Jonathan Chait

Karl Rove Is -- Gasp! -- Not Being Honest

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There are certain tip-offs that suggest when somebody is misleadingly describing a politicians' position. One of those tip offs is when you see somebody quoting a small piece of a sentence fragment, which often suggests a statement being wrenched out of context to alter its meaning. Another tip-off is when you read anything in the frequently-misleading Wall Street Journal editorial page. And yet another is when you come across any statement spoken or written by the compulsively dishonest Karl Rove. So the combination of Rove, writing for the Journal, quoting a sentence fragment is a red-siren tip off that some misleadin' is going on.

Here's Rove in today's Journal, charging President Obama with flip-flopping on democracy promotion:

Mr. Obama also came out rhetorically for his predecessor's Freedom Agenda, saying America supports "freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders" throughout the region. That statement is at odds with what Mr. Obama said in June 2005, when he insisted "we cannot, and should not, foist our own vision of democracy" on the Middle East.

Okay, having already used heuristics to establish with 99.99% certainty that Rove is lying, let's nail down the final 0.01% by consulting Obama's speech from 2005:

In testimony before Congress, Secretary Rice stated that while she believed it was possible to create a multi-ethnic, democratic Iraq under a unified national government, it was also possible that, in the near term, Iraq may look more like a loose federation and less like a tightly-knit, multi-ethnic society. According to the deal struck in the writing of the Constitution, the structure of the national government may still be altered by discussion among the three major factions. If it is the Administration's most realistic assessment that the Iraqi government will take the form of a loose confederation, then we need to be thinking about how we should calibrate our policies to reflect this reality. We cannot, and should not, foist our own vision of democracy on the Iraqis, and then expect our troops to hold together such a vision militarily.

Notice that Rove has actually distorted Obama's speech in two different ways. Obama was not invoking "our vision of democracy" to mean democracy, period. He was describing the debate in Iraq between advocates of a loose federation versus a strong national government, and arguing that the U.S. should let Iraqis settle this question rather than foist our vision upon them. Nowhere did Obama state, hint or imply that people in Iraq or elsewhere should not enjoy democracy.

Indeed, Rove cut off the portion of Obama's sentence that referred to "on the Iraqis" and changed it to "the Middle East," to further pull it out of the context and transform it into an attack on the rights of Arabs to enjoy democracy.

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