Psychologists define projection as a defense mechanism that involves attributing one’s own negative qualities or hostile thoughts to other people. It’s a concept Karl Rove may be familiar with, if only on a subconscious level.
Rove, who on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of having an “enemies list,” admitted three times in a conversation last year to keeping “a file” on a congressman who said unflattering things about his former boss, President George W. Bush.
Politico reported in April 2009 that Rove made the admission after being verbally accosted in a Capitol Hill restaurant by an aide to former Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), who had clashed with Bush. Prior to the scuffle, Rove appeared on Fox News and called out Feeney — who lost his 2008 re-election bid — as allegedly unprepared and hampered by ethical issues.
Here is the back-and-forth between Rove and the aide, Jason Roe, which sources described to reporter Anne Schroeder Mullins as rather aggressive (emphasis ours):
Roe: “I don’t know that I’m famous, but I’m Tom Feeney’s former chief of staff, and I’m offended by your comments on Fox about Tom. You guys wouldn’t be in the White House without Tom. And you made these really degrading comments about him that offended a lot of people.”
(Sidenote: Tom Feeney was the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives during the whole Bush/Gore 2000 recount.)
Rove: “Well, I have a file on the things Tom Feeney said about George Bush.”
Roe: “That says more about you than me that you kept a file on Tom Feeney. This guy was so restrained in his desire to criticize the president — even against this staff’s advice.”
Rove: “I have a file.”
Roe: “I’m right here. Tell me to my face what’s in that file.”
Rove: “I’ll send you the file.”
Roe: “Well, I hope the file is the beginning of the conversation and not the end. I would love to disabuse you of whatever you think of Tom Feeney’s loyalty from this file.”
Rove: “If you keep talking over me, this conversation’s going to end right now.”
The dialogue reveals that Rove admitted to doing what he’s now accusing Obama of. “This is a desperate and I think disturbing trend by the president of the United States to tar his political adversaries with some kind of enemies list,” Rove said on Fox News Sunday, though he didn’t provide evidence.
The remarks — a clear reference to President Richard Nixon’s notorious paranoia about his political opponents — came in response to Obama criticizing Rove for his involvement with shadowy groups that are funding attack ads against Democratic candidates.