MSNBC's David Shuster Continues to Obsess Over Rove; Questions Manhood

March 18th, 2009 2:32 PM

"1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" host David Shuster continued to obsess over and taunt Karl Rove on Tuesday's program, even taking the fight to Twitter. Shuster, who has named Rove a hypocrite three times so far in his daily "Hypocrisy Watch" segment, appeared gleeful that "Bush's Brain finally did respond via Twitter." The political operative told Shuster, through the social networking site, simply to "wait until the book. You're in there."

Shuster retorted on his Twitter page by sarcastically instructing Rove, "Next time, try defending yourself 'like a man,' - mano y mano as I've repeatedly invited you to do." It's odd that Shuster would expect Rove to come on the MSNBC program, considering that he has heaped nothing but invective on the former Bush aide.

On Tuesday, Shuster had on David Corn, the bureau chief for the liberal "Mother Jones" magazine to mock Rove with faux possible book titles. (Former McCain aide Tucker Bounds also appeared to give a conservative perspective.) Included in Corn's suggestions were "To Kill a Presidency," "Low Expectations: Why The Bush Presidency Really, Really, Really Was Much Better Than Everyone Says" and "The Guilt Free White House Diet: Telling Fibs to Lose Weight and To Protect Your Abs." Shuster labeled Rove the "ultimate practitioner of dirty politics."

Much of the segment was spent with Shuster again plowing through the details of the Valerie Plame leak case. Of course, he ignored that in fact it was Richard Armitage who leaked the CIA identity of Plame.

Shuster described his "Hypocrisy Watch" segments on the former political operative as examples of his show tracking "Rove's damage to the Bush administration or the country." On the March 6 "Hypocrisy Watch," he savaged Rove for attacking the Robert Gibbs/Rahm Emanuel strategy of going after Rush Limbaugh. An incredulous Shuster complained, "Rove's sudden concerns about the moral high ground are unbelievable. Literally. Karl, you've spent your entire career putting politics ahead of everything else."

On March 9, just three days later, Shuster again derided Rove as a hypocrite. Speaking of critical comments the political operative made about President Obama on Fox News, the MSNBC host fretted, "I appreciate that Karl Rove, who helped sell the Iraq war, is now trying to rehabilitate his reputation by giving commentary on Fox News. But Karl, when you complain about the Obama administration's effort to clean up the mess you and your colleagues created, that's hypocrisy, and it's wrong." For all of Shuster's complaining about nasty politics, he has yet to do a "Hypocrisy Watch" on White House aides Rahm Emanuel or Robert Gibbs.

A transcript of the March 17 segment, which aired at 6:41pm, follows:

6:37pm tease

DAVID SHUSTER: Up next, Karl Rove has been a frequent figure in our hypocrisy watch. Every time we put him there, I ask Karl for an interview or a response. Over the weekend, Bush's Brain finally did respond via Twitter. I'll show it to you and talk about the news in Rove's response.


SHUSTER: Welcome back to "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." Every night on this show, as we did earlier in this one, we feature a segment called Hypocrisy Watch. Our most frequent focus has been former Bush adviser Karl Rove. For example, Rove recently criticized the Obama administration for increasing the size of the federal debt, even though Rove and his Bush team colleagues turned record surpluses into record deficits. Anyway, before each segment, I sent Karl a Twitter message, asking him to come on and defend himself. This weekend, I received the following Twitter direct response: "Re 1600. Wait until the book. You're in there." Signed Karl Rove." So Karl Rove is writing a book. It sounds like Rove may try and settle some scores with people who followed the CIA leak case or tracked Rove's damage to the Bush administration or the country. Joining us now is another veteran of the CIA leak case, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones Magazine." So he is writing a book? Do we have anything to fear?

DAVID CORN (Mother Jones): I don't think you and I do. Maybe the President or the former Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice. That's only if he tells the truth. So, they have nothing to fear either. There's a lot that Karl Rove can actually tell us that would illuminate some of the past eight years, about the run-up to the war, what really happened with Katrina, the, the intersection between politics and policy within the George W. Bush White House. The question is, you know, how far will he go in telling us what happened and, of course, in explaining his role in the CIA leak case?

SHUSTER: Well, I have a feeling that the reason myself, you, Chris Matthews, some others may get mentioned in the book has to do with the CIA leak case, and maybe Rove is not so, sort of, happy about the attention that was paid on that. In broad terms, if Karl was going to write a book, in broad terms, about his eight years in the Bush administration, give us some ideas, David, give Karl some ideas on what the title of his book should be.

CORN: Well, because you asked me to do so, I've been thinking to it, not too much, mind you. One title I thought he could use was "To Kill a Presidency," and "How to Also Ruin a Political Party, Two Wars and the Global Economy." Another title that might suit a book he's writing is "Low Expectations: Why The Bush Presidency Really, Really, Really Was Much Better Than Everyone Says." I mean, those are just beginning, starters. If he was writing a book that focused on the leak case, itself, I think this would sell. I actually think- I‘m giving him a big favor here. He would call it "The Guilt Free White House Diet: Telling Fibs to Lose Weight and To Protect Your Abs."

