Fox contributor Karl Rove lobbed a line of attack at President Obama during a Fox News Sunday appearance that quickly found its way into a Monday morning Republican press release. While the release was being distributed, Rove returned to Fox to repeat the talking points -- the latest example of Fox News' role as the communication arm of the Republican Party.
Rove, a Fox political analyst, appeared on Fox News Sunday on September 8, where he slammed the president's response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, telling host Chris Wallace, "It's a [sic] amateur hour at the White House."
The next morning, Rove's line popped up as the lead talking point for the National Republican Senatorial Committee's (NRSC) daily email "Daybreak," reportedly blasted to its listserv with the subject line "Amateur Hour" (albeit with "Amateur" misspelled). In the email, the NRSC charged: (emphasis added)
[O]nce again the country finds itself watching the President fail to rally lawmakers and citizens to his cause. To put it more bluntly, has any other two term President been as ineffective in lobbying Congress and motivating the public to support the initiatives that he wants to see passed? It's amateur hour at the White House.
The same morning, Fox News promoted Rove's "amateur hour" line -- now a Republican talking point -- and invited him on the network to talk about it.
On America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum introduced Rove by saying, "Karl Rove over the weekend slamming President Obama for failing to get a decision on a Syria attack before leaving for the G-20 summit last week," followed by the clip of Rove saying "It's a [sic] amateur hour at the White House" on Fox News Sunday.
During the segment, while Rove lobbed more criticisms at the president over his handling of Syria, Fox repeated Rove's "amateur hour" statement in on-screen text:
During a discussion about the role of political operatives who also appear as television pundits, Howard Kurtz highlighted Karl Rove's role in "pushing an agenda" for Republicans in his role as a political analyst Fox News while raising millions to back GOP candidates.
On the September 8 edition of Fox News' #MediaBuzz, Kurtz and his panel discussed a recent White House meeting on Syria with former White House staffers including Stephanie Cutter, Robert Gibbs, and David Axelrod, who currently appear as pundits on CNN and MSNBC.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove repeated long-debunked falsehoods about the military response to the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
During Fox News Sunday on September 8, a panel discussion turned to the upcoming anniversary of the attacks in Benghazi. During the segment, Rove falsely asserted that no military assets were ordered to assist the Americans under attack in Benghazi. Rove soon raised his voice and, over and over again, repeated his false claim that no help was sent to Benghazi.
Fox News' Karl Rove falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act is fueling an increase in part-time jobs, despite the fact that economists have found no evidence to support that notion.
Appearing on the August 30 edition of America's Newsroom to comment on the "consequences of Obamacare," Rove claimed that "one of the big consequences" of the Affordable Care Act is the creation of "more part-time jobs in the place of full-time jobs."
Contrary to Rove's claim, economists agree that the health care law is not causing an increase in part-time work.
National Review editor Rich Lowry criticized Senator Ted Cruz's effort to defund Obamacare as "a grass roots-pleasing slogan," adding to the conservative media divide over Republican plans to defund the health care law by threatening a government shutdown.
Republican politicians, including Cruz (TX) and Senator Mike Lee (UT), have threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform. That approach has earned criticism from other Republicans, such as Senator Richard Burr (NC), who called it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of."
Writing in Politico, Lowry argued against Cruz's strategy, dismissing it as "a grass roots-pleasing slogan" and unrealistic:
His push to defund Obamacare this fall is a grass roots-pleasing slogan in search of a realistic path to legislative fruition. Cruz never explains how a government shutdown fight would bring about the desired end. The strategy seems tantamount to believing that if Republican politicians clicked their wing tips together and wished it so, President Barack Obama would collapse in a heap and surrender on his party's most cherished accomplishment.
Lowry's criticism adds to an already wide split among right-wing media on GOP threats to shut down the government.
While some Fox News hosts and contributors such as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have supported a right-wing Republican plan to defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown, other Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have criticized the idea as unworkable and "nuts."
Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT) threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform -- signed into law in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012. He proposed that Republicans refuse to vote for any continuing resolution -- a measure that continues funding the operations of the federal government until a budget and annual appropriations can be passed -- that includes funding for the continued implementation of health care reform.
Other Republicans are critical of this approach, with Senator Richard Burr (NC) calling it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted in a July 25 New York Times column that even Republican leaders now recognize that confrontations like this threat to shut down the government will "inflict substantial harm on the economy."
Despite this, some Fox News hosts and contributors have rallied in support of the right-wing Republican brinksmanship plan. On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Lee and expressed support for the effort. Two days later on his radio show, Hannity called the issue a "litmus test" for the conservatism of Republicans and threatened to primary any Republican who did not support the effort.
In a July 25 RedState post, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson similarly wrote that Republicans who did not support the defunding effort should be challenged in primary elections:
Why would Republicans keep funding a law that hurts so many people and is so unpopular? Why would they do that?
