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Karl Rove Goes Toe-to-Toe with Matt Lauer on Today

When NBC's Matt Lauer threw out the tired, overused, standard media line, on Friday's Today show, that the public is tired of all the "vitriol" and wants the Republicans to just work with Barack Obama and the Democrats, his guest, Karl Rove, threw Obama's words back in Lauer's face as he pointed out it was the President who called Republicans "enemies." When Lauer asked if the GOP could advance their agenda "without personally attacking Obama" Rove responded taht Republicans could work with the President but it was he, who needed to tamp down the rhetoric, as the former George W. Bush senior adviser reminded Lauer: "It was the President out there saying to a Latino radio station, 'We need to punish our enemies and reward our friends.'"

The following is the relevant exchange as it was aired on the November 5 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Karl Rove served as senior adviser to President George W. Bush, and his book Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight is now out on paper back. Congratulations on that Karl, good to have you back.

[On screen headline: "Political Architect, Rove On GOP, Tea Party, O'Donnell, Palin & Bush"]

KARL ROVE: Good to be back.

LAUER: So I know you worked closely with outside Republican groups in this election, you got a lot of money into races that you thought were very winnable. 2004, George Bush said you were the architect. Were you an architect of this big win for Republicans on Tuesday?

ROVE: Well, I don't - look others can apply the labels. I just had a lot of fun being involved in American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS and our efforts to help elect more Republicans.

LAUER: It was a thumping for Democrats, no question about it, on Tuesday in-

ROVE: Oh absolutely.

LAUER: -in the House and the Senate, in some governors races across the country. I thought it was interesting what you wrote in an op-ed yesterday, and let me read some of that for people. "Republicans must not delude themselves: The voters didn't win throw out the Democrats because they're enraptured with the GOP. The polling data suggests that many voters, while warming to the party, still remain nervous about it. Republicans are on probation and whether they get off it depends on whether they do what they said sad they would do on the campaign trail. What do they need to do?

ROVE: Well they need to, they need to attack Obamacare everywhere they can. They need to ratchet down the spending, and attack the deficit. They need to extend the tax cuts and they need to have a pro growth agenda. It's not just simply enough to say, "We're gonna stop doing the bad things that the American people clearly want to have stopped." It's also important for them to lay out an agenda that encourages prosperity and jobs and economic growth.

LAUER: Can they attack Obamacare and these other things, without personally attacking Obama or do they go hand in hand? I think the people are sending a message, they're tired of the vitriol-

ROVE: Yeah.

LAUER: They want the parties to work together. Can they accomplish that?

ROVE: Sure, absolutely. That's part of the reason why the Republican sweep was so big because people talked about the facts and the specifics of it. And it was the President out there saying to a Latino radio station, "We need to punish our enemies and reward our friends." Interesting study done by Wesleyan University that pointed out that of the negative ads done this year, the vast majority of the Republican ads were either devoted exclusively to policy questions or policy and personnel, personal questions whereas most of the Democrat ads were aimed personally at Republican candidates.

LAUER: You, you talk about the President's indelicate use of the word "enemies," but both sides have been guilty of these things. Mitch McConnell, even just admits that-

ROVE: Yeah.

LAUER: -that he should not have said that "Our priority number one is to make Obama a one-term president." We understand what he meant, but do the Republicans have to send a different sign? That it's not about President Obama. That it's about changing course.

ROVE: It's about President Obama's policies. Absolutely it's about President Obama's policies. And look there is no moral equivalency between what President Obama did for months and months and months during this campaign, excoriating the Republicans, and the Republicans having a very focused attack on his policies. It was President Obama who said, "Oh we're welcome to have those Republicans come along with us, but they ought to be riding in the back." Anybody who says - you know if there's one person in America who ought to be keenly aware of any kind of metaphor that says people ought to be riding in the back of a moving vehicle, that's this President of the United States.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here