MSNBC anchor Peter Alexander was more interested Friday afternoon in a Karl Rove v Joe Biden cat fight than in the accuracy of Biden's claim which prompted Rove's rebuke of him for telling a “lie” -- which led guest Ari Fleischer to scold the media for not checking into Biden's allegation. Indeed, MSNBC framed the segment around Rove's words, “Rove: Biden Is a Liar.” When Alexander asked if it is “appropriate for Karl Rove” to call a Vice President “a liar?”, Fleischer shot back: “Well, for heaven's sake, that's just about the only word Democrats wanted to use when they were talking about George W. Bush.”
Alexander began the segment, in the 3 PM EDT hour, playing the self-serving anecdote told by Biden in an interview earlier this week for CNN's The Situation about how, in an Oval Office meeting on an unidentified date, when President Bush told him “I'm a leader,” Biden had retorted: “Mr. President, turn around, look behind you, no one's following.” Alexander wanted to know who would benefit politically -- “Are these fights good for the GOP or for the Obama administration?” -- prompting Fleischer to wonder:
My question is, where is the press in all of this? If Dick Cheney had said that he had a private meeting with Bill Clinton and he in that meeting told Bill Clinton that Bill Clinton was wrong, I think all the press would have said to Cheney, “When did you do it? Back it up. Where are the dates?” There's no scrutiny here for Joe Biden....
To which, Alexander insisted, apparently quite seriously:
I'm trusting right now that all the reporters in Washington are mulling over to find out whatever information they can about whatever the Vice President now had said when he was Senator to try to put those facts together.
Yet, the matter only arose because Rove was asked about it on FNC's On the Record. Who else in the media has pursued the claim made in the interview conducted and aired on Tuesday?
(Saturday's Situation Room, at 6 PM EDT, will carry the entire interview conducted by Wolf Blitzer and Gloria Borger.)
From MSNBC at about 3:18 EDT on Friday, April 10:
PETER ALEXANDER: Former Bush senior adviser Karl Rove has had plenty of criticism for the Obama administration. But right now Rove is on the defense refuting some recent comments by Vice President Joe Biden. It's the classic he said/he said. First, here's what the Vice President said about George W. Bush during an interview this weekend, then listen to Karl Rove's angry response.
VP JOE BIDEN ON CNN's THE SITUATION ROOM: I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office, he was a great guy, I enjoyed being with him, and he said to me, he said, “Well Joe,” he said, “I'm a leader.” And I said, “Mr. President, turn around, look behind you, no one's following.”
KARL ROVE ON FNC'S ON THE RECORD: He never said these kind of things. I hate to say it, but he's a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind I'd say he's a liar. But it is a habit he ought to drop. You should not exaggerate and lie like this when you're the Vice President.
ALEXANDER: So where's the truth? Joining us live right now is former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Thank you for being with us. You served in the White House, Ari, from 2001 to 2003. So let's pose he question to you: Do you recall Senator Biden, at the time, saying any of the things he claimed? Could he have said it privately to the President?
ARI FLEISCHER: I don't recall him ever saying that. In fact, the times that Senator Biden was in the Oval Office or private meetings with the President he was accompanied by either the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or by an appropriate member from the House International Relations Committee. And in those meetings, I always attended them, and I never once heard him say anything like that. I think this could be clarified if he would only release the date that they says this encounter took place and all of us could look at our notes and see if it's so.
ALEXANDER: Suffice to say, the Vice President had said he spent, quote, “lots of hours alone with him.” You're obviously refuting that, but let me pose this to you: Are these fights good for the GOP or for the Obama administration? Democrats seem to be excited to have Karl Rove once again as their Republican bogeyman of sorts, much the same way when Democrats attacked Rush Limbaugh after he recently insisted that he wanted President Obama to fail. So who wins?
FLEISCHER: Well, frankly, my question is, where is the press in all of this? If Dick Cheney had said that he had a private meeting with Bill Clinton and he in that meeting told Bill Clinton that Bill Clinton was wrong, I think all the press would have said to Cheney, “When did you do it? Back it up. Where are the dates?” There's no scrutiny here for Joe Biden and that's why I wonder why the issue is what Karl said? I think Karl was actually clarifying the issue and saying it probably didn't happen, Karl says it didn't happen. I never saw it happen. But doesn't the Vice President get held to a certain level of scrutiny? That's what I think is missing from this whole equation.
ALEXANDER: I'm trusting right now that all the reporters in Washington are mulling over to find out whatever information they can about whatever the Vice President now had said when he was Senator to try to put those facts together. If we refer to these comments, though, you served in the White House, you've had your critics from outside. Is it over the top, though, is it appropriate for Karl Rove, someone outside the Oval Office, outside the White House to use that language toward a Vice President -- calling him a liar?
FLEISCHER: Well, for heaven's sake, that's just about the only word Democrats wanted to use when they were talking about George W. Bush. If it was good enough for last eight years and people didn't question the tactic I don't know why they question it now...