Republicans in Congress have a choice this fall with the latest continuing resolution. They can choose to not include funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Negotiate everything, but make that their line in the sand. If the Democrats choose to shut down the government over an unpopular law that hurts people, it is their choice. Republicans should not fund Obamacare.
Any Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried. The advertisements write themselves. Republicans, by voting to fund Obamacare, are putting people out of work, driving up healthcare costs, and hurting families. Republicans are not listening to voters who hate the law if they fund Obamacare.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also jumped on the government shutdown bandwagon, arguing on the July 30 edition of Hannity that using a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare was "common sense."
Other Fox News contributors have found the idea of government shutdown over health care reform to be "ludicrous" and "nuts." On the July 30 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg said that the idea "works fantastically well for fundraising when you want to go and run in 2016 for president" but is "ludicrous" as a winning legislative strategy.
Karl Rove ignored the Republican obstructionism that led to the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, falsely claiming President Obama was entirely to blame for automatic government spending cuts and misleadingly accusing Obama of hypocrisy for criticizing the devastating effects of the law.
In his July 29 Wall Street Journal column, Rove accused Obama of hypocrisy while ignoring Republican responsibility for the devastating automatic spending cuts enacted March 1 known as sequestration, claiming Obama was fully to blame for the cuts because he signed the 2011 Budget Control Act. That law raised the U.S. borrowing limit while providing the framework that ultimately resulted in sequestration:
Mr. Obama proposed the sequester, signed the July 2011 budget agreement with its hard caps on discretionary spending, and threatened to veto any attempt to repeal or mitigate it. Nevertheless, last week he attacked the sequester as "a meat clever" that "cost jobs" and later told the New York Times Sunday that he's worried about "the drop-off in government spending."
But Obama only signed the Budget Control Act after Republicans took the U.S. economy hostage by threatening not to raise the U.S. debt ceiling -- a measure passed to allow Congress to pay for past spending. According to a C-SPAN timeline of the debt ceiling crisis, on May 11, 2011 House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pledged to "not support debt limit increase without equal amounts of spending cuts." Previously, measures to raise the debt ceiling were routinely passed.
In the months following Boehner's pledge, Republicans dismissed the concerns of economists of every partisan disposition that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic for the U.S. and world economies. A June 2011 letter to congressional leaders signed by 235 prominent economists warned:
Failure to increase the debt limit sufficiently to accommodate existing U.S. laws and obligations also could undermine trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government, with potentially grave long-term consequences. This loss of trust could translate into higher interest rates not only for the federal government, but also for U.S. businesses and consumers, causing all to pay higher prices for credit. Economic growth and jobs would suffer as a result.
These automatic spending cuts were designed such that the consequences of letting them occur would be so severe that it would force Congress to adopt a balanced approach to spending reduction targets laid out in the Budget Control Act. Indeed, Obama and congressional Democrats made a number of proposals to avoid sequestration, but Congress failed to find an mutually-acceptable approach, with Republicans ultimately insisting that any deal only contain cuts and no revenue. Because they failed to reach a deal, sequestration went into effect.
But ignoring history and shifting blame away from the GOP and attacking Obama is par for the course for Rove. Indeed, in an August 2012 Wall Street Journal column, Rove ignored Republican obstructionism to blame Obama for failing to pass immigration reform or a deficit reduction deal, and for the debt ceiling crisis.
As House Republicans try to slash funding for research and development of new energy technologies, conservative figures who once proclaimed their support for such initiatives have been curiously silent.
Buoyed by Republican lawmakers, the House recently passed a spending bill that cuts funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the key federal program that invests in research and development of new energy technologies, by 81 percent. ARPA-E is a bipartisan Bush-era creation modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which spurred breakthroughs like the internet and stealth fighter. Now, even a midpoint reconciliation with the more generous Senate spending bill could leave funding for the program in tatters.
These cuts are an extreme departure from the rare interparty comity that has typically surrounded research and development for alternative energy. Indeed, conservative media figures have frequently embraced such efforts -- as opposed to programs that award loans to address the so-called "valley of death" between development and commercialization -- echoing the pro-ARPA-E views of free-market groups and some Republican leaders. Among the latter was former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who supported increasing funding. But with ARPA-E now in trouble, these figures appear tongue-tied.
In his bombshell report on Groundswell, a coalition of prominent right-wing activists and journalists that gathers weekly "to concoct talking points" and "coordinate messaging," Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn reveals that that group is engaged in a "two front war" against not only progressives, but Fox News political analyst and former Bush aide Karl Rove.
At one point, Corn details, that effort was led by Rove's colleague, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios.
