Vice President Joe Biden said he gave then-President George W. Bush an earful in the Oval Office. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove says Biden's version of that encounter is at best an exaggeration — at worst a lie — and part of a pattern.
"It's a habit he ought to drop," Rove said.
The tit-for-tat between Biden and Rove illustrates both the vice president's colorful way of retelling stories and Bush-era aides' effort to protect their former boss. The pair tussled during media interviews this week in a political game without an obvious goal: The unpopular Bush is gone from Washington and Biden operates under President Barack Obama.
The events started Tuesday, when Biden sat down with CNN and criticized both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office — and he was a great guy, enjoyed being with him. He said to me, he said, 'Well, Joe,' he said, 'I'm a leader,'" Biden recalled.
"And I said, 'Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one's following.'"
'He never said these kind of things'
Days later, Rove rebutted that Biden's version simply never happened.
"Joe Biden said, for example, that he spent hours with the president," Rove said Thursday on Fox News, where he is a regular commentator. "Joe Biden was never alone with the president for more than a few moments. There was staff in the room at all times. He never said these kind of things."
Rove then turned to Biden's character.
"I hate to say it, but he's a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind, I'd say he`s a liar. ... You'll notice every one of these incidents has the same structure. Joe Biden courageously raises the impudent question. The president befuddledly answers, and Joe Biden drives home the dramatic response. And I mean, it just — it's his imagination. It's a made-up, fictional world. He ought to get out of it and get back to reality."
The former White House deputy chief of staff, political czar and senior adviser to Bush has taken an aggressive tone against his successors in recent days. In addition to his rebuke of Biden, he used his Wall Street Journal column to criticize Obama.
Democrats scoffed at Rove's approach.
"Given how overwhelmingly voters rejected his brand of attack politics last fall, it's surprising that the GOP would continue to trot out Karl Rove as its top spokesman," said Democratic National Committee press secretary Hari Sevugan. "You'd think they'd want to move on, but unfortunately it seems that the Republican Party continues to be stuck in the past."