RNC VS ABC, ROUND III…. Not only are they still talking about this, their arguments are getting transparently sillier.

Last night, on “On The Record with Greta Van Susteren,” no less a figure than Karl Rove was giving the old piss and moan about this ABC special:

“If it’s not crossing a line, it’s getting comfortably too close to a line of where a news network becomes a cooperating partner of and an adjacency to the White House communications shop. And I think the presence of a former ABC reporter as the communicator-in-chief inside the White House on this issue also raises questions about how it ended up in the hands of ABC.”

For goodness sakes, ABC is airing a discussion on health care policy, asking the president questions about the issue. ABC isn’t acting like a “cooperating partner,” it’s acting like a network covering a policy debate. An “adjacency to the White House communications shop”? Seriously?

I can see why poor Karl might be confused (again). He’s seen first-hand when a network teams up with the White House communications shop, and Rove is apparently getting the details mixed up.

As Media Matters first noted, when Fox News’ Bret Baier was granted “unprecedented access” to the White House in Feb. 2008, the network billed it as a “documentary,” not an “infomercial.” Further, Fox was not only welcomed into the White House, but aboard Air Force One, to Bush’s ranch in Texas, and into the Oval Office. Baier introduced the “documentary” saying, “Fox News has been granted unprecedented access inside the President’s world…. It’s a President Bush you’ve never seen before.” […]

Prior to airing the Bush special, Baier hosted a special on the famously-reclusive vice president entitled “Dick Cheney: No Retreat.” Fox billed it as “a rare glimpse into the life of the vice president” and aired the program Oct. 13, 2007. Similarly, on Oct. 30, 2007, Fox’s Greta Van Susteren was granted what she called “unprecedented access” to First Lady Laura Bush’s tour of the Middle East.

None of these Fox News broadcasts dealt with policy issues. None of these programs pressed officials on any substantive controversies.

As manufactured controversies go, this is just nuts. ABC News’ Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer will host a prime-time discussion on health care policy next week at the White House. President Obama will respond to questions about the reform effort, and the ABC anchors will give regular Americans — selected by the network, not the administration — a chance to press the president.

I can appreciate the “working the refs” dynamic, but this “controversy” is hardly grounds for another Republican tantrum.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.