WHAT ELSE ROVE SAID…. Much of the attention surrounding Karl Rove’s remarks to Germany’s Der Spiegel has focused on his description of Tea Partiers as “not sophisticated” — a remark that isn’t going over well in some far-right circles.

But there were some other interesting exchanges, too.

Spiegel: It is, however, difficult to understand the smear campaigns against Obama, claiming that he falsified his birth certificate and is not the legitimate president.

Rove: Please, with all due respect. That’s what happened for eight years with Bush. Just before George W. Bush was sworn into office, on “Meet the Press,” Dick Gephardt, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, was asked by Tim Russert twice if he believed George W. Bush was the legitimately elected president of the United States. And twice, the leader of the Democrats refused to answer the question. I was shocked, and that was what we had to deal with for eight years.

But that’s absurd. Birthers are pushing imaginary, racially-tinged garbage that has no foundation in reality. Those who questioned the 2000 recount in Florida actually have a strong case — had all the ballots been counted, of even if the “butterfly” ballot hadn’t existed, Bush would have lost the electoral college, just as we know he lost the popular vote. There’s just no comparison here.

But more importantly, questions about Bush’s dubious legitimacy quickly vanished, especially after 9/11. I don’t recall Gephardt’s interview from before Bush’s inauguration, but whatever he said, the White House certainly didn’t have to endure such questions “for eight years.”

There was also this exchange:

Spiegel: Are you convinced, then, that the Republican Party will be able to integrate the Tea Party without drifting too far to the right?

Rove: Sure. There have been movements like this before — the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the pro-life movement, the Second Amendment rights movement.

Rove’s larger point was about the transition groups face as they realize the “system produces mostly incremental progress and takes time and compromise.” That said, comparing Tea Partiers to these other, actual political movements is silly.

We knew exactly what the civil rights movement wanted — they highlighted a system social injustice and presented a moral/legal remedy. Similarly, there were no ambiguities about the agendas and beliefs of anti-war protestors, opponents of abortion rights, or NRA members.

The difference is Tea Partiers are an amorphous group of zealots who don’t necessarily agree with one another. Their demands, such as they are, are ambiguous and contradictory. By no reasonable definition are we talking about a real “movement” — this is a group of confused, easily manipulated activists with no real leadership, expertise, policy agenda, clarity of thought, or internal structure, made up almost entirely of the most hysterical wing of the Republican Party base.

For Rove to even mention these guys in the same sentence as the civil rights movement is ridiculous.

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.