Obama and Rove: Playing for the same team?

Clinton spokesman says "it sounds like" Rove is writing Obama's talking points.

Published August 16, 2007 1:19PM (EDT)

At a speech in New Hampshire last month, Barack Obama suggested that Hillary Clinton's views on talking -- or, more accurately, not talking -- to rogue nations amounted to "Bush-Cheney lite." Clinton called the comments "kind of silly." "I've been called a lot of things in my life," she said, "but I've never been called George Bush or Dick Cheney, certainly."

Yes, and until yesterday, Barack Obama had probably never been called a mouthpiece for Karl Rove. But after Obama told the Washington Post's Dan Balz that he thought he could "bring the country together more effectively" than Clinton could -- and after Rove attacked Clinton in a round-table chat with reporters and in an appearance on "The Rush Limbaugh Show" -- Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer fired back by suggesting that Obama and Rove are actually playing for the same team.

"It sounds like Mr. Rove and Sen. Obama are reading off the same set of talking points," Singer told the New York Times. Taking things a step further, Singer told Reuters: "It sounds like Karl Rove is writing Sen. Obama's talking points."

Singer has at least part of a point: Obama and Rove have been making a similar argument about Clinton. Obama says that because of "some of the battles" Hillary Clinton and her husband faced in the 1990s, Clinton "cannot" bring the country together in the way he can. Rove says that "nobody" has won the White House after entering a primary season with "negative" poll numbers as high as Clinton's.

But here's where the arguments diverge: Obama goes out of his way to say that Clinton's battle scars are "the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons"; Rove says of Clinton, "Look, she is who she is," ignoring the fact that his allies on the right -- hello, again, Rush -- have spent the better part of the past two decades turning Clinton into a political pariah.

Does Obama have more of a chance of bringing the country together than Clinton does? Maybe so. Do Clinton's negatives leave her "fatally flawed" as a candidate? That may turn out to be so, too. But to say that it sounds like Rove is writing Obama's talking points takes the case a bit too far. Both men are saying, essentially, that Clinton will have a hard time getting elected next November. But only one of them is the political hero of a party that has spent the past 15 years making sure that that's the case.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton Karl Rove War Room