November 16, 2007

It's Rove

Even during an afternoon of presentations, one could not escape the latest buzz in the blogosphere yesterday. Blackberries around the room lit up when Newsweek announced that Karl Rove would join them as a part-time political commentator. It neatly bookended Markos Moulitsas' announcement of his new gig, and completely recast Newsweek's effort:

Less than three months after leaving the Bush White House, Karl Rove is becoming a member of a community not all that popular with administration officials: the media.

Newsweek has signed the president's former deputy chief of staff as a commentator who will turn out several columns on the 2008 campaign through inauguration day. The move is not likely to prove popular among liberals who believe the mainstream media have been too soft on the Bush administration.

"We want to give readers a feel for what it's like to be on the inside," says Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham. "Our readers are sophisticated enough to know that what they get from Karl has to be judged in the context of who Karl is...Readers will have to decide if he's simply an apologist."

Newsweek (which is owned by The Washington Post Co.) will announce tomorrow that it is granting regular space to both Rove and Markos Moulitsas, the liberal firebrand who founded the Web site Daily Kos. "I'm fully prepared for both the right-wing and left-wing blogosphere to be outraged, which means we're doing our job," Meacham says.

Newsweek apparently approached Rove long before Markos. When Rove announced his resignation in August, Meacham contacted him that very day and made the offer to bring the architect of three national Republican electoral victories to Newsweek. Everyone's waiting for Rove to write his memoirs and collect one of the biggest paydays in publishing history, but in the meantime, Newsweek wanted his experience and electoral expertise.

That puts a slightly different light on the announcement from Kos. While having a celebrated blogger win a featured column at a national news magazine represents a win for the blogosphere, it appears that Kos didn't get hired for his blogging but his political organizing experience . He was hired to balance Rove and not the other way around.

In that context, Markos' hire is puzzling. Rove has led and won at least two Texas election efforts and three national efforts for the Republicans, before losing his fourth in 2006. Markos exists in a completely different league in political organization. It's as though ESPN hired a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback and a Division III college QB to analyze the upcoming playoffs. The latter may have some trenchant analysis to provide, but in terms of expertise, they don't compare. James Carville, Terry McAuliffe, or even Bob Shrum would have been more obvious choices.

Still, best of luck to both. Having interviewed and chatted with Rove in the past, I know that Newsweek readers will get very interesting and applicable analysis of the races. With Kos, we can expect the unexpected.

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