The Note

Arnold Schwarzenegger holds an "Ask Arnold" town hall forum today near Fresno. He campaigns in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Maria Shriver will speak to local businesswomen in Santa Barbara today.

State Senator Tom McClintock speaks tonight to the Sun City Republican Club in Roseville, California.

Wilson is more than a volleyball:

This morning, ABC News producer Andrea Owen happened to find herself near Karl Rove (who was walking to his car), and an ABC camera.

Owen: "Did you have any knowledge or did you leak the name of the CIA agent to the press?"

Rove: "No."

At which point, Mr. Rove shut his car door as Ms. Owen asked, "What is your response to the fact that Justice is looking into the matter?"

At the White House gaggle, Scott McClellan said that disclosure "particularly of this nature is a serious matter," and it should be pursued to fullest extent possible. The Justice Department, he said, is the appropriate agency to do that. No information has been brought to the attention of the White House beyond press accounts.

"Should the leaker be fired?," he was asked. On third inquiry Scot said "If a source leaked information of this nature, yes."

As of this morning, the White House hadn't heard from Justice.

It might not be fair and it might not be right, but 480 members out of the Gang of 500 have the same theory about what happened, and The Note's strong belief in the First Amendment makes us duty bound to tell you about this operating premise.

Based on the original Novak story; on the language in yesterday's Washington Post story; on the "kind" of people Novak talks to; on the prophetic warnings of Wayne Slater; and on the fact that CIA agents have memories and the capacity to hold grudges nearly as long as the Bush family — based on all that, here's what people are thinking:

Two White House officials lashed out at Wilson, hoping to smear him in the minds of enough elite reporters to discredit him before his platform grew. They didn't want his wife's name out there in the public domain, so much as they wanted it in the brains of gatekeeping reporters.

Again, it might not be right or fair, but we dare you to find a member of the Gang who doesn't think the Post 's source was someone familiar with George Tenet's thinking.

No one was able to (or probably will be able to) match the Post quotes — so news organizations this cycle were left either ignoring them or quoting them. But make no mistake — it is those quotes that set this story on fire.

Since several of you have asked: the THEORETICAL reason the White House would have had to try to nip Wilson stories in the bud by putting out the fact that his wife is a CIA operative would be to try to discredit Wilson by saying he only got the assignment because of his wife, and that he would have been too captive to the CIA mindset on (read: against) the war.

Wilson on Good Morning America admitted that he got a bit carried away in his froggy speech in naming Rove.

One veteran of the Clinton legal controversies asks all these questions, some of which were addressed at the gaggle:

Has President Bush made clear to the White House staff that only total cooperation with the investigation will be tolerated? If not, why not?

Has he insisted that every senior staff member sign a statement with legal authority that they are not the leaker and that they will identify to the White House legal counsel who is?

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