So. For the past 24 hours I have been obsessed with Karl Rove and “PlameGate.” (Please lord, let us finally have a scandal without somebody appending ‘gate’ to the end of it.) But it seems most bloggers and many mainstream reporters are missing some major points, which I shall now happily bloviate upon.
* Rove is probably not the primary source for the Plame leak. Remember that Robert “NoFacts” Novak cited “two senior administration officials.” (That’s code for “people whose names you would recognize.” Anonymous sources don’t get any higher.) The offhand way Matt Cooper brought up the topic – at the end of a two-minute conversation about something else – suggests he merely used Rove to confirm a story he got elsewhere. No journalist who could land a job at Time would base a major story on a sentence or two. But he would do it to confirm an anonymous source, if the confirmation came from a grand poobah. That’s Rove.
* Rove probably did not violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. At least, judging from the Cooper email. Who knows what he told other people. The Act is extremely narrow; Rove could rely on an “I didn’t know she was covert” defense and win. Then the prosecutor would have to prove he did in fact know. Very difficult to do, but it would be fun to watch. Imagine the breadth of the subpeonas, what we might learn about the inner workings of the Bush Collective.
* But he may have committed another crime. Like perjury or obstruction of justice. Remember that Rove, ‘Scooter’ Libby, Elliott Abrams, et al. testified before the grand jury, while at the same time issuing public denials of their involvement. Either they lied to the public (we’re used to that) or to the grand jury, or both. If it was the grand jury, well, that’s a felony, mister. Remember a little soap opera called MonicaGate? The legal justification for that witchhunt centered on perjury.
* The Republicans spin is extensive, but pathetic. The RNC produced three pages worth of talking points, but most deal with Joe Wilson’s assignment and his report—essentially the same disinformation that constituted the leak two years ago. Those that deal with the actual leak are weak. For example: Cooper called Rove, which means he wasn’t deliberately trying to ‘out’ Valerie Plame. OK, fine. But who called Cooper in the first place? Or Novak? Or any of the six journalists who were contacted? There’s another rat running around the shithouse, we just don’t know who it is yet.
* The real story is the cover-up. MoveOn got it right. Look at the six journalists who were contacted by the White House after Joe Wilson’s OpEd appeared. Novak (CNN, syndicated columnist), Tim Russert (NBC), Matt Cooper (Time), Judith Miller (NY Times), Walter Pincus (Washington Post) have all been subpoened. All big hitters, designed for maximum leak exposure. This was an organized campaign conducted at a high level, not some pissed-off junior staffer with a bug up his ass. That means the campaign was known about at the highest levels. And if they knew about it and said nothing (or worse, denied it publicly), then that’s what you’d call a cover-up.
* In search of the smoking gun. So if there was a deliberate cover-up, how would we know? Here’s a good candidate for the proverbial pistol, courtesy of journalist Murray Waas’ “Whatever Already” blog:
“Also of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame's identity. Investigators have been concerned that Novak and his sources might have conceived or co-ordinated a cover story to disguise the nature of their conversations. That concern was a reason-- although only one of many-- that led prosecutors to press for the testimony of Cooper and Miller, sources said.” * By any other name.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing to come out of this whole affair is that Bush’s nickname for Rove really is “turd blossom.” What in God’s name do those people get up to behind closed doors?