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Rove Watch

Karl Rove writes in his Wall Street Journal opinion column that President Obama is guilty of using "the lazy rhetorical device of 'straw men.'"

Obama "routinely ascribes to others views they don't espouse and says opposition to his policies is grounded in views no one really advocates," Rove writes.

He's not entirely wrong, although several of the "straw men" he cites -- for instance, Obama's assertion that in the Bush era "a surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy" -- are not straw men at all. They're supportable statements.

But that's not the point. The point is Rove's chutzpah.

As Frank James blogs for Tribune: "In a June 2006 speech to conservatives, [Rove] erected one of the most infamous straw men of modern times. He said: 'Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and 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.In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to... submit a petition. I am not joking."

Glenn Greenwald blogs for Salon: "Karl Rove's entire strategy for the Bush presidency was grounded in straw men accusations."

See also this September 2006 column of mine and my Straw Man Watch items from the Bush era.

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 26, 2009; 1:16 PM ET
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I think the straw man argument is ultimately counterproductive. Rather than clarifying what the views of the opposing sides in a discussion are it serves to muddy the water. It dials back the conversation so that everyone must repeatedly clarify what their views are rather than moving on to discussion solutions.

Bush uses straw man arguments repeatedly, forcefully, and with full knowledge of what they would do the ongoing national discussion. Every politician uses this rhetorical device, but I think the Bush administration is particularly guilty of using it in a dishonest fashion to shut down debate.

Of course, the easiest way to get a handle on what Rove's strategies are is to listen to his complaints about others. His primary strategy is to assign his own weaknesses to his enemy (and their strengths to himself). Rove's use of straw man arguments, once understood, is a weakness, so he is eager to assign it to his political opponent.

Posted by: fletc3her | February 26, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Unbelievable. The king of the 'straw man argument', Karl 'Beelzebub' Rove is accusing Obama of using the straw man argument. As George Dubya used to say, "Some want the United States to fail."

Posted by: veeve | February 26, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

That June '06 quote is exactly what ran through my mind when I read the opening paragraph of this post.

I enjoy watching these failed ideologues bloviating as if they hadn't had their asses handed to them twice in 2 years by the American people. They remind me that dignity is a scarce commodity.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | February 26, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Oops, I'm reading the blog backwards from the most recent post, and I just filed a comment under your Bush Watch saying "I hope you've read Glenn Greenwald on Karl Rove." Should have known you'd be right on top of it.

Posted by: herzliebster | February 26, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for staying on top of Rove's hypocrisy w/r/t "strawmen". Not only is Rove's vulnerability on this point remarkable, but so is WSJs publishing his viewpoint considering his vulnerability.

Posted by: warrenjasper | February 26, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Why isn't Rove in prison, yet?

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | February 26, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

As the Scarecrow said to Karl. takes one to know one.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | February 26, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Talk about projection! That is all Rove (along with other Republicans) has been doing since the beginning of the Obama administration. Its enough to make your head explode!

Posted by: DennisM3 | February 26, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

First of all, Rove's column is itself a straw man argument.


Third, Karl Rove is THREE TIMES in contempt of congress. WHY is he employed? Why is he not in jail.

example: you fail to show up to fight a parking ticket, you are in contempt of a city court, and you go to jail. Apparently the most powerful government in the world doesn't have the frickin chops to stand up to Karl Rove.

Posted by: Nemotoad | February 27, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to add: disgraceful.

Posted by: Nemotoad | February 27, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

More straw men from Rove. UnFREAKing believable.

Conservatives believe in lower taxes; liberals believe in higher taxes. We want few regulations; they want more. Conservatives measure the effectiveness of government programs by results; liberals measure the effectiveness of government programs by inputs. We believe in curbing the size of government; they believe in expanding the size of government. Conservatives believe in making America a less litigious society; liberals believe in making America a more litigious society. We believe in accountability and parental choice in education; they don't. Conservatives believe in advancing what Pope John Paul II called a "culture of life"; liberals believe there is an absolute unlimited right to abortion.

Posted by: jmct1 | February 27, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

It will be justice when the fat pig Karl Rove has his sorry arse hauled before Congress in Leg Irons and Handcuffs. Dear Karl no longer has executive privilege so he better get this thought out of his head.

For his lies and deceptions hopefully the fat arse will spend the rest of his life in prison where the general prison population will beat him up on a daily basis just so he gets what he deserves.

Posted by: barrymorriso | February 28, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Why are we still listening to Carl Rove? He should have gone the same way President Bush did; Out of town in a hurry. He is the person who advised the President to go to war, and to disregard human rights. Why is the news media still asking for his comments? He is truly not a spokesman to be believed or even trusted. He needs to go into permanent retirement.

Posted by: eje153 | March 1, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

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