It's not quite "Moore Vs. Gupta" – the TV "event" of a debate over health care between Michael Moore and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta from earlier this summer – but we've had another War of Words in MediaLand going on for more than a week now: Karl Rove versus Bill Moyers.
It all began with Moyers' editorial-slash-political obituary of Karl Rove in the wake of Rove's departure from the White House. Moyers made the case that Rove focused a lot of energy on values voters, to Bush's political advantage. It's an innocuous statement, given that Rove reportedly had admitted this to myriad reporters. But what drew people's attention was one line of Moyers' in particular.
At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he wished he could believe, but he cannot.A few days later, Rove was asked about these comments on "Fox News Sunday." He responded:
I'm a Christian. I go to church. I'm an Episcopalian. I think he may have taken a comment that I made where I was talking about how — I have had colleagues at the White House — Mike Gerson, Pete Wehner, Lindsey Drouin, Josh Bolten and others — who I'm really impressed about how their faith has informed their lives and made them really better people…"Do a little better?" "Drive-by slander?" Them's fighting words between Texans.
You know, Mr. Moyers ought to do a little bit better research before he does another drive-by slander.
So Bill Moyers did the online equivalent of opening up his notebook, posting a follow-up letter to Wallace where he laid out the "reports" he had alluded to in his commentary. He whipped out a San Antonio Express-News editorial, a Christopher Hitchens posting that says "Karl Rove is not a believer," an Atlantic posting that begins "I might be wrong about this…" and a citation from "Bush's Brain" by Wayne Slater.
The dustup continued to draw complaints to the PBS Web site, leading the PBS Ombudsman to publicly restate that they may need to have an ombudsman devoted to Moyers complaints. Then just yesterday Chris Wallace responded directly to Moyers on "Fox News Sunday."
It's tough to think that this back-and-forth will last past Labor Day, but this writer thinks that if you're going to pen an essay turning entirely on the hypocrisy of an agnostic manipulating the religious population, you'd be best served by basing that on something more specific than vague-sounding "reports." (Why not, for instance, quote Hitchens directly?) A Rove and Moyers debate could have been the rhetorical equivalent of the OK Corral; too bad Moyers brought a knife to this gunfight.