ABC’s Jonathan Karl Hammers Karl Rove Over Bush’s Presidency

The recent dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas has brought a fresh opportunity to reflect on the legacy of the 43rd president. Of course, for the liberal media, to contemplate Bush’s legacy is to focus almost entirely on what went wrong in his presidency.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl displayed the media’s rampant anti-Bush attitude during an interview with Karl Rove posted on ABC News’s Power Players blog on Friday. Karl hit Bush’s former senior advisor with an onslaught of negative questioning, but Rove, to his credit, fought back admirably.

Karl came out swinging right out of the gate: “The Bush legacy – history is, at least the early indication, not gonna be too kind to President Bush.” This is off the mark. History will judge President Bush over the course of many years, and there is no way of knowing how that judgment will end up after only four years. Historians typically refrain from studying anything within the past 20 years, believing that such current events do not yet qualify as history.

What’s more, President Bush’s reputation is already on the mend. A recent ABC News / Washington Post poll showed that Bush’s job approval rating has risen from 33 percent when he left office to 47 percent now. So if anything, the “early indication” is that history may end up being kinder to President Bush than many of today’s commentators are.

Regarding Bush’s decision-making, Karl focused on the negative, asking Rove, “[W]here do you think he should have gone in a different direction?” Rove replied that his former boss did the right things, to which Karl retorted, “ But not everything, right?” To Karl’s delight, Rove agreed that Bush did not get everything right. But Rove did assert that Bush’s major decisions were correct.

Later in the interview, Karl attempted to pin the economic collapse of 2008 on Bush: “Okay, so you had an economic meltdown, right? Clearly there was a mistake made somewhere there.” Rove asserted that it was the Senate Democrats who caused the meltdown back in 2005 when they threatened to filibuster a bill that would have reined in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Karl couldn’t accept that answer: “But President Bush is a big buck stops here kind of a guy. I mean, doesn’t he bear ultimate responsibility for that economic meltdown that happened?” Rove deflected the blame, saying that it was not Bush who allowed Fannie and Freddie to grow out of control. This was an attack to Karl’s ears: “So it’s all Chris Dodd’s fault? And Barney Frank’s?” Rove replied that Fannie and Freddie had been growing out of control for 20 years.

At the end of the interview, Karl brought up Dick Cheney, saying that Bush’s vice president did not seem to be featured prominently in the Bush Presidential Center’s museum. Rove brilliantly nipped Karl’s question in the bud: “Did you ask this question at the – in Little Rock of anybody connected with Clinton, why Al Gore didn’t have a big presence in...” Karl, realizing he had been bested, laughed and added, “That’s a fair point.”

Rove said he was looking forward to going hunting with Vice President Cheney in November. Karl couldn’t resist a cheap shot: “All right, well, be careful,” referring to the time when Cheney shot one of his hunting companions. It was a somewhat light ending to an interview filled with unrelenting criticism of President Bush and his record. In all likelihood, the liberal media’s Bush-bashing will continue until history has made its judgment – if the media is willing to accept history’s judgment.

Below is a partial transcript of the interview:

JONATHAN KARL: The Bush legacy – history is, at least the early indication, not gonna be too kind to President Bush.

KARL ROVE: I disagree. He’s had the fastest recovery from the time he left office to his position today. His popularity in the latest ABC/Washington Post poll is roughly the same as President Obama’s.

KARL: President Bush likes to talk about decision points. Looking back, because you were there for so many of the big decisions, where do you think he should have gone in a different direction?

ROVE: He did the right things. I mean, he –

KARL: But not everything, right?

ROVE: Right, right, right. But on the big things, he got it right. He kept us safe after 9/11, he moved to modernize our tools, the tools to fight terror. He tackled the big issues, trying to reform Social Security, Medicare, immigration, education, and he demonstrated what a president needs to do, which is to have the courage of his convictions to take on challenges that are coming towards the country, even if they’re politically unpopular.



***

KARL: Okay, so you had an economic meltdown, right?

ROVE: Yes.

KARL: Clearly there was a mistake made somewhere there.

ROVE: Yeah, and I’ll tell you where the mistake was made. The mistake was made in July of 2005 when the Senate Banking Committee on a straight party-line vote passed out a bill to rein in Fannie and Freddie, when at that point they were probably leveraged 20-to-1, and Chris Dodd said we the Democrats, including the newly-elected senator from the state of Illinois, said we are gonna filibuster that bill if you bring it to the floor.

KARL: But President Bush is a big buck stops here kind of a guy. I mean, doesn’t he bear ultimate responsibility for that economic meltdown that happened?

ROVE: He bears responsibility for having fought hard to rein in those institutions and the people who bear responsibility for letting them get too big, too highly leveraged, and almost took down the –
KARL: So it’s all Chris Dodd’s fault? And Barney Frank’s?

ROVE: No, it’s – I’ll tell you what it is. It is a 20-year history of letting these two institutions get out of control.

***

KARL: Dick Cheney. He doesn’t seem to have a major part of the museum here, you know he’s mentioned –

ROVE: Did you ask this question at the – in Little Rock of anybody connected with Clinton, why Al Gore didn’t have a big presence in –

KARL (laughing): That’s a good, that’s a fair point.

ROVE: How about did you ask that of –

KARL: You’re not comparing Dick Cheney to Al Gore, are you?

ROVE: No, no, but he was vice president, and this is the presidential library. You’ll see, he’s gonna have a prominent role in the museum, and I’m looking forward to going hunting with him in  November.

KARL: All right, well, be careful.

ROVE: No, come on, come on, that’s a stereotype. He’s a very good – he’s an able good hunter [sic].
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.