Since the 2012 election, a civil war in the conservative movement has divided Rove and his allies from other right-wing elements who believe Rove is insufficiently ideological. Much of the debate has focused on The Conservative Victory Project, a new group Rove is launching with the help of allies of Crossroads political groups to support Republican officeholders against Tea Party challengers. That effort has drawn harsh criticism from some of Rove's Fox News colleagues.
As Corn explains, that conservative civil war is in part driven by Groundswell, which in March "initiated an effort to crush Rove, who they believed had helped shape a post-election post-mortem by the Republican National Committee that called on the party to temper its message to appeal to a broader swath of voters." Notes for the group's March 20 meeting explain that Rove "must become toxic among the grass roots and among his base," and notes his vast influence in the conservative movement, including that "FOX has given Rove a platform and just renewed his contract," in spite of the fact that "Rove no more represents conservatives then Jessie [sic] Jackson or Al Sharpton represent all Blacks."
Notes for a February 20 Groundswell meeting indicate Rios was in charge of the working group devoted to an "Alternative to Rove." Notes for the group's March 6 meeting describe her as responsible for the "Karl Rove Project." According to Corn, "Weeks later, though, a Groundswell memo noted that the Conservative Action Project -- a coalition of more than 100 right-wing organizations that is chaired by former Attorney General Edwin Meese -- would be 'taking the lead' on the Rove Project." It is unclear whether that means that Rios and Groundswell were no longer directly engaged in an effort to undermine Rove.
Rios has previously repudiated Rove's Conservative Victory Project. During a February 4, 2013, appearance on American Family Radio, Rios said it was "frightening" that Rove is "going after really conservative candidates that they consider to be a little bit too conservative, out of the mainstream." Rios pointed to Rep. Steve King (R-IA) as an example of someone who is being unfairly targeted. She added that Rove "could not have been more wrong" about recent elections.
In May, Rios signed a letter opposing the bipartisan Senate proposal to reform immigration law that became the bill that passed in June. Immigration reform has been a key area of disagreement between Rove and more conservative elements of the party.
Fox News contributors Allen West and John Bolton are also reportedly Groundswell participants.
Radio host Mark Levin attacked 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch and Fox News Channel for "bias" in pro-immigration reform reporting, continuing to grow the divide between conservative talk radio hosts and the network.
On the July 15 edition of his radio show, Levin -- who has previously called the immigration reform bill a "disgusting disgrace" and a "crap sandwich" -- discussed a recent tweet by Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox, that declared Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was correct about the immigration reform effort and expressed support for the immigration reform bill. Levin then accused Fox News of biased reporting on immigration reform and accused "a number of hosts" who support immigration reform of not reading the bill:
This isn't the first time Levin has taken issue with what he referred to as "our favorite cable channel." On the July 12 edition of his show, Levin attacked Fox News contributor Karl Rove over his support for immigration reform saying, "you know what number Karl Rove never puts on that whiteboard? His win-loss percentage."
Earlier this month, both Levin and fellow conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh appeared on Fox, but neither was asked about immigration reform, despite their well-known outspokenness on the immigration reform effort. After Limbaugh's interview, he went on his radio show to criticize the network and claim that Fox wouldn't allow him to discuss the immigration reform effort. Yet, after walking back his comments, Limbaugh was allowed to speak on the topic during Fox News' The Five for almost ten minutes.
In addition to a conservative radio schism, conservatives in print media have also pitted themselves against one another over immigration, most recently between New York Times columnist David Brooks -- an immigration reform supporter -- and National Review's Rich Lowry and The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, who wrote an op-ed calling on House Republicans to "[put] a stake through" comprehensive immigration reform.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox, broke from Fox News hosts and contributors by tweeting support for the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill.
In a July 14 tweet, Murdoch called on House Speaker John Boehner to allow for his chamber to vote on the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform package. Boehner has previously committed not to bring the package up for a vote in the House:
A number of host and contributors of 21st Century Fox's subsidiary Fox News have expressed a view opposite of Murdoch's, either denouncing the Senate plan or calling for House Republican obstruction of any comprehensive immigration reform effort.
On the July 10 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity praised Boehner for not allowing the Senate bill to be voted on in the House, saying, "the decision by the leadership not to take the Senate bill is a good first step" to fixing the immigration system. He also advised that they take their time to get it right.
During the Hannity segment, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin offered her "qualified applause and praise" of Boehner's commitment to not bring the Senate bill up for a vote.
Additionally, Fox News contributors Laura Ingraham and Bill Kristol have both endorsed Republican obstruction of immigration reform efforts, claiming that any reconciliation of a potential House immigration reform bill and the Senate bill would be disastrous.
Other Fox News figures have staked out a different position, articulating support for the Senate's immigration reform effort. During the July 10 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly explained that House Republicans killing the Senate immigration reform bill would "mean the chaotic status quo would remain and the Southern border would not be made more secure." And Fox News contributor Karl Rove said on Fox News Radio that while he doesn't think the Senate immigration reform bill is perfect, he wanted "the process to continue."
