Anything that Karl Rove says in an election year is news. And so, on blogs and on cable everyone is discussing, as ABC News’ Christianne Klein first reported, that “at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club” Rove said of Barack Obama:
Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.
Groan. Not that guy. (Wait— on second thought, I’m seeing… James Bond. JFK?)
For anyone who would accuse Rove of peddling the same recycled caricature of a Democratic candidate, note that he also called Obama “cooly arrogant” — not can’t-help-himself arrogant like Al Gore or John Kerry. It’s a more controlled arrogance this time around. With cigarettes.
Still, isn’t the message a little confusing —the “date” thing could be confusing, for example, for people who already know Obama to be married to that woman who isn’t proud of America at all. The martini thing? Potentially confusing for people who suspect Obama might be Muslim.
A sampling of what some political reporters and commentators are saying about what Rove said.
ABC News’ Jake Tapper wonders: “Who, pray tell, is Rove at this country club?…The guy who vandalizes your car and blames it on the kitchen staff?”
Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson blogs:
If you unpack this it’s really disgusting. He’s playing to all the worst classist and racist fears of the Greatest Generation. Obama’s the uppity black guy who some court forced your country club to admit and now he’s flaunting his sexual appetites — why is Rove painting the long-married Obama as a swinging bachelor? — and looking down on you. It’s all said with a veil of civility, but the Lee Atwater-ian subtext couldn’t be clearer.
MSNBC invited Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson on this morning to chat about Rove’s message. Her take is that Rove made “only one mistake:”
Life is not a country club it’s high school. And he’s the kid who is really coy. He doesn’t seem to mind if he’s excluded. He’ll sit alone in the cafeteria if it must be. But he’s — he is slightly removed and slightly aloof. And you know, he got down with the people. He got down with the people towards the end of the campaign after Hillary showed him the way…
On CNN last night, Wolf Blitzer hosted a chat between CNN’s senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, and Leslie Sanchez, a Republican strategist/CNN political commentator:
CROWLEY: If you look at Barack Obama’s overall set of debits, it’s not so much he’s an African-American; people for the most part seemed to have cleared that hurdle. It’s not so much he’s a liberal Democrat; people seem to not care. What it is is he is perceived — what’s settling in — he is perceived as an elitist.
“Settling in,” you say?
Crowley suggested Obama could try to fight this “settling in” with his touring of factories and pushing of his distinctly non-elitist biography, to which Sanchez responded:
It makes me think of him as a show pony…like you’re putting him in all of these really contrived situations when I think the question will come down to authenticity. Which Barack Obama is real? The one with this elitist image or the one who doesn’t really connect with the middle class?
Quite a choice of Obamas, no? Blitzer then pointed out that “John McCain is married to an heiress,” which Sanchez called “a great point” but added that “the difference is you have the legacy of John McCain. You know who he is. He’s a maverick.”
Finally, a quick search on TVEyes turned up no mentions of Rove’s words on Fox News. Could it really be that Fox has so far passed on the chance to mention that the famous guy on their payroll called Obama “cooly arrogant?” Well, they did find their own Rove-less way to emphasize the same point.
Seal-Gate. Per Fox News: Even Barack Obama’s campaign signage is “arrogant.”
Or, as Alan Colmes said last night: “Obama unveiled a new campaign seal. Some people are calling it arrogant.” The seal in question, Colmes reported, “looks similar to the presidential seal. It features an eagle clutching an olive branch. It has the words, Yes, we can, printed in Latin. It was called a one-time thing. Late today the Obama campaign told Fox News they wouldn’t be using the seal again.” And this morning, Fox & Friend’s Steve Doocy reported on the “Logo A No-Go” (in a later segment it was “Logo-Gate”) and attributing to Larry Sabato, a professor at UVA and go-to guy for the political press, the insight that “the seal essentially reinforces the media’s perception of Barack Obama, which is charismatic but arrogant.”
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.