April 2nd, 2008
06:50 PM ET
7 years ago

Rove: Obama's flag pin comments will be an issue

 Rove said Obama will be viewed by many as an elitist.

Rove said Obama will be viewed by many as an elitist.

(CNN) - It was an issue that caused a stir last fall, and one that former Bush strategist Karl Rove predicts may plague Barack Obama in the general election.

In a newly-published interview with GQ magazine, Rove says Obama's reluctance to wear a flag pin on his lapel may translate as elitism to many blue collar democrats.

"There are Democrats, particularly blue-collar Democrats, who defect to McCain because they see McCain as a patriotic figure and they see Obama as an elitist who's looking down his nose at 'em, which he is," Rove told the magazine.

"That comment where he said, you know, 'After 9/11, I didn't wear a flag lapel pin because true patriotism consists of speaking out on the issues, not wearing a flag lapel pin?’ Well, to a lot of ordinary people, putting that flag lapel pin on is true patriotism. It's a statement of their patriotic love of the country. And for him to sit there and dismiss it as he did…" Rove added.

The Obama campaign declined to comment on Rove's remarks.

In early October, an Iowa reporter asked Obama why he was not wearing a flag pin on his lapel, as many politicians do. The Illinois senator said he wore one shortly after 9/11, but later decided to show his patriotism in other ways.

"After a while, you start noticing people wearing the lapel pin but not acting very patriotic,” he said then. “My attitude is that I'm less concerned with what you're wearing on your lapel than what's in your heart. You show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those ones who serve."

His Democratic rivals at the time dismissed it as a non-issue, but the comments were posted on several conservative blogs, and sparked several anonymous e-mails that questioned Obama's patriotism.

In the new interview with GQ, Rove suggested the comments were among those that showed Obama is "coolly detached and very arrogant."

"I think he's very smart and knows he's smart, but as a result doesn't do his homework," Rove also said.

In the wide ranging interview, Rove also praised Clinton's now-famous 3 a.m. as "gutsy."

"It was a gutsy, dangerous move - She figured out that she had to do something to raise the issue of: Is he fit to be president? And this was a way to do it," he said. "I happened to be in Texas a week before the ad popped, and all of her surrogates were hitting him pretty hard on the thinness of his experience. They were pretty brutal. And this ad sort of fed into that."

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Karl Rove
soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    Patriotism is fighting to make that nation true to its ideals, not blind worship of its symbols. People who don't understand that wearing a flag pin is not as important as voicing your dissent when your country is drifting from it's core values of liberty and equality, are not true patriots. Obama is much more patriotic than Bush, Cheney and Rove.

    April 2, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  2. Dawn

    The only people who would ever consider not wearing a pin are the same people who wouldn't vote for Obama anyway.

    No issue

    April 2, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  3. Jar

    What, is Barak now Kramer in an that episode of Seinfeld about the AIDS walk?

    "Why aren't you wearing the pin?"

    "Everyone must wear the pin!"


    April 2, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  4. Mich

    C'mon Sen Obama, take back your words, "what's in heart..."

    America now knows what you and your spiritual guru have in their hearts. The whole world saw it just recently.

    April 2, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  5. windu

    So the architect behind the worst presidency in history is going to tell us that jewelry should be a campaign issue. Oooookay. If he's right, America deserves another George W Bush.

    April 2, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  6. D Maykowski

    Our you for real! we have so many problems right now in this country, and it is sad to hear that Karol Row is so petty ,that he would hang on to some thing we all have done. How many of us in this country even keep our flags out year round anymore. And to catorgies us blue collar works as dumb petty people that don't have the common since to look beyond a pin is truly insulting. I'm really tried of hearing the media and the republican decribe us as un educated ignorant people. Like we all just sit aroud watching wheel of fortune, yelling at the tv. Some of us Blue collar workers are college educated. We just can't find a job because they have been moved over seas. Why don't you stick to the issue. I'm beyond tired of the insults.


    April 2, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. janet

    Whenever I want to think good of McCain and vote for him- I see this Karl Rove and other Conservative Republicans.

    Then I feel this Obama is much better than these people..

    Sorry karl Rove- I am Hillary Supporter- but you won't get my vote based on this pin issue. I am a Democrat before anything else. My loyalty lies with democrat party.

