Washington College student Jack Bohrer began to ask Karl Rove a question last night at a public forum about John Bolton’s United Nations nomination — and for a moment Rove let down high-charm guard, interrupted the student’s question, and began to assert his view on all things Bolton.
Rove spoke last night at Washington College’s Harwood Lecture Series if American Journalism on the topic, “Polarized Press: Media and Politics in the Age of Bush.” The Harwood Forum was established in honor of long-time Washington Post editor, columnist, and ombudsman Richard Harwood — whose son John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal now helps to run the lecture program and who selected Rove’s speech title. Rove quickly stated that the polarized press got polarized on their own and that the “age of Bush” had nothing to do with it.
Bohrer began to ask Rove about the concerns some Republican Senators had about Bolton’s intimidation tactics of intelligence analysts, the bullying, and the like. Unlike the rest of the evening that proceeded rather smoothly, Rove interrupted the student and stated that the issue about Bolton was not his harrassing and bullying intelligence analysts — but that “Bolton did not agree with the intelligence.”
Karl Rove said it ‘all’ there and gave the clearest statement yet of John Bolton’s deception in last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings. Bolton had insisted that his differences with Christian Westermann were over management process; Bolton said Westermann “went behind his back.”
Over and over and over, Bolton insisted that there was no effort on his part to punish analysts for intelligence findings or estimates.
Rove then commented that after 9-11, the vigilant didn’t trust what was coming from the intelligence community. Rove then went on to say that he believed Bolton would be easily confirmed, that Bolton believed in “true multilateralism” and would make an outstanding Ambassador.
Jack Bohrer, to his credit, interrupted back and defended his turf on his question and asked what Rove thought of Trent Lott’s comment that Senator Lincoln Chafee was “irrevelant in every way.”
Rove said he disagreed with Lott. Well, there’s a smart answer.
Rove last night was quite amazing and painted a picture of reality that seemed air-tight until the talk was over. During the talk, we were led to believe that the press had been tougher on Bush than on Clinton, that Bush had been constantly at odds with Bush on nearly all of his policy agenda (and I thought Bush was still in a 5-year long honeymoon), and that 527 organizations were allowed by a spineless decision by the Federal Elections Commission (which the Bush administration controlled).
Rove was born in Colorado and basically raised in Utah before heading off to Texas. When I spoke to him at length at the reception preceding his lecture, he had no accent. By the time of the lecture, his soft Texas twang was perfect.
One observer, Professor Andrew Oros, commented to me that Rove’s sleight of hand was even more dramatic than I had considered. Oros said that Rove had bemoaned the fact that we rarely discuss policy in the country and tended not to discuss policy issues on their merits, with an agreement to disagree with those who simply had different views. Oros then said that underlying all of Rove’s commentary, and particularly that on Bolton was that it was not good policy that mattered most — but winning that did. Winning.
And ringing in my ears as I left the hall, I kept hearing Rove stating: “John Bolton will be a champion of multilateral power properly deployed.”
That is spin, or to paraphrase Vice President Dick Cheney, spin. . .Big Time.
— Steve Clemons