Monday, October 24, 2005

Rove is toast; unless quite a few of us become crispy critters...Uhmmmm

Rove not likely to survive inquiry

MARGARET CARLSON

In Washington, you know you're in real trouble when the Media Stakeout occupies your front lawn like an invading army, sprouting panel trucks and satellite uplinks curbside and littering your landscape with candy wrappers and plastic cups.

The atmosphere was captured perfectly in the movie "The Birdcage," when a fictional senator, Gene Hackman, tried to escape reporters clamoring outside his house by climbing out a bedroom window. Greeted by popping flash bulbs, he turns and gives the V-sign, as if this was his usual means of exit and he was just thrilled by the attention.

Caught in that glare last week, Karl Rove took a different tack. Backing out of his driveway in a leafy Washington neighborhood on the day he would make his fourth appearance before the grand jury looking into the leaking of a CIA agent's identity, Rove flashed his high beams at the five pouncing television crews. He momentarily thwarted them. That he didn't react with Hackman's aplomb tells you a lot about the mental state of the usually unflappable Rove.

Rove is showing the strain of the two-year inquiry. If he hadn't been so preoccupied, he surely would have limited the damage from the encampment of Cindy Sheehan at Bush's Texas ranch and sent the president off on his Gulf Coast storm watch before pictures of dead bodies flooded the airwaves.

The nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court was well down the track before Rove found out how serious Bush was about appointing his own lawyer, The Washington Post reported last week. By then, it was too late to do much about it.

Although Rove got a high-profile walk across the South Lawn with Bush after he was first exposed as one of the leakers, he's been barely seen at all lately, much less with the president. He canceled two engagements last weekend, one of which was to help out the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, for whom he raised $100,000 in June in an hour. Rove was set to do the same last Saturday but bowed out at the last minute.

As Fitzgerald's quest winds down, the prospect of Rove surviving intact dwindles. Of course, if he's indicted, he'll be gone in a day. Bush can't have an indicted Rove a brainbeat away, although you have to wonder what substitute brain is going to convey that to Bush, whose valuation of loyalty falls somewhere between that of a college fraternity and the Crips.

Even if Rove isn't indicted, we now know he had an attack of amnesia so severe that he was called in for another four hours on Oct. 14 to face the grand jury. The prosecutor apparently thinks it's wrong to participate in smears against those who tell the truth about the absence of weapons you started a war over.

The prospect of Rove leaving the White House one way or the other is so prevalent that speculation about a successor is already in the air, with Ed Gillespie leading the list.

Gillespie began as a parking lot attendant on Capitol Hill and rose to be chairman of the Republican National Committee. In between, he served as a top aide to House Majority Leader Dick Armey and founded a lobbying firm, where he's earned millions representing companies such as Microsoft and Enron. Most recently, Gillespie took off a month to shepherd John Roberts' confirmation as chief justice through the Senate.

One impediment to Gillespie's appointment is how outspoken he's been about the seriousness of the leak. It's fashionable in Washington to say this is a scandal about nothing and that everyone smears everyone in this least perfect of worlds. Yet two years ago on MSNBC TV's "Hardball,"' when host Chris Matthews asked whether the leak was more serious than Watergate, Gillespie said it was, in that it wasn't just about politics.

"If the allegation is true -- to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative -- it's abhorrent, and it should be a crime, and it is a crime," Gillespie said Sept. 30, 2003.

What makes Rove's smear so bad this time (as opposed to those aimed at former Texas Gov. Ann Richards and presidential candidates John McCain and John Kerry and White House counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke) is that he made an uncharacteristic mistake.

His purpose wasn't to out a CIA agent. Quite the contrary. Former ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was collateral roadkill. Rove was just using her to show that Wilson was a twit who couldn't have gotten an assignment but for her, so his finding that Saddam Hussein had not tried to buy uranium in Niger was worthless. If Wilson's wife had worked at the State Department, Rove's effort to turn Wilson into a girlie man would have happened without consequence.

Last week the New York Daily News reported that a senior White House aide is cooperating with the prosecutor, although it didn't say who. Maybe this turns out to be the usual footrace to save yourself at the expense of others. There is no more honor among leakers than among thieves. You leave this political world as you came into it, alone.

Margaret Carlson writes for Bloomberg News.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/245478_carlson23.html

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