WASHINGTON, July 12
Four things matter in the Karl Rove story now:
1. How much will Republicans (on the record or on background) turn on Rove and demand a fuller accounting? (See Dick Stevenson's tour de force New York Times story for some of that. . . LINK
2. The facts.
3. What prosecutor Fitzgerald decides to do.
4. What Chief Justice Rehnquist decides to do (maybe).
Yesterday, familiar Democrat names like "Reid" "Schumer" "Waxman," "Kerry," and "Lautenberg" called for investigations, a resignation, and/or the pulling of a security clearance. The story made network news and leads the Bill Keller Gazette.
Whatever else one thinks, these facts are not in dispute:
A. Rove's attorney has acknowledged that Rove talked about Valerie Plame with Matt Cooper, without mentioning her name, days before the Novak column appeared.
B. Rove (and Rove via McClellan) has repeatedly suggested that he had nothing to do with this story at all.
C. The White House has suggested that any person found to have anything to do with the improper leaking of Wilson's name to the press would be fired.
It is interesting (wethinks) to Note how McClellan used the word "criminal" so often in the briefing yesterday (when he wasn't on the verge of throwing up) -- as if to define the scope of what's appropriate, so when (assuming) Rove doesn't get indicted, Scott can say "the criminal investigation concluded he did nothing wrong, so there's nothing to talk about."
Still, this is a significant political problem for Rove and the President.
Some Republicans with standing believe he'll have to make unClintonian accounting for his actions, and soon.
Saying, in defense, that he didn't "say her name" or was trying to "wave off" Cooper is, for many, hairsplitting. It may save Rove from legal trouble, but it certainly does not get him free and clear of the political responsibility.
And this is where that old Washington rule kicks in.
No, no -- not "it's not the crime; it's the cover-up" (although that has kicked in too).
We are thinking of: "It is the scandal that is understandable to Joe and Gennifer Six Pack that can get you in the end."
And this one is pretty easy to understand, based on known facts.
For the average American, it is unseemly for the president's senior adviser, using inside information, to discredit enemies of the president anonymously. (Of course, this happens all the time, but that doesn't mean it is seemly or appropriate in the minds of the Six Pack clan.)
Because the White House has decided not to speak out and explain things, the Gang of 500 is left with the current facts, and the problem for Rove on this is that there is a controversy that people can understand.
It's not a hard story line: Guy hits administration on Iraq so the White House potentially breaks the law (or, at least, the Marquis of Queensberry Rules) and gives up his wife, the CIA agent.
(Note Note: we wonder when the negative -- and true -- stuff on Joe Wilson's (in)consistency will start to be floated again.)
Legalese aside, early on in this process, Rove and the White House went out of their way to make it appear as if Rove had absolutely nothing to do with the Plame story.
It now is apparently clear that he did indeed have some involvement in getting the story into circulation -- or, at least, in spreading awareness about Plame.