A brewing controversy between Vice President Joe Biden and a handful of former aides to George W. Bush should serve as a friendly reminder that those insults you learned in eighth grade will actually prove useful later in life.
Thursday, Karl Rove showed he knows how to dis with the best of them. In an interview with Fox News, the Republican strategist said of Biden, "I hate to say this, but he's a serial exaggerator ... If I was being unkind I would say liar. But it is a habit he ought to drop ... You should not exaggerate and lie like this when you are the Vice President of the United States."
Rove's comments came in response to Biden's claim that he stood up to Bush during a private, two-hour meeting in the Oval Office. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Biden said that when the former president asserted that he was a leader, Biden replied, "“Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one is following.”
In his interview with Fox, Rove went on to say that the incident was "fictional," adding, "it didn't happen ... It's his imagination; it's a made-up, fictional world ... He ought to get out of it and get back to reality."
Rove isn't the first former Bush aide to question the veracity of Biden's recollections. Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said of Biden's version of events, "I never recall Biden saying any of that ... I find it odd that he said he met with him alone all the time. I don't think that's true." Candida P. Wolff, who served as Bush's White House liaison to Capitol Hill, also disagreed with Biden's claims, telling Fox News, "The president would never sit through two hours of Joe Biden. I don't ever remember Biden being in the Oval. He was such a blowhard on all that stuff -- there wasn't a reason to bring him in."
Tuesday's interview wasn't the first time Biden has said he met privately with Bush. In April 2006, he told HBO that he "had plenty of opportunity to be with the president, at least prior to the last election, a lot of hours alone with him." For his part, Biden isn't letting all the name calling get to him. He is sticking to his story. Biden spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that "The vice president stands by his remarks."
With President Obama's approval ratings still high -- especially among non-Republicans -- the GOP may view Biden as an easier target to attack than the president. The Obama administration has not been shy about criticizing either Rove or former Vice President Dick Cheney, but Obama himself has largely remained above the fray. It thus makes sense to go after Biden, who has admitted he sometimes has a tendency to exaggerate. Democrats probably don't mind this kind of fight, either, as it doesn't hit Obama directly and offers them an attractive target. On Twitter, Ana Marie Cox quotes an unnamed "Dem insider" as saying of the fracas: "We welcome Rove being the face of the GOP. He has numbers that rival those of syphilis."