Dancing on that fine line between legally and politically questionable behavior is a totally legitimate line to dance on and/but one that should be Noted by the press. But the comparisons to President Clinton are unavoidable and too irresistible of a story for much of the media.
The best case for Rove: that he didn't break the law, that he didn't tell Matt Cooper the woman's name, that he's not subject or target of the investigation. And his friend the President stands by him until well after the last dog dies.
The worst case certainly involves things like the law, Senators like Lugar or Hagel, and someone like, say, Bill Kristol.
Karl Rove has a lot of friends and he understands exactly where the mindset of the Gang of 500 is right now (unlike some past White House officials on the griddle), but it isn't clear how far those two advantages will carry him going forward.
But what happens if some key people begin to think that Rove's problems are going to make it harder for this White House to get anything done for the next three years? Or if some Republican members of the Senate are upset by what Rove might have done.
Are people going to the wall for him if they feel they don't have to? Will the President make sure they have to?
If we could interview any two White House officials (besides Bush and Rove) about what they honestly think of all this and how it will turn out, we would choose Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby. Regular Note readers will understand why we would pick them.
Again: when will Republicans start to get agitated about this -- if ever?
Does this give Democrats a way to (finally, in their mind) make it stick that the White House was allegedly being deliberately dishonest about Iraq?
Did Rove mislead his colleagues? Where did he get the information? If he is not the target or subject of the investigation, who is?
Can he continue to operate effectively or will everything he says publicly be seen through this lens? (In one of the few background comments issued on his behalf this news cycle, a White House official went out of his/her way with the New York Times to say that Rove was on the job, going regular speed, on Monday.)
Still, the panting on the left that they may be within reach of bringing down The Architect seems a bit of an overreach. As soon as Frank Lautenberg issues a press release demanding Karl Rove's security credentials be removed -- or Henry Waxman calls for a congressional investigation -- the seriousness and legitimacy of the story seems to be cheapened a bit as it gives way to being the political football of the news cycle.
On the other, other hand, there ARE a lot of questions that aren't being answered just yet.
So what happens next?
The grand jury is expected to meet tomorrow morning at 10:00 am ET. That will be quite a stakeout (or, put another way, that word that rhymes with "bustermuck").
As we suggested above, Washington controversies move from Type A to Type B when members of an administration's own party turns on it.
Here is what Herr Stevenson has alone:
"But in private, several prominent Republicans said they were concerned about the possible effects on Mr. Bush and his agenda, in part because Mr. Rove's stature makes him such a tempting target for Democrats."