Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports that Karl Rove has been aggressively opposing Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) as a potential running mate for Sen. John McCain. According to Martin, Rove even called the Connecticut senator last week to encourage him to take his name out of consideration. Lieberman refused. From Martin:
Lieberman dismissed the request, these sources agreed.
Lieberman “laughed at the suggestion and certainly did not call [McCain] on it,” said one source familiar with the details.
“Rove called Lieberman,” recounted a second source. “Lieberman told him he would not make that call.”
Rove did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This morning, Martin reports that, though Rove did not get back to him, he did discuss the issue on Fox News, where he is a commentator:
Rove first said: “Sen. Lieberman’s camp denied it and so did my camp last night, so I guess Politico.com was wrong.”
Rove is incorrect. Lieberman’s office has not denied it. And I’m not sure what Rove means by “my camp,” but I have not heard anything from him, others in Bushworld or McCain’s campaign denying the story.
Pressed by Fox’s Megyn Kelly, Rove wouldn’t deny calling Lieberman.
“Uh. Look, I’m not going to get into who I call and don’t call,” he said. “But this report that I called Sen. Lieberman and told him, you call Sen. McCain and withdraw from the vice presidential, is incorrect. “
Rove has been an emphatic supporter of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket, as Martin notes:
“Romney is already vetted by the media, has strong executive experience both in business and in government, has an interesting story to tell with saving the U.S. Olympics, and also helps McCain deal with the economy, because he can speak to the economy with a fluency that McCain doesn’t have,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday” in June.
The news of Rove’s self-imposed involvement in McCain’s veep vetting process comes in the wake of Robert Novak’s back-from-retirement assertion yesterday that an unnamed “Republican operative” had urged Lieberman to lobby McCain against selecting him as a running mate. Novak reported that Lieberman did in fact comply — which Lieberman’s people, emphatically denied yesterday.
Martin reported that Novak declined to discuss his sources. In the wake of the Valerie Plame affair– in which Rove turned out to be one of Novak’s sources — we already know that Rove doesn’t have a problem exerting his influence behind the scenes and then denying it until the bitter end, and Novak will publish just about any juicy item a highly-placed source feeds him. Novak was burned last month when an unnamed McCain source used him to generate some headlines to plant the false story that McCain was about to name his vice president while Obama was on his overseas trip. Maybe Novak will finally learn to take information gleaned from sources with a clear agenda with a grain of salt — but I’m not holding my breath.
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