Rove, speaking to the New York state Conservative Party Wednesday, said national security was the issue that best shows the difference between liberals and conservatives.
"Conservatives saw the savagery of the Sept. 11 attacks and the prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the Sept. 11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said, according to a White House-released version of the speech.
On Thursday, Democrats in Congress asked for an apology. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement saying Rove "has decided to move to center stage in the theater of the absurd."
Eli Pariser, executive director of the liberal MoveOn political action committee said Rove was trying to change the subject from the "failed policy in Iraq," the Washington Post reported.
The debate comes about a week after Republicans castigated Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., for comments comparing prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay to actions by Nazis and other oppressive regimes. Durbin apologized this week.