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Rove And Van Susteren Think We’re Too Unsophisticated To Know What “Sophisticated” Means

Reported by Ellen - October 27, 2010 -

If it wasn’t so insulting, Karl Rove’s and Greta Van Susteren’s attempt to spin Rove’s “The tea party is unsophisticated” comments as a compliment would have been hilarious. Instead, the political power broker and TV host (each of whom would probably cringe if anyone called either of them unsophisticated) insisted that “sophisticated” is an insult that means snobby and elite. Of course, it means nothing of the sort and I can’t believe they don’t know it.

The discussion on On The Record last night (10/26/10) began with Van Susteren raising Rove’s comments which he made in an interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel. Here’s the relevant passage:

SPIEGEL: Are you convinced, then, that the Republican Party will be able to integrate the Tea Party without drifting too far to the right?

Rove: Sure. There have been movements like this before -- the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the pro-life movement, the Second Amendment rights movement. All of them popped up, insistent, loud, and relatively unsophisticated. They wanted everything now and for politicians to be with them 100 percent of the time. And after an election or two, people wake up saying, our system produces mostly incremental progress and takes time and compromise. That's exactly what's going to happen here. I meet a lot of Tea Partiers as I go around the country, and they are amazing people. Most have never been involved in politics before. This is their first experience, and they have the enthusiasm of people who have never done it before.

SPIEGEL: Is the Tea Party movement a repeat of the Reagan Revolution?

Rove: It's a little bit different because the Reagan Revolution was driven a lot by the persona of one man, Ronald Reagan, who had an optimistic and sunny view of what the nation could be. It was also a well-organized, coherent, ideologically motivated and conservative revolution. If you look underneath the surface of the Tea Party movement, on the other hand, you will find that it is not sophisticated. It's not like these people have read the economist Friedrich August von Hayek. Rather, these are people who are deeply concerned about what they see happening to their country, particularly when it comes to spending, deficits, debt and health care.

While I don't think Rove meant any disrespect to the Tea Party, it’s clear, especially when you combine these remarks with Rove’s lack of enthusiasm for Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell or a Palin presidency, that Rove was saying that the Tea Party lacks political know-how - the kind of political know-how that just happens to be Rove’s specialty. But instead of standing by his words, Rove tried to pretend he feels otherwise. Given how the GOP is being taken over the Tea Party, his reluctance might be understandable – cowardly as it is. But what’s Van Susteren’s excuse?

Van Susteren began the interview by asking whether it was true he had called the Tea Party unsophisticated.

“True!” Rove said heartily. “Look, in the dictionary, one definition of sophisticated is pretentiously or superficiously (sic) wise… (Tea Party members) are not saying they’re skilled in the ways of Washington. They’re not comfortable in a cocktail party in Georgetown or a lobbyist meeting on K Street. This wasn’t formed by elitist think tanks. This was a spontaneous uprising… This is not manifested or drafted by a bunch of intellectuals with some dense academic work. This is common sense of America and… it’s ordinary Americans around a kitchen table and a coffee shop… It is from the bottom up…”

Rove added that he had “noticed” that “a couple of people took umbrage” at his use of the term "unsophisticated." But, he sneered, “Maybe they like sophisticated. Maybe they think people who can go around cocktail parties on the Upper East Side of Manhattan are the kind of people who ought to dictate our politics. But these people don’t. And they’re proud that they are not part and parcel of Washington, D.C.”

Van Susteren said, “You know, where I grew up, Carl, I grew up in the Midwest. If you said I was sophisticated, I might feel insulted… No offense, but (they’re) the people who always thought they were sort of fancy or better than other people. I would not want someone to refer to me as sophisticated… I think that word sometimes can be an insult.”

“Sure,” Rove readily areed. “If somebody took offense by it, I apologize. But frankly, sophisticated is not in my mind a good word. I mean, this is a movement that has drawn its strength not because it is in Washington and of Washington, because it is in the heartland of and from the heartland of America."

“It’s snooty!” Van Susteren exclaimed.

Rove agreed again. “Sophisticated is snooty. Sophisticated is looking down your nose.”

Yeah? Well, how's this for an unsophisticated response: Bullshit. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines sophisticated in completely positive terms that have nothing to do with snooty or condescension but cleverness, experience and cultivation.

Then, as if to prove my point, Rove continued, “Sophisticated is, ‘All these people don’t understand how it really works in Washington… Just listen to us.” If you ask me, that’s exactly what Rove has been saying. He just didn’t have the stones to come out and admit it.

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