updated 4/18/2005 10:52:33 PM ET 2005-04-19T02:52:33

The media has started applying the horse-race style of campaign coverage to daily reporting on government, leading to adversarial reporting that can obscure the truth just to create conflict, President Bush’s chief political strategist said Monday.

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Speaking at a forum at Washington College, Karl Rove said the influx of media outlets and the shrinking shelf life of news in a 24-hour news cycle are to blame.

“We are substituting the shrill and rapid call of the track announcer for calm judgment, fact and substance,” Rove told the crowd of roughly 600 students and local residents.

Naming specific reporters and news organizations, Rove said the media unfairly created the impression that President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, introduced early in his first term, was stalled in Congress at every step before its passage.

But the legislation was passed by the House and Senate with wide margins and was signed by Bush less than a year after it was introduced, Rove said. He said the media has taken a similar approach to the current debate over Social Security.

Laments ‘obsessive reliance’ on polls
“What really gets me is how short the time horizon is for many members of the media of coming to a conclusion of whether something will pass,” he said.

Another example is the “obsessive reliance” on polls to create news and political predictions, he said. He cited the media’s early reliance on ultimately misleading exit polls from Election Day 2004 that appeared to show Sen. John Kerry headed for a presidential win.

“It is as if they (reporters) believe that all polls are created equal,” he said. “But it ain’t so.”

Rove is widely considered to be the driving force behind Bush’s 2000 election victory and his win last year over Kerry. Now a deputy chief of staff, Rove is one of the president’s closest and most trusted advisers.

Media ‘less liberal than oppositional’
Rove countered the general notion among conservatives that mainstream media outlets skew liberal. He said the media is “less liberal than it is oppositional” and admitted to being a listener of National Public Radio.

Of his boss, Rove said the idea that Bush is not an intellectual is incorrect, citing his Ivy League education and saying “there’s always a book on his night stand.”

“He’s one of the most intelligent, curious, intellectually tough people I know, yet the country misunderestimates him continually,” Rove said, playing on one of Bush’s more memorable verbal gaffes.

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