    April 2, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. Dan

    Anyone who buys his argument is an idiot. Geezus you be smarter than to base somebody's patriotism on whether or not their wear a lapel pin.

    April 2, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. Steve

    Let's make this very clear – if the flag lapel pin thing is an issue to you, then you are a complete idiot.

    April 2, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  10. Mark

    OMG!!!! This is the most childish, stupid, argument I have ever heard. Do you think American's are idiots? Who cares about a stupid pin, your Republicans are not that stupid Karl, you moron...what kind of insane person equates wearing or not wearing an 'American flag pin' with loving or not loving your country. This may be the weakest argument I have heard in my entire life!!

    April 2, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  11. James

    Karl keep running your mouth, very soon you shall be brought to justice for all the corruption you did during the bush era!!!!!!

    April 2, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  12. prakash chand

    Rove draft another bluprint and wipe Obama out of thi race.

    You are the only one who can bring Obama down.

    GO ROVE .

    April 2, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  13. Neutral

    Obama hates USA like his spiritual advisor and campaigner WRIGHT! If you support Obama, you must hate America so much. Airport is not too far from where you live, you're FREE to LEAVE this country!

    April 2, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  14. Dave

    Karl Rove wears a flag pin and look at the stuff he has done. He should be in prison right now but instead he is on the lecture circuit. George W. Bush wears a flag pin and sends thousands of our young men to Iraq to be killed and maimed in a war that he started for purely personal reasons. If Obama chooses not to wear a pin but instead chooses to demonstrate his patriotism by his actions, more power to him.

    April 2, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  15. Jeff in WI

    McCain doesn't need conservatives. He can win the election just from independents and the bratty Democrats who don't get their candidate.

    April 2, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  16. cathy

    So the Republicans must be more afraid of Obama than Clinton to send Karl Rove out after him.

    April 2, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  17. Ken

    Another fear mongering Republican trying to divert votes with trashy issues. Focus on the real issues, Mr. Rove. We as everyday Americans are a lot smarter than you may think.

    April 2, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  18. Jason Means

    Give me a break – I thought we got rid of Karl Rove months ago.... This guy will say anything – regardless of its validity – to pit one person against another. Karl Rove may have not invented the Dirty Republican Playbook, but he's sure added a few pages to it over the years. I trust nothing this man says, and would recommend others do the same.

    April 2, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  19. Jay


    That is the most idiotic thing I've read in the last oh...20 minutes.

    Get an education. Please. I'll chip in some $$$.

    April 2, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  20. Silly Season

    Rove and the Republicans will be exposed as the hypocrites they are. Karl, is it patriotic to send soldiers into battle without proper body armor and unprotected Humvees?

    April 2, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  21. Carolyn (Dallas, TX)

    One of the great things about Obama is that he refuses to pay any attention to the non-issues.

    Karl Rove's legacy is diversion. He diverts people from looking at the real issues at hand. Are you servious? Over 4000 dead in Iraq, a recession, torture and he's interested in questioning someone's patriotism over a pin?

    I'd like to see a Republican talk about real issues for once. Issues that don't pander to fear and hatred. Karl Rove is one of the most significant players in turning the Congress and the Senate Democrat. Thank you Karl. Keep spewing hate and fear. The Democrats only win more.

    April 2, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  22. Anne B.

    I'm a Clinton supporter but I will not vote for McCain no matter what dirt Rove and other Republican morons try to dig up on Obama.

    For me, either Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton will be fine.

    Karl, please get back under the rock that you came from.

    April 2, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  23. j

    Where is Karl Rove's flag pin? Fact is, he doesn't wear one. What a phony.

    April 2, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  24. laura, CA

    wake up dems & supporters of obama especially, Rove is giving you a prelude of what is to come in November. These relatively baseless attacks are exactly what the GOP will use to blow over the empty suit aka Obama. They did it to Kerry and he actually has a resume, the lapel pin, wright, michelle's racist princeton thesis...this makes the proverbial GOP mouth water.

    April 2, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  25. John in San Antonio

    "Rove says Obama's reluctance to wear a flag pin on his lapel may translate as elitism to many blue collar democrats."

    Rove doesn't hold blue collar people in a very high regard if he thinks that wearing a pin will make a difference to them. Talk about elitism?

    April 2, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
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