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Fisking Paul Begala’s Response to Karl Rove

John on March 13, 2010 at 11:58 am

Paul Begala (who I once met briefly on the street) has a barn burner response to Karl Rove’s new book. Begala is so unhinged that he makes Joe Klein’s response look cool and rational by comparison. This thing deserves a fisking, so here goes.

Begala spends the first 1/4 of his review saying nice things about the early part of Rove’s book, that’s the part that deals with his family. But once Bush is introduced to the narrative, Begala quickly goes off the rails:

His description of his first meeting with the future president sounds like something out of Tiger Beat: “George W. Bush walked through the front door, exuding more charm and charisma than is allowed by law…”

I don’t usually think of Hillary Clinton as a Tiger Beat reader, but maybe she is given that she once said this about Bush:

He is someone who has a lot of charm and charisma…

And I suppose Begala saying almost the same thing about Bill Clinton is similarly juvenile?

President Clinton was very comfortable in copying some of Ronald Reagan’s personal charm, charisma and optimism to serve a very different political agenda.

But Begala quickly tops this cheap shot by saying something much stupider:

One wonders if the admiration was reciprocated. Doubtful.

Does Begala know something or is he just talking out his hind end? Seems to me the fact that Bush employed Rove for more than a decade and relied on him should count for something. If Begala has evidence that Bush doesn’t respect Rove, he doesn’t come close to proving it here.

Next Begala gets into his litany of complaints about Bush’s term in office:

We all lived it, and historians will record it. How Bush, Rove and Co. squandered the Clinton surplus and left us in debt;

The Clinton surplus was actually the Gingrich surplus, since President’s don’t write budget bills. As for squandering it, there was this event you may recall…9/11. I believe the two wars that followed played a role in our economic fortunes. In any case, deficits were on the way down during Bush’ s tenure until Democrats took over Congress in 2006, then they shot back up.

how they killed the greatest job-generating economy in history and left us in an economic free-fall;

If he’s talking about the housing bust in ’07, that had everything to do with his old boss Bill Clinton who strengthened the CRA and penalties on banks that refused to make sub-prime loans to high-risk borrowers. This is where the mess started. Begala also seems to have forgotten that it was under Clinton’s watch that the GRE’s were run by close FOBs who scandalously mismanaged funds and were eventually brought before Congress to explain themselves. On the other hand, George Bush (and his Treasury Secretary) pushed for more regulation of the GSE’s on several occasions but were always beaten back by Democrats like Barney Frank who were concerned about how it would effect minority home ownership.

how they ignored repeated warnings about al Qaeda and left us vulnerable to the preventable attack on 9/11.

Bill Clinton never even visited the World Trade Center after the first bombing. And you want to talk preventable, Paul?  The Clinton administration had bin Laden in the sights of a Predator drone in 2000 but refused to take the shot. That same story ends by quoting an unnamed Clinton Cabinet official saying “We did a lot, but we did not see the gathering storm that was out there.” But now Begala wants to say Bush failed to prevent 9/11? Right back at you, pal.

You’ll go crazy playing Whack-a-Mole with all Rove’s lies.

Rather than try, Begala links to the inevitable Media Matters hit list. MM lists seven “falsehoods” including that Rove got the number of Presidents who resigned or were assassinated wrong and that Rove repeated a claim that Al Gore had claimed to be the inspiration for Love Story. If this is the sort of earth-shattering falsehoods Begala thinks will discredit Rove’s book, have at it.

Next Begala gets to the main focus of his ire, the Iraq war:

Some 4,283 American troops have died in Iraq. Tens of thousands have been wounded. Untold thousands of Iraqis have been killed or wounded—and millions more displaced. Trillions of dollars will be spent. And for what? For a lie.

And here is where Begala gets extremely shifty and dishonest, even for him. For six years the liberal mantra was that Bush lied us into war using “sexed-up” intelligence about WMD’s which Saddam didn’t have. Of course, as Rove demonstrates, lots of liberals like Al Gore and John Kerry believed he had the WMDs as well. So it was never a lie. Bush believed it. The fact is everyone believed it. And everyone was wrong. But being wrong is not a lie. This distinction eluded Bush’s critics from a number of years.

It’s also a fact that most of the liberals in Congress voted to authorize force against Saddam. If they were against the war, they missed their chance to say so. But rather than admit his own party’s mendacity on the point, Begala rewrites history:

the lie was not the assertion that Saddam possessed weapons—hell, he’d had them since Reagan gave him the raw materials for chemical weapons. The lie was that Saddam was a threat—a “grave and gathering threat,” a “unique and urgent threat,” a chemical threat, a nuclear threat, most of all: “an imminent threat.”

Sorry, Paul, but you don’t get to move the goalposts now. The “lie” was that Bush had manipulated intelligence to suggest Saddam had WMD. Here it is codified in the paper of record in just that way. But as noted above, that was a mistake not a lie.

In any case, to suggest that soldiers who died in Iraq did so for nothing is low even for a hack like Begala. In fact, he was a lot more sympathetic to Bush’s other reason for invading Iraq, i.e. to spread Democracy to the Middle East back in 2006. In Take it Back, a book he co-wrote with James Carville, Begala said:

President Bush is right–yes and we should say so–when he announces that greater freedom and democracy in the Middle East are the ultimate answer to terrorism.

If that’s true, then the men who fought and died in Iraq died to free 35 million people from a brutal dictator. The Iraqi election held last week seems to suggest their sacrifice has in fact made a difference. To say otherwise is disgusting to me and, I hope, to most Americans. [Hopefully a few Iraq vets out there can let Begala know how they feel about his views of their sacrifice the next time they bump into him on the street.]

Begala ends his screed with a rehashing of Plame-gate. He conveniently leaves out the fact that Joe Wilson was one of the key people promoting the idea that Iraq had WMD early on. It was only after he signed onto the Kerry campaign that he changed his story and became a victim or a Rovian conspiracy.

He also leaves out the key detail of Plame’s outing which Newsweek summed up this way:

the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.

Begala has always been a bomb-thrower so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s capable of little beyond lobbing the same old bromides at the same old opponents to please the same old anti-Bush crowd. This is how he’s made a living for most of the last decade, after all. Hopefully, less excitable readers will recognize how thin most of his complaints are when divorced from the screechy, dishonest rhetoric he packages them in.

I’ll say it again…when you stand next to Joe Klein and he looks like the calm, rational one you’ve got a serious problem.

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