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Rove Questions Liberals' Sympathies

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, June 23, 2005; 12:20 PM

In an unusually incendiary public attack on the political opposition, Karl Rove last night suggested that liberals sympathize with the enemy and are intent on endangering American troops.

Rove's comments at a fundraising dinner in Manhattan for the Conservative Party of New York State were reported by Sam Dolnik of the Associated Press and Patrick D. Healy of the New York Times.

Rove, who is President Bush's chief political adviser and deputy chief of staff, derided remarks made last week by Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Rove asked "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."

On the Senate floor last week, Durbin read from an FBI agent's description of treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility at the hands of American troops and said it sounded like something "done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others." On Tuesday, Durbin apologized for his analogy.

Rove last night also criticized Democrats for responding weakly to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: "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," Rove said.

Jim Abrams of the Associated Press reports this morning: "Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, called on Bush to 'immediately repudiate Karl Rove's offensive and outrageous comments.' Rove, he said, 'should also apologize to the people of this country and particularly to the people of New York for his efforts to divide the country.' "

Rove's new comments come on the heels of an interview with David Gregory on MSNBC on Tuesday, in which Rove provided indications that Bush's new PR blitz to regain support for the war in Iraq may include the implication that criticizing Bush's plan is tantamount to supporting the insurgency.

When Gregory asked Rove about the dwindling public support for the war, Rove answered: "We need to remember, that's part of the goal of the insurgents. Their goal is to weaken our resolve by being so violent and so dangerous and so ugly that they hope that we will turn tail and run."

And consider that all this is coming from a man who in April, in a talk at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., lit into the press corps for hyping political conflict.

As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post: "Rove attested that 'most people I know on both sides of the aisle actually believe in the positions they take,' and he proposed a rule: 'Unless you have clear evidence to the contrary, commentators should answer arguments instead of impugning the motives of those with whom they disagree.' "

Rove is set to appear on MSNBC tonight in an interview with conservative commentator Joe Scarborough.


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