From the July 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the June 17 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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If you've been casually paying attention to politics for the past few months, you're probably aware that the White House is dealing with a scandal of some sort involving last September's attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. You might also know that it has something to do with some talking points and some emails and who made some edits and when those edits were approved and by whom. And therein lies the reason why, despite enthusiastic efforts by Fox News and other axe-grinders on the right have to turn the editing of a sheet of talking points into a full-bore, front-page scandal for the Obama administration, it just hasn't taken off. Trying to coherently and accessibly explain why the average person who isn't a reflexive partisan should consider this a "scandal" is all but impossible.
President Obama's selection of Susan Rice to be the next National Security Adviser has given new life to the controversy, given that she was an unfortunate recipient of the much-discussed talking points. This morning, Karl Rove went on Fox News to try and explain why those talking points make Rice an unacceptable choice for the position. He threw out a bunch of already debunked lies and misdirections in doing so, which you can read about here, but watch this segment to see just how deep into the weeds Rove has to go in order to arrive at a muddled and uncertain conclusion.
Karl Rove is perhaps the nation's most prominent political communications strategist. He has spent nearly his entire professional life condensing complex issues into accessible narratives. And that was the best he could do. It's like trying to explain an inside joke to someone not on the inside. You have to go through the backstory and the details and mood-setting and digressions until you finally arrive at the joke, and invariably the listener will not find it as humorous as you do.
That's not to say that this is just a communications problem. The Benghazi emails and talking points reveal less a conspiracy to cover up information about the attack than they do interagency turf wars and bureaucratic squabbling. In some ways, getting lost in the Benghazi details helps to obscure the fact that right-wing critics don't really have anything to talk about -- they've spent nine months obsessing over a set of talking points at a time when the American people are far more interested in the economy.
But Rove et al keep plugging away at it because Benghazi was supposed to be the thing that took Obama down (Obama's Watergate). Or rather, the latest thing that was supposed to take Obama down (the latest in a long line of Obama's Watergates). Obviously it didn't, and the continued obsessive focus on Benghazi hasn't done much to erode the president's standing. But they'll just keep retelling the joke hoping that eventually someone will find it funny.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove is baselessly claiming the Obama administration's "lie" linking the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya to an anti-Islam video was "cooked up" by White House aides and an aide to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
As part of its effort to turn Benghazi into Obama's Watergate, Fox has regularly perpetuated falsehoods about talking points the administration generated after the attacks that were used by Rice in interviews on the Sunday political talk shows. The network has paid special attention to what emails between administration and intelligence officials concerning the editing of those talking points do and do not say about the anti-Islam video, which Rice linked to the attacks during those interviews. Those false attacks have been revived in light of reports that President Obama plans to appoint Rice as his new National Security Advisor.
Discussing Rice's move to the White House on the July 5 edition of America's Newsroom, Rove claimed that "we do not know the answer of who is the author of the lie that this is all because of an anti-Muslim video," and went on to suggest that the talking points emails suggest that the idea came from discussions between White House aides Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor and an unnamed aide to Rice, who Rove believes was UN mission communications director Erin Pelton:
ROVE: We do not know the answer of who is the author of the lie that this is all because of an anti-Muslim video. Now, we have an idea. There are these emails that were released, they released 100 emails about the Benghazi situation. Remember, on Saturday morning, [September] 15, the CIA talking points are gutted at a White House National Security Council deputies meeting. Sunday morning, Susan Rice is on television saying it was the anti-Muslim video. How did we get there? Late in the afternoon, starting at 5:59 p.m., on Saturday afternoon, we start having an exchange of emails from an unnamed person at the U.S. mission at that United Nations with two low-level White House National Security Council communications guys, Ben Rhodes, who's in charge of communication for the National Security Council and one of his deputies, a guy named Tommy Vietor.
BILL HEMMER (ANCHOR): And they go back and forth for a period of six or seven hours.
ROVE: They go back and forth over a number of hours about the talking points. Now this would lead me to believe that this unnamed person, who might be Erin Pelton, the communications director at the U.S. mission at the United Nations, and Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, that that's the transmission line to Susan Rice--
HEMMER: From the White House.
Rove offered similar claims in a May FoxNews.com column, asking whether "the USUN staffer, Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Vietor were responsible for cooking up the absurd and misleading storyline that an anti-Muslim video caused the death of four Americans," suggesting that their "principal concern might have been the election less than two months off."
In fact, the Benghazi emails released by the White House show only that the USUN official sought to confirm with the White House that the final version of the Benghazi talking points were what Rice should use in her interviews. In the sole exchange between the U.S. mission to the UN and the White House included in the emails, a USUN official asks Rhodes and Vietor if a forwarded version of the final talking points represented the "final language" that Rice should use on Benghazi, with Rhodes replying, "Yup."