NewsBusters Interview: Karl Rove Slams Lefty Blogosphere, Talks Media, Praises iPhone

Are liberal Democrats less likely to have social lives than conservatives?

According to Karl Rove, the answer to that question is yes. The Republican guru all but made that argument explaining why he thought liberals are more likely to be on the web than conservatives.

"I hate to sound sort of diffident about it but it strikes me that a lot of people on the right have got active lives and are doing other things," Rove said. "The idea of spending a lot of time on the internet and taking their talents and displaying them there is not something [conservatives] really do."

Still, Rove said that he would like to see more righties on YouTube and elsewhere, counteracting what he said was a greater emphasis on public relations on the part of Democrats.

The former White House deputy chief of staff also talked blogs, telling NewsBusters his favorites include Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, National Review's Corner, mixed with a dash of "objective" media like the New York Times and the Washington Post along with blogs such as Instapundit and Power Line.

We also talked a bit of personal tech as Rove waxed rhapsodic about his new Apple iPhone. Looks like Rush Limbaugh is going to have to make room for another famous conservative who likes Apple products.

Full transcript of my interview with Karl Rove is below. Read it or download it in MP3 format for your music player:

NB: Thanks for joining us today. I'll start off with a media and political question. I've noticed that we see a lot of wealthy conservatives who do not tend to invest in media whereas wealthy liberals tend to be more likely to do so. Why do you suppose that is?

ROVE: I think wealthy conservatives are busy investing in profit and job creation and enterprise and wealthy liberals, many of them either from the media industry themselves or from-they recognize the value of communications and are more ready to put money into a less profitable enterprise, namely the media.

NB: Is that something you'd like to see changed then?

ROVE: Oh sure. But the problem we face as conservatives is that our lives are not completely absorbed in politics. We tend to have other enterprises and charitable efforts, particularly philanthropic, that we love to be involved in and be committed to and as a result, it leaves us less time and less treasure to pump into politics. That's why, contrary to popular opinion, we tend to get outraised and outspent in elections as we were in both 2000 and in 2004 now.

Now, granted, a lot of the advantage is compulsory contributions from union members but nonetheless, it's a sign of how the other side takes advantage of its strengths.

NB: It wasn't always that way, though, was it? I mean you guys did a pretty good job of outraising the opponents of President Bush.

ROVE: Not really. Take a look 2004. If you, Kerry-I mean Bush-Cheney raised a lot of money, but not a heck of a lot more than Kerry-Edwards. The RNC by a pretty good margin outraised the Democratic National Committee but if you then add in the Democratic and Republican 527 groups, the advantage swings dramatically to the Democrats. And in 2004, they outraised us and outspent us by $121 million. And that's taking into account, which you really can, what the unions do which, unless they tell us, is hidden from public view.

NB: Let's get some more media questions. So what's your media diet like nowadays?

ROVE: You mean on an ordinary day?

NB: Yeah.

ROVE: I get Mike Allen's overnight summary from Politico, I cruise, I get Taranto from the Wall Street Journal, I visit the Corner. I check Drudge, I check Fox News, I have a list of favorites that I sort of thumb through if I've got the time. I obviously read papers, the New York Times; the Wall Street Journal; when in Washington, the Washington Post if not, I get it online. I check out, most days, Instapundit, Power Line, Hugh Hewitt. Occasionally I'll dip into Just One Minute or visit the Captain's Quarters, I check out Michael Barone's blog, and I look forward to getting Opinion Journal, and I get the NCPA summary. And I also get a news summary, a news clip early in the morning of all the clips.

NB: So you do read the physical paper? That's interesting. Now what about-

ROVE: Is that so rare any more? I've never figured it out.

NB: Well, I guess it could be, I am just a blogger and highly abnormal that way. That's highly possible.

Speaking of blogs, though, there has been a lot of talk this cycle about the left is somehow fundamentally ahead and I think people are forgetting how things were just a few years ago when it was right that was the online leader. It's not a fundamental issue. What's your take on that?

ROVE: I'm not sure I understand the question. Do I think the left has gotten an edge? Yeah, I do.

NB: You do?

ROVE: I do.

NB: And what would you attribute that to?

ROVE: I don't think they've gotten an edge in terms of the quality and the content. We still have that. I think where they've gotten the edge is that they've focused on creating a community of contributors. And as a result, they have outraised us on the internet.

Now, that's not to say that they have an overall edge. I still think the right has much better quality and quantity. And I think there's something about conservatives frankly-and the left, when it comes to their channels of persuasion, are unpersuasive. They are, most of them are hate-filled, obscenity-clogged rants of anger and hatred. And it may be good for reinforcing those who are already true and tried, but it's not good for reaching out to people who are up for grabs who might be going to the internet to find a source of information.

NB: Yeah. There's been studies of the use of profanity on right-wing versus left-wing blogs.

ROVE: Yeah, and in fact, I talked about it in a speech at Yahoo, the two studies for George Carlin's "Seven Words" and how much more prevalent they are by huge margins on left blogs.

NB: Is that partly because blogs are kind of the mainstream media of the right? Or is just that we're more civilized people?

ROVE: You know, I don't know. But I think it's that maybe the left believes that this is appropriate language for communication, I don't know.

NB: If you could magically wave a wand and somehow get the right up to speed on the internet, what would you say are the two biggest areas you would fix?

ROVE: One is the, and I don't know how to do it, I know smart people are thinking about this, but is to create a greater willingness among conservatives to pump resources into issue or candidate activities that are critical at the moment. The second thing is that I would hope that-look we've got a lot of creative people on the right and I hope that we would use, and that those people would become more conversant, comfortable, and eager to provide visual content for the internet. A lot of people get their information by what they see and what they hear, and the internet gives us a terrific way to go about using this channel for things that people can see and hear, and not just read.

NB: That's funny you mention that. We just launched a comedy show called NewsBusted which has really become quite popular on YouTube. Our friends at Hot Air have done some great stuff as well. So I definitely would agree that there's a market as the numbers have shown. So why isn't there more of this? Is the right just not interested in that type of stuff?

ROVE: You know, again, I hate to sound sort of diffident about it but it strikes me that a lot of people on the right have got active lives and are doing other things and the idea of spending a lot of time on the internet and taking their talents and displaying them there is not something they really do. But I'd like to see more of it, very creative conservatives using the internet for those purposes.

NB: All right, I've got just one more quick question for you. Last time I saw you, you'd just gotten an iPhone. How's that working out for you?

ROVE: I love it. My life has changed. I have a shred of coolness. I've got my 3,500 people in my addressbook on the phone, I can sync my calendar. I keep track of my modest little stock investments. I can check the weather of my house in Washington, my house in Florida, my boy at school, my hunt-lease in south Texas. I can surf the web, I'm just--I get part of my email there.

I mean it is just shocking how much better, how much more productive I am. I no longer carry around a giant address book, if I don't have my calendar close at hand, I can quickly check it out of my-- I don't have to carry, I used to carry several notecards, now it's just as easy to scribble on my little notepad, I can take photographs and forward them on immediately, it's just remarkable.

NB: All right. Well it sounds like Steve Jobs should call you up as a spokesman.

ROVE: There we go, there we go. And not only that, I also have the Mac Book Air which is really cool. Even my wife is jealous of my MacBook Air.

NB: Ahh, well it sounds like you'll have to get her one then.

ROVE: No I don't, no I don't. I'm the only cool one in the family with a MacBook Air.

NB: Well all right. Thank you for joining us.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013