. And from the transcript - Rove is contrasting conservatism with liberalism; after covering economic and social issues, he segues to national security. An extended excerpt follows:
But perhaps the most important difference between conservatives and liberals can be found in the area of national security. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to… submit a petition. I am not joking. Submitting a petition is precisely what Moveon.org did. It was a petition imploring the powers that be" to "use moderation and restraint in responding to the… terrorist attacks against the United States."
I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt as I watched the Twin Towers crumble to the earth; a side of the Pentagon destroyed; and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble.
Moderation and restraint is not what I felt - and moderation and restraint is not what was called for. It was a moment to summon our national will - and to brandish steel.
MoveOn.Org, Michael Moore and Howard Dean may not have agreed with this, but the American people did. Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said: we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said: we must understand our enemies. Conservatives see the United States as a great nation engaged in a noble cause; liberals see the United States and they see … Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia.
Has there been a more revealing moment this year than when Democratic Senator Richard Durbin, speaking on the Senate floor, compared what Americans had done to prisoners in our control at Guantanamo Bay with what was done by Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot - three of the most brutal and malevolent figures in the 20th century?
Let me put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts to the region the words of Senator Durbin, certainly putting America's men and women in uniform in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.
Let me end where I began. Forty years ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson, a proud liberal, won the Presidency in a landslide...
Tough call. Does "No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals" refer specifically to Durbin endangering the troops, or is he simply wrapping up his broad echo of Kirkpatrick's "Blame America First" speech in 1984?
Very easy to argue the latter. My soundbite - Rove apologize? Maybe he'll think about it, after he stops laughing.