POLITICS
05/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New York Times Lets Rove Skate On McCain Advisory Role

An article in today's New York Times, exploring Karl Rove's newish career as a pundit, features Obama spokesman Bill Burton saying, "Wouldn't taking his advice be a little like getting health tips from a funeral home director?" Funny stuff! Of course, Burton would be just as accurate if he had noted that taking Rove's advice would also be a little like getting campaign advice from one of McCain's advisers, because that is precisely what Rove is.

Reporters Jim Rutenberg and Jacques Steinberg are clearly somewhat concerned with the way Rove has blurred the line between ostensibly independent pundit and official campaign adviser - they allude to the concern no less than five times in the first fifteen paragraphs! The "news media" is cited as "not always know[ing] what to make of" Rove's new role. Rove is credited with being "another step in the evolution of mainstream journalism, where opinion, 'straight news' reporting and unmistakable spin increasingly mingle." Former Clinton crony George Stephanopoulos is cited as another media hire that "raised hackles." David Broder is on hand to suggest that it is a "worrisome trend." It is noted that people like Rove are hired despite the fact that their campaign affiliations are "a detail that is usually shared with the audience but not always." And they cite five other people who frequent the scene of on-air political journalism whose connections to campaigns are similarly fuzzy.

But when it comes to applying some sort of scrutiny to Rove, they let the man speak for himself, unchallenged:

"I'm not certain that I qualify as an adviser to McCain," [Rove] wrote this month in an online discussion with readers of The Washington Post's Web site, which unlike Fox News, Newsweek and The Journal identified him as "an informal adviser" to the McCain campaign. "I have friends at the campaign who occasionally ask me for reactions, and the Fox network is well aware of that, and similar contacts by some of their Democratic analysts."

But Karl Rove is, without doubt, a formal campaign advisor to John McCain. By ThinkProgress' count, today marks the ninety-seventh day that the Fox News Channel has failed to disclose this fact. Ninety-three days into their RoveWatch, Fox's viewers were treated to Rove and Bill "Fuck it! We'll do it live!" O'Reilly making big wet kissy-faces at John McCain - the noteworthy irony being that O'Reilly has, in the past, railed against the failure of the media to disclose their pundits' connections. And less than a week ago, we caught Fox News' Chris Wallace fatuously framing a question to Rove with the phrase, "If you were advising John McCain..." Rove is and does advise McCain!

Rutenberg and Steinberg aren't able to find a single soul willing to offer any pushback to Rove's contention, despite having ably suggested that such a critique would be appropriate. Instead, readers get an unnamed editor cooing with affection over Rove, and Paul Begala, of all people, suggesting that having a guy on the air pretending to not have a massive conflict of interest made for "interesting television."

At least the authors offer some dispute of Begala's contention: "Unlike many of his fellow commentators, Mr. Rove has avoided many big predictions."