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On the October 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Tucker Carlson, host of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, claimed that White House senior adviser Karl Rove "wasn't in charge of selling the Iraq war. In fact, he actually has been on the other side of that divide. It's, I think, more the vice president's office that was involved in planning the war and in explaining it and selling it to the American people." Carlson offered no support for his claim, which is contradicted by news reports of Rove's participation in the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a group that was formed in August 2002 to work "on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion," according to an October 12 article (subscription required) in The Wall Street Journal.
An August 10, 2003, article in The Washington Post reported that Rove was a "regular participant" in meetings of WHIG. In a February 21 article, Newsweek reported that "[i]n the run-up to the war, Rove was a full -- and, colleagues say, impressive -- participant" in WHIG. Along with Rove, the group included other top Bush administration officials and advisers, including then-assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, according to the Post.
Before the Iraq war, WHIG "promoted the view that [Saddam] Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was seeking more," the Los Angeles Times reported on August 25. The Post similarly noted that one of the themes touted by WHIG was the alleged nuclear threat posed by Iraq: WHIG "ordered a series of white papers" during the early days of its operation, the first of which was titled "A Grave and Gathering Danger: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Nuclear Weapons." WHIG has become a focus of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, the Journal reported, because "[t]he group likely would have played a significant role in responding to [former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's] claims" that the Bush administration twisted intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Carlson made his baseless claim in response to remarks by Bob Shrum, a Hardball political analyst, Democratic strategist, and New York University senior fellow, who alleged that the Bush administration's current political troubles were due in part to Rove's involvement in major policy decisions.
From the October 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS (host): Is Iraq the name for his [Bush's] pain and not all these other issues, Bob?
SHRUM: Well, sure.
SHRUM: I actually think the other route, the other original sin here, is taking someone like Karl Rove, who is a political operative, giving him that much power in the White House, because in this case, Bush's brain was stupid, and he may have been felonious.
SHRUM: I just don't -- look, what happened here was that the tactics of the political campaign were moved into the governing process to help mislead the country into war. I don't know whether it's going to be indictable in a court of law -- we're going to know that in a day or two. But it will be indicted in the high court of history.
CARLSON: I don't think that's entirely fair. I think it's fair to say that Karl Rove has been far too political in the appointment process. He's deeply, and has been since day one, involved in who gets appointed to what. And that's probably a bad thing, and I've seen example after example that I think doesn't serve the public very well. But you have to concede, simply because it's true, that Rove wasn't in charge of selling the Iraq war. In fact, he actually has been on the other side of that divide. It's, I think, more the vice president's office that was involved in planning the war and in explaining it and selling it to the American people. So I don't think Rove -- I mean, this is one thing you can't say about Rove, that Iraq is his fault. I don't think it is.