John Kass

"Well, I just can't comment at all," said Lynne Cheney on Rove's nonsense. "I think you would need a great deal more medical expertise than I have to understand a question like that. I have no reason to believe that's the case."

Cheney, a Republican, has spent her life in politics and government. She's also taken legitimate political shots at Hillary Clinton.

But she wouldn't play doctor, as did Rove.

It's a classic trick, making an outlandish or controversial claim, then having the propriety of the claim repeated and debated, and going on TV to "clarify" the offending remarks.

And all the while the rusty knife is jabbed into the target again and again.

But Rove playing brain surgeon isn't mere politics. It's political assault. It's what turns American stomachs when politics enters their living rooms.

The right watches Fox, and the left watches all those other news shows, on the old-line networks, and MSNBC and CNN and Comedy Central.

As Rove bangs the drums for Republicans, his counterpart is David Axelrod, the liberal symbol shaper of Chicago politicians from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to President Barack Obama. He bangs the drums for the left.

While Rove thrusts and jabs, Axelrod seems constantly shocked by Republicans. It's his theatricality that's amusing, as if he's some kind of perpetual virgin, emotionally traumatized by the vulgarities of the opposition.

I assume he'll continue in this role with his new client, England's Labour Party, expressing constant shock and outrage at anything moving to his right.

Axelrod got his start in Chicago, blossoming under the Daleys. And Rove may have played his first political dirty trick here.

He was 19 or 20, a Republican trying to undercut Democrat Alan Dixon, a future U.S. senator who was campaigning for Illinois state treasurer in 1970.

Gene Callahan, the longtime Democrat who was close to Dixon, recalled Tuesday that Rove filched some Dixon campaign stationery, and passed them out to the homeless on Skid Row inviting them to a party.

"Rove put out this invitation on Dixon stationery saying everyone was invited, free booze, free girls, and free everything. We had all kinds of street people coming in drinking everything, eating all the hors d'oeuvres.

"Tom Loftus, the press secretary calls me, 'You won't believe this! They're eating and drinking everything and the press is here!' But Alan Dixon handled it well.

"He was a Democrat, and he said it takes all kinds to win, and everyone was invited," Callahan said. "And he won."

Rove grew to be a top Republican consultant, so crafty that he was an aide to President George W. Bush.

Bush had two nicknames for Rove. One was "Boy Genius," which doesn't apply these days, but there was another. Bush called him "Turd Blossom."

Clinton is far too gracious to use it, at least in public. But I will.

Don't be a "Turd Blossom," Karl Rove.