In a performance touched with a bit of crocodile tears and hyperbole, former Bush strategist Karl Rove accused the president on Sunday of having an "enemies list" and degrading the office he holds by launching misleading attacks on conservative groups.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Rove was asked to respond to charges that he had bankrolled shadowy conservative groups in the November elections. Rove insists he has not written checks. But he has worked behind the scenes to help various organizations.
Pointing to that distinction -- and picking up on accusations from the White House that the Chamber of Commerce was using foreign funds for its election activities -- he charged Obama with taking a play from the Nixon playbook.
"They are tossing out these baseless charges," said Rove. "The president of the United States accused the Chamber of Commerce, and the Democratic National Committee in its new ad accuses Ed Gillespie and I of a criminal violation of our law by getting foreign money and spending it on American political campaigns, and they have not one shred of evidence to back up that baseless lie. This is a desperate and I think disturbing trend by the president of the United States to tar his political adversaries with some kind of enemies list, with being unrestrained by any facts or evidence whatsoever."
"Have these people no shame?" he bellowed later. "Does the president of the United States have such little regard for the office he holds that he goes out there and makes these kind of baseless charges against his political enemies? This is just beyond the pale. How dare the president do this?"
There is a obvious element of chutzpah when a political operative defined by his use of dirty tricks accuses his opponents of the same. And perhaps, underneath the veneer of shock and anger, Rove is admiring the work the White House has done in turning a report on the Chamber's funding into partisan red meat.
The fact remains, however, that a resolution to the debate is fairly obvious. Simply disclosing the names of who is donating to each of these institutions would clear the air and validate either Rove or the White House. But with a campaign finance law stuck in congressional limbo and hordes of potential donations at stake in this election, transparency has instead been replaced by innuendo.