SHUSTER: If he is completely honest about the CIA leak case, wouldn't the key information be obviously the conversation with Bob Novak? What role exactly did you play, Karl, in the effort to smear Joe Wilson and his wife? Joe Wilson being a key administration critic of how the war was sold.

CORN: Well, the important thing about that case, Scott McClellan came out, as he's written about in his book, and talked about on this show and others, and he said Karl Rove told me directly that he was not involved in leaking Valerie Plame Wilson's name to Bob Novak. McClellan at the time said that publicly, came out there. Then, when it turned out that Karl Rove was involved, neither McClellan nor Rove would explain it. Of course, we know he was the second source for Bob Novak for that particular column. And to this date, Karl Rove has never really explained what his role was, but also why he allowed Scott McClellan to come out and say something he knew, Karl Rove, wasn't true, and whether he had also lied or, you know, spoken falsely to George W. Bush about his role in this. So none of that has ever been explained.

SHUSTER: My theory all along has been that Karl was motivated by the 2004 election. If you look at the sequence of events, summer of 2003, they figured, you know what, let's put this out there, try to put it out. If the reporters ever have to testify, by the time that happens, it will be 2005, beyond the election. But, in any case, there is a lot of other stuff that could be intriguing in a Karl Rove book. And, so, let's bring in our panel now, Ed Schultz, Tucker Bounds. Tucker, I know you're dying from David Corn's titles. First of all, one of the other key questions in all of this is the relationship between President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Karl Rove would be the best witness there is, so wouldn't that be the key that everybody wants to-

TUCKER BOUNDS (Former John McCain 2008 aide): It's hard to say if you would be the best witness there is. But what he would be the best witness is politics. This is a larger question, which is, you know, a title of the book I could see is "The Cloning of Karl Rove, the David Axelrod Story." The truth of the matter is these guys work in politics. And politics provides access to everyday Americans for the issues and the government that goes on here in Washington, D.C. People get a little bit weak in the stomach when they see guys that are very good with political maneuvers, political tactics, that are very good at performing and bringing on public opinion and the electorate to win elections. David Axelrod did a genius job of it this last election.

SHUSTER: Tucker, there's a big difference between David Axelrod and Karl Rove. Just the other day-

BOUNDS: I could argue against-

CORN: Wait a second. That‘s an interesting point you raise. But the thing is, Karl Rove then after doing that politically, moved into the White House. So the question I have is- with David Axelrod, with all these guys, the question becomes, what happens with the intersection of politics and policy? And if you look at something like the run-up to the war in Iraq, were there political concerns? Was there political attempt to exploit 9/11? All these things which we have seen evidence of, and which you and I probably disagree on, but those are things that Karl Rove could illuminate greatly, were he to write a truthful book.

SHUSTER: The other thing is, if Karl Rove were sitting where Ed Schultz were right now, I would want to say, you know what, Karl, you decry the Axelrod/Emanuel tactics as dirty old politics we all grew to dislike in the 1990s. But in the 1990s, there was Karl Rove, the ultimate practitioner of dirty politics, who helped George W. Bush get elected governor of Texas, who essentially decided- he put out some really nasty stuff in an Alabama supreme court election in the 1990s. So for him to now say, we didn't like that stuff, when we all know he did it, that‘s hypocrisy, which is why we focus on Karl Rove so much. Ed?

ED SCHULTZ (Liberal radio host): I think you can go to your old buddy John McCain there, Tucker, and find out a few things about the Bush tactics and Karl Rove. If you go back to South Carolina in 2000. Here‘s what Karl Rove is going to be remembered for by the American people: the American people are used to dirty politics and underhanded tricks and such stuff. When Bush was re-elected in ‘04, the first thing he did was go out on the road and try to privatize Social Security. That was a hood wink. All along, he was attacking the judiciary. And it was Karl Rove, with his underhanded tactics, that went after the firing of those eight U.S. attorneys. The judiciary is sacred territory to all Americans. And I believe that's what he's going to be remembered for. I guarantee you the American people do want to see prosecution.

BOUNDS: It's the sacred power of the president of the United States to dismiss U.S. attorneys, in fact, guarded by the Constitution. So it's a political appointment, for it to be a political fire. I mean, the U.S. attorney thing is beyond-

CORN: Tucker's right. It is a political appointment. The President has full discretion. But, yes, if they don‘t tell the truth about why they‘re firing people or they give BS reasons, then it‘s a political issue they can be held accountable for.

SCHULTZ: You're not endorsing-

SHUSTER: Here's the bottom line. Here‘s the bottom line, Karl Rove, if you don‘t want to wait for the book to come out, if you want to respond to "Hypocrisy Watch" every time we find it, whenever you say it or broadcast it, you're always welcome to have a seat right there where Ed is on this show. And, even if you want to wait until the book comes out and you want to review whatever you want to write in there about the CIA leak case, we'd be happy to have you.