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David Axelrod versus Karl Rove: The sniping continues

February 16, 2009 | 10:05 am

Obama White House political director David Axelrod on NBC's Meet the Press

The attacks started a few days ago when Bush political guru Karl Rove hurled insults at the Obama White House. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Rove opined that Obama misplayed the fight for a $787-billion stimulus package, reenergizing Republicans in the process. Oh yeah, and Rove, whom some on Capitol Hill think should be indicted for foiling Congress in its investigation of the U.S. attorneys scandal, said the bill amounts to liberal spending programs that won't help the economy.

"The bill he signs will create a raft of new programs and be the biggest peacetime spending increase in American history, which will give us larger deficits and create pressure to raise taxes. It will also hinder the president's other goals, such as expanding government health care."

So White House politico David Axelrod told the Washington Post's Lois Romano that he's had it with former Bush staffers and their public complaints about Obama, which range from criticism for the new administration's more casual dress code to warnings from former Vice President Dick Cheney that closing Guantanamo Bay prison could lead to more terrorism.

I was disappointed in the vice president's comments, not because he stated the obvious but that he suggested that somehow the president's decisions on torture in Guantanamo would increase the likelihood of that. . . . I've been impressed by is the graciousness that President Bush has shown. . . . When he left, he wished us the best, and I believe that he meant that, and apparently, the memo didn't circulate around the White House. I've seen what I consider tasteless comments by the vice president, amazing comments by Karl Rove.

You know, the last thing that I think we're looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove. I've never seen anything really like it . . . [former White House chief of staff] Andy Card saying that we were somehow denigrating the presidency because people were wearing short sleeves in the Oval Office. We're wearing short sleeves because we have to roll up our sleeves and clean up the mess that we inherited.

Now Axelrod, the political consultant who made the improbable Obama candidacy possible, has taken the argument to television, telling NBC's David Gregory on "Meet the Press" Sunday:

You know, the last thing that I think we're looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove. I mean, anyone who's read the newspapers for the last eight years would laugh at that.

Rove, who also writes a weekly column for Newsweek, is likely to respond soon. In the meantime, both men likely know that sharpening their knives against each other only endears them further to their core base audiences.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images

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