Karl Rove vs. James Carville
Last night, I attended the debate between Karl Rove and James Carville at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Charlie Rose served as referee.
A small group of protesters milled around outside, calling for Rove's indictment for war crimes. Maybe the forecast of rain kept them away. In any case, no one seemed to care. One of the security guards even did a little hip sway in time with their chanting.
Inside the packed auditorium, we were exhorted to be respectful of others' opinions and to "behave." Aside from a few protesters disrupting the proceedings--most notably, a woman who strode onstage brandishing a pair of handcuffs, then mugged for the cameras as she was sandwiched by security guards and pushed into the wings--we New Yorkers kept our cool. Mostly.
Karl Rove put his foot in his mouth early on when Charlie Rose asked him his opinion about President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
Rove stated that she will be confirmed, but demurred when Charlie said Sotomayor is very bright. When Charlie protested that she had graduated from Princeton and Yale Law, Rove said, "I know lots of stupid people who went to Ivy League schools." I found myself laughing and yelling "yes, you do" while most of the crowd roared at the unintended hilarity of Rove's statement.
When Charlie asked about the current scandal regarding Nancy Pelosi and the CIA, Rove went on about how gravely important this issue is, that the documents must be brought to light and made one of many straight-faced references to following "the rule of law."
Carville turned to the audience and said, "Why don't we name an agent?" He was referring to Rove's own dealings with the CIA in naming Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Plame's husband was a journalist who had reported that there were no signs of WMDs in Iraq.
Sadly, Carville's words got lost amid an exchange between Rose and Rove. My husband asked me what he'd said because I was clapping. Unfortunately, Carville didn't repeat himself and turned to saying it was a meeting that happened seven years ago and doesn't matter. When Charlie asked him how he would have advised Pelosi, he said he would've had her say "I don't recollect being told..." which reminded me of Bill Clinton's famous parsing of what "is" is.
The Katrina issue finally got Rove and Carville yelling and pointing in each other's faces, as Rove insisted that Bush had responded immediately by informing the governor of Louisiana that he was in charge. He also criticized the mayor of New Orleans.
Carville pounded his armrests, shouting that there was video of Bush being told that he was going to lose a city and that he didn't ask a question, that he left in the middle of the meeting to go ride a bike. He also said, "The mayor couldn't do anything. He was under eight feet of water." When Rove responded sagely that since then, Louisiana had elected another Republican governor, I wanted to scream, "That's because there was no one left to vote against him!"
I held my tongue so I wouldn't get bounced and got to hear Carville return to his favorite theme for the evening: Republican excuses. Clinton had left the country with a surplus but somehow the economy was his fault. The war was Clinton's fault. Bush's deficit was now Obama's fault."Take responsibility," he said. "It's bad for the children to see this."
When Rove stated that Clinton would be nothing more than a footnote in history, Carville laughed and said that Bush would certainly never be a footnote and said his presidency would be remembered for "massive incompetence."
I didn't get to hear Carville utter his famous line--originally about Hamilton Jordan--"I wouldn't piss down his throat if his heart was on fire." But Carville's words of sympathy for Rove at the end of the evening were just as satisfying.
"I know what it's like for Karl. He's got to defend Bush, just him and Cheney. I have to defend eight bad minutes. He has to defend eight bad years. I feel for you, buddy."