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Wallace: Rove Is ‘A Political Savant’ And I ‘Use Him As A Straight Political Analyst,’ Even Though He’s ‘Partisan’

By Matt Corley

"Wallace: Rove Is ‘A Political Savant’ And I ‘Use Him As A Straight Political Analyst,’ Even Though He’s ‘Partisan’"

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In an interview with TV Barn yesterday, Fox News’s Chris Wallace said that he doesn’t “use” former Bush political guru Karl Rove as “a Republican talking head” when he has him on his show, but as “a straight political analyst.” “Karl Rove is the most sophisticated political analyst I’ve ever met,” said Wallace.

But in the course of his interview, Wallace contradicted his own claim that Rove is a “straight shooter,” admitting that he’s “obviously’ a “Republican” and a “partisan”:

WALLACE: First of all, and you’ll see that today, Karl Rove is the most sophisticated political analyst I’ve ever met. I’ve been in this business more than a quarter of a century, and this is not a Republican talking head, he is a political savant and beyond any questions, obviously he’s a Republican, obviously he’s a partisan. But his ability to analyze a political situation and analyze the strategy and how it’s being played out is the deepest, the most sophisticated I’ve ever seen.

Asked about Rove’s relationship to the McCain campaign, Wallace ignored the issue, saying, “You’ll have to ask him about what his involvement is or isn’t on that.” Listen here:

Wallace’s contention that Rove should be a “straight political analyst” rather than a “Republican talking head” contradicts what Fox News’s own senior vice president, John Moody, says about Rove. In a recent interview with Howard Kurtz, Moody acknowledged, “Are we getting a Republican spin? Of course. But that’s what he’s there for.”

Despite what Wallace may claim, Rove often doesn’t play it “straight” in his Fox commentary.

Even though he says he plays “no official role” with the McCain campaign, Rove admitted just yesterday at a Television Critics Association Q&A that he would be “having dinner later this week” with “the Republican state chairman of a battleground state.” “It’s not just the quality of steak I’m going to fix him that’s caused him to stop by the house and pick my brain,” added Rove.

Transcript:

BARNHART: Do you think the fact that Obama is now coming under intense scrutiny for his seemingly very tactical decisions with regard to his campaign and now that journalists like Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker are taking a second look at how he actually built his political career, which is maybe less inspirational, more tactical, advantages Fox in some way that your two most high-profile commentators are the two people who have spent the most time pointing this out about Obama — Howard Wolfson and Karl Rove?

WALLACE: Well, I think that we are advantaged because I think we’ve got the two smartest commentators out there. First of all, and you’ll see that today, Karl Rove is the most sophisticated political analyst I’ve ever met. I’ve been in this business more than a quarter of a century, and this is not a Republican talking head, he is a political savant and beyond any questions, obviously he’s a Republican, obviously he’s a partisan, but his ability to analyze a political situation and analyze the strategy and how it’s being played out is the deepest, the most sophisticated I’ve ever seen. So, I don’t think it’s…and Howard Wolfson is also a very smart guy, so first of all, when I use Karl on, like on primary nights, and when I’m going to be talking to him at the convention, I don’t use him as a Republican talking head, I use him as a straight political analyst and he’s scary smart talking about those kinds of things.,

BARNHART: Can you do that? Can you separate that out?

WALLACE: Absolutely.

BARNHART: There continue to be these reports that Rove is maybe if not on someone’s pay roll, on the QT continues to advice Republicans, which would not be beyond the pale.

WALLACE: You’ll have to ask him about what his involvement is or isn’t on that, but what I have found in my experience with him is that he’s a very straight shooter. I’ll give you one example, on June 3rd, which was the night when…the final primaries, I…McCain made a speech from New Orleans, which particularly in comparison to Obama’s from Minnesota…

BARNHART: Dreadful.

WALLACE: Your words not mine, but it paled in comparison, I mean it was bad in substance, it was bad in performance. The backdrop looked horrendous and Karl was dumping on it as much as anybody else and at one point I said to him, so do you think he did it here, did it in New Orleans, because he’s trying to separate himself from Bush and this was the scene of a Bush failure in Katrina. He said, no, he actually just had a couple of fundraisers and we laughed on the air about the idea that there was no strategy involved, it was just a matter of logistics. I have found him to be on the air, a very straight and objective shooter about things that both candidates do right and things that both candidates do wrong.

Update

The Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes reports that when Moody suggested at the Television Critics Association yesterday that he didn’t “think Karl would cross the ethical line” of helping McCain on air, “it set off guffawing in the Beverly Hills hotel ballroom.”

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