Our Roving Reporter

President Bush won New Hampshire in 2000 by just over 7000 votes, and the state is quietly shaping up to be an important battleground again this time around. White House political adviser Karl Rove knows this better than anyone, which is why, along with attending a fundraiser in the Granite State last night, he spoke at length with John DiStaso, a political reporter for the conservative Manchester Union Leader.

As Rove no doubt expected, DiStaso — who was singled out by Campaign Desk back in January for distorting a quote by Democratic candidate Wesley Clark during a televised debate — dutifully transcribed Rove’s words and presented them as a full news story, under the title, “Presidential Adviser Defends Decision to Liberate Iraq.” (italics added)

Bush, Rove said, is doing well just to be in the hunt in New Hampshire, given that John Kerry is from neighboring Massachusetts. DiStaso declines to point out that New Hampshire is a Republican-leaning state: In the modern era, the only Democrats to win it are Bill Clinton and LBJ.

But DiStaso’s most egregious lapses occur when Rove defends the president’s foreign policy. Rove tells DiStaso:

We do know this. He had the intention (of using weapons of mass destruction) because he created those weapons and used them on his own people and his neighbors.” He said Saddam “acknowledged he had them in the aftermath of the 1991 war. He housed terrorists; he funded terrorists. He underwrote suicide bombers in Israel at $2,500 a person.

Some journalists might have pointed out that Rove’s reference to Saddam having “housed terrorists” refers, presumably, to the presence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the militant Islamist with ties to al-Qaeda. As Campaign Desk noted last month, it’s been clearly established that though Zarqawi was indeed in Iraq before the war, he was in the Kurdish territory over which Saddam had no control.

Further, DiStaso cites Rove’s statement that the U.S. “has done a great job of removing the Taliban and putting Afghanistan on a new course,” without noting that there’s considerable evidence to the contrary.

The New York Times reported on Monday that, “Senior officials in southern Afghanistan have warned that leaders of the former Taliban government are increasing their insurgency there and in the southeast, and that they are gaining popular support.” The U.S.-backed Afghan president is said to control little more than the capital city, while tribal warlords, many with ties to the opium trade, have established private fiefdoms in the rest of the country. For his part, John Kerry this week called Afghanistan, “a forgotten front in the war in terror.”

Rove, of course, is entitled to his opinion on Afghanistan and other subjects, but readers deserve to be given a fuller picture. They won’t get it from this edition of the Karl Rove transcription service.

Zachary Roth

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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.