Karl Rove's New Gig
Less than three months after leaving the Bush White House, Karl Rove is becoming a member of a community not all that popular with administration officials: the media.
Newsweek has signed the president's former deputy chief of staff as a commentator who will turn out several columns on the 2008 campaign through inauguration day. The move is not likely to prove popular among liberals who believe the mainstream media have been too soft on the Bush administration.
"We want to give readers a feel for what it's like to be on the inside," says Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham. "Our readers are sophisticated enough to know that what they get from Karl has to be judged in the context of who Karl is...Readers will have to decide if he's simply an apologist."
Newsweek (which is owned by The Washington Post Co.) will announce tomorrow that it is granting regular space to both Rove and Markos Moulitsas, the liberal firebrand who founded the Web site Daily Kos. "I'm fully prepared for both the right-wing and left-wing blogosphere to be outraged, which means we're doing our job," Meacham says.
Rove, a longtime confidant of George W. Bush, rarely granted on-the-record interviews during his 6-1/2 years in the White House, and he wasn't shy about criticizing the press.
In a speech last year, Rove said that journalists often derided political professionals, perhaps because "they want to draw attention away from the corrosive role their coverage has played focusing attention on process and not substance." On another occasion, he said the press has an "obsessive reliance" on polls and that news organizations unfairly created the impression in 2001 that the president's No Child Left Behind bill was stalled in Congress.
Rove was a source in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame for columnist Robert Novak and then-Time correspondent Matthew Cooper, and his repeated grand jury testimony in the case drew intensive coverage.
Often dubbed "Bush's Brain" or "The Architect," Rove received considerable credit for Republican victories in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and substantial blame for the GOP losing control of Congress last year.
He even bypassed the mainstream press in leaking his resignation to the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Rove said he ignored media criticism, telling Rush Limbaugh: "If you have to wake up in the morning to be validated by the editorial page of the New York Times, you've got a pretty sorry existence."
The movement of politicians and strategists into media roles was deemed controversial when the Times hired Nixon White House aide William Safire as a columnist in 1973, but has since become commonplace.
The Post and Newsweek hired Michael Gerson, Bush's chief speechwriter, as a columnist soon after he left the White House. George Stephanopoulos, now ABC's chief Washington correspondent, joined the network shortly after leaving the Clinton White House. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a Fox News commentator, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum just signed on as a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist.
Meacham says he contacted Rove the day he announced his resignation. He says Newsweek will insist on disclosing any fundraising or partisan activity on the part of Rove and Moulitsas.
"Love him or hate him, Karl Rove has been at the center of the American political story for the last few years," Meacham says.
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