US Vice President Joe Biden became embroiled in a row with a key aide to former President George Bush after saying he gave an earful to Mr Bush in the Oval Office.
Former Bush adviser Karl Rove said Mr Biden’s version of that encounter is at best an exaggeration – at worst a lie – and part of a pattern.
“It’s a habit he ought to drop,” Mr Rove said.
The tit-for-tat between Mr Biden and Mr Rove illustrated both the vice president’s colourful way of retelling stories and Bush-era aides’ effort to protect their former boss.
The pair tussled during media interviews this week in a political game without an obvious goal: the unpopular Mr Bush is gone from Washington and Mr Biden operates under President Barack Obama.
The events started on Tuesday, when Mr Biden sat down with CNN and criticised both Mr Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
“I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office – and he was a great guy, enjoyed being with him. He said to me, he said, ’Well, Joe,’ he said, ’I’m a leader’,” Mr Biden recalled.
“And I said, ’Mr President, turn around and look behind you. No-one’s following’.”
Days later, Mr Rove rebutted that Mr Biden’s version simply never happened.
“Joe Biden said, for example, that he spent hours with the president,” Mr Rove said on Fox News, where he is a regular commentator.
“Joe Biden was never alone with the president for more than a few moments. There was staff in the room at all times. He never said these kind of things.”
Mr Rove then turned to Mr Biden’s character.
“I hate to say it, but he’s a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind, I’d say he’s a liar. ... You’ll notice every one of these incidents has the same structure. Joe Biden courageously raises the impudent question. The president befuddledly answers, and Joe Biden drives home the dramatic response. And I mean, it just – it’s his imagination. It’s a made-up, fictional world. He ought to get out of it and get back to reality.”