Rove Rips Former Ohio Gov. Strickland, Whose Admin Invaded Joe the Plumber's Privacy, for Criticizing Christie

February 17th, 2014 10:27 AM

Democrat and former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who has been "shadowing" Chris Christie while taking every possible opportunity to accuse New Jersey's GOP Governor of either "lying" or of being "the most inept, incompetent chief executive imaginable," tried his schtick yesterday morning on Chris Wallace's Fox News show.

Unfortunately for Ted, establishment Republican and former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove was there to do what the press should have been doing, namely calling out his blatant hypocrisy. But the clever Strickland managed to get in the last word. Viewers not familiar with the details of how Strickland's Buckeye State government went after Joe the Plumber after his preelection encounter with Barack Obama in October 2008 will likely believe that the argument ended in a standoff. That situation needs to be remedied.

Wallace began his Fox News Sunday program by noting how opponents are going after the perceived 2016 presidential front-runner in each party, and went to video showing Strickland ripping Christie (transcript here; bolds are mine throughout this post):

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: ... Three years out, sparks are already flying in the 2016 race for president.


WALLACE: Leading operatives on left and right are working to derail potential frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie.

FORMER GOV. TED STRICKLAND, D-OHIO: Either the governor knew and he is lying, or he is the most inept, incompetent chief executive imaginable. God help us if he were to become president.

After previewing the show's other topics, Wallace went into the attempts to discredit Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Christie.

When the discussion moved to Christie, Wallace twice had to ask Strickland why he is shadowing Christie before getting an answer. He then went to Rove, who was more than ready to respond:

WALLACE: Karl, let me bring you in and pick up on Governor Strickland's point. The governor, Governor Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, knew. His appointment to the Port Authority, David Wildstein, knew.

Doesn't it strain credulity? How do you respond to Governor Strickland's statement that he's either lying, Christie is lying, or he's incompetent?

ROVE: Well, first of all, I think Governor Strickland is correct. The reason the Democrats are doing this is because Chris Christie is a strong potential candidate in 2016. They're going to try to smother every Republican presidential possibility they can because they know that this race in 2016 is going to be difficult for the Democrats, hard to get a third term, particularly after the two terms of Obama.

I think the Democrats, however, would be better off picking another voice to go after Governor Christie. When Governor Christie found out about these two individuals and what they had done, he immediately fired them.

Let's remember -- let's go back to 2008 and Joe the Plumber. Governor Strickland's own appointee as head of the employment commission was found to have been accessing confidential governmental data bases to find out confidential information, private information about Joe the Plumber and leaking it to the press.

Now, is Governor Strickland to adopt his standards either incompetent or lying and simply because it was his appointee who did these things?

Let's step back and look at this. Let the process go forward and be careful to throw stones like Governor Strickland is throwing at Governor Christie. I understand why they want to get him out of there.


WALLACE: OK, wait, wait. We're running out of time. I've got to let Governor Strickland respond.

STRICKLAND: Well, two things. First of all, the person who did that left my administration and secondly, no information was ever leaked to the press. That's just not a true statement.

So, you know, things happen. You hold people responsible. And Governor Christie has held Bridget Kelly responsible. But we still do not know who told Bridget Kelly to do what she did.


STRICKLAND: Obviously, there were --

ROVE: Who told -- who told your employment commissioner -- who told your employment commissioner to do what she did? And she did leak confidential information, damaging information about Joe the Plumber was leaked to the press.

STRICKLAND: It did not come from her. It did not. And --

ROVE: Who did it come from, governor? Who did it come from? Who did it come from? From confidential government data bases, Governor.

STRICKLAND: Karl, there was no information about Joe the Plumber that was leaked to the press. There was an indication --

ROVE: I would go back and look at the record, Governor, if I were you. Go back and look at the public record.


WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to have to cut it off here. I will say, Karl --

STRICKLAND: Karl, we'll continue this conversation if you'd like. I'll give you my phone number.

WALLACE: Yes. Listen, you two continue this conversation offline.

Strickland's claim that there was "no information ... leaked" and his phony offer to "continue this conversation" certainly made it look as if he was righteouly confident. Too bad he's wrong — and unless he's engaging in self-delusion (having had him as my congressman and then governor for more than a combined decade, I can assure readers that he does so frequently), he should know it.

No one can reasonably dispute that damaging information which could only have come from State of Ohio databases about Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, was leaked to the press. Wurzelbacher's unrehearsed discussion when approached by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in mid-October 2008 in northwestern Ohio elicited a revealing and damaging "what he really believes" comment from Obama — "I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody."

The encounter infuriated activist Democrats, including several in Strickland's administration, who instantly went into their default "let's smear him" mode.

At least five people in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, led by Helen Jones-Kelley, were at first disciplined with varying terms of suspension after Jones-Kelley, a licensed attorney, "improperly ordered staff to look up records" on Wurzelbacher. Most if not all of Jones-Kelley's subordinates were subsequently fired. Jones-Kelley herself was suspended for a month and chose not to return.

Strickland's reference to "the person who did that (who) left my administration" is to Jones-Kelley. He was clearly upset when he suspended her — but not because of what she did, as clearly seen in the statement announcing the suspension:

Helen Jones-Kelley has dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable among us. She is recognized nationally as an expert in the field of foster care and she has worked commendably for many years as an advocate for children, families and workers in her native Montgomery County and the state of Ohio. I value her contributions to the state and her local community.

However, I accept the Inspector General’s judgment that there was not an adequate business purpose for the searches in question.

Translation: "I love this woman, and darn it, I really wish she hadn't been caught."

She wouldn't have been caught but for a brave whistleblower who went to Ohio's Inspector General after she was ordered to do what she recognized were clearly unauthorized and illegal searches.

Strickland appears to be correct that the leaked information that did get out "did not come from" Jones-Kelley. But leaked info did come out, and it could only have come from someone with authorized access or someone who allowed unauthorized people to access State of Ohio databases. On October 24, 2008, as the rest of the nation's establishment press was gleefully assisting the Obama campaign's smearing of Wurzelbacher, the Columbus Dispatch identified just a few of many others who could have done the leaking:

Public records requested by The Dispatch disclose that information on Wurzelbacher's driver's license or his sport-utility vehicle was pulled from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database three times shortly after the debate.

Information on Wurzelbacher was accessed by accounts assigned to the office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department.

As Rush Limbaugh and others have noted, many leftists don't have to be told to go into smear mode. They just instinctively do it.

Ted Strickland cannot possibly believe — unless he's engaged in the media-enabled self-delusion noted earlier — that his claim that "there was no information about Joe the Plumber that was leaked to the press" is true.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit (HT Powerline) noted that the conduct of Strickland administration underlings gave America a preview of what was to come in Washington:

Strickland can go on about “Bridgegate,” but it was his own people who broke the law to circulate dirt on Joe The Plumber in 2008, solely because he dared to ask Obama a tough question. This little bit of thuggery involving abuse of power, corrupt officialdom, and intolerance for dissent turned out to prefigure the Obama Administration quite accurately.

That's tragically true. The press ignored this and many other examples of Democratic Party and Obama campaign thuggery in 2007 and 2008, and look where we are now.

There's not a chance in the world that a Republican Ohio governor in similar circumstances would have received the hands-off treatment Strickland did. So it's somewhat — but only somewhat — satisfying to see Rove do some of the work the press should have done over five years ago.

As to the "shadowing," imagine the press-orchestrated outrage and ridicule we would see if a former Republican governor were to "shadow" a Democrat like Andrew Cuomo or Jerry Brown.

Cross-posted at