Rove Death Watch, Part 2

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
July 13 2005 6:29 PM

Rove Death Watch, Part 2

Wherein your correspondent corrects some misconceptions.

Why aren't the major newspapers running editorials calling for Karl Rove's resignation? The Washington Post is silent. So is the Los Angeles Times. Maybe they're waiting for more information. But what more do they have to know? The White House deputy chief of staff revealed the identity of an undercover CIA employee to Time magazine. He did this solely for the purpose of attacking the credibility of an administration critic. He did not check first to find out whether said CIA employee was undercover. Or perhaps he knew and didn't care. Either way, such reckless behavior is a firing offense. Next case.

The New York Times weighs in today with uncharacteristic timidity. (I knew we were in for noncommittal chin-pulling when I saw the headline, "A Few Thoughts on Karl Rove." In editorial-ese, "A Few Thoughts on" is code for "We Can't Decide About.") The editorial states, erroneously, that Rove told Time's Matt Cooper that Wilson was sent to Niger "at the suggestion of his wife." Wilson was sent to Niger at the suggestion of his wife, but that's not what Rove told Cooper, according to Cooper's e-mail to his bureau chief as quoted by Newsweek, which is all we have to go on. According to Cooper's e-mail, Rove told him Wilson's wife "authorized the trip," which is not true. Rove's absurd insinuation seems to have been that only a girly-man would depend on his wife for work, and that a girly-man wouldn't know squat about weapons of mass destruction. Unless Cooper was garbling what Rove told him, we must conclude that Rove was passing along false information, perhaps with the recommendation that Cooper check it out, or perhaps not.

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But I digress.

The Times editorial concludes by calling for Rove to … answer his critics at a press conference! Why not call for Rove's resignation? My guess is that the Times feels the issue of Rove's culpability in this matter is tangled up with the issue of how we came to discover it, i.e., through Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's bullying of the press. To call on Rove to resign, the Times may believe, would be to legitimize a rogue prosecution that's landed Times reporter Judy Miller in jail. If that is the Times's thinking, it's totally wrongheaded. Whether the courts should force reporters to reveal confidential sources is a separate issue from whether sources, after they've been unmasked, should be held accountable by their bosses for improper communications. The First Amendment does not and should not guarantee Karl Rove lifetime employment.

But what if Rove is … a whistle-blower? Yeah, that's it, he's a whistle-blower! This is the trial balloon floated in a Wall Street Journal editorial that the Republican National Committee is circulating madly. The argument is that Rove did a public service by alerting Time that Wilson

had been recommended for the CIA consulting gig by his wife, not by Vice President Dick Cheney as Mr. Wilson was asserting on the airwaves. In short, Mr. Rove provided important background so Americans could understand that Mr. Wilson wasn't a whistleblower but was a partisan trying to discredit the Iraq War in an election campaign. Thank you, Mr. Rove.

The biggest problem with this argument is that Wilson never said that Dick Cheney personally chose him to fly to Niger to check out rumors that Iraq was buying yellowcake uranium. To hear the GOP tell it, you'd think Wilson's story had Cheney punching his speed dial and asking, "How's that golf game going, you old so-and-so? What are you doing next Saturday? How'd you like to do me a little favor? Love to Val and the kids."What Wilson claimed in his July 2003 New York Times op-ed piece—the document whose purported falsity Rove was trying to expose—is as follows:

I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

All true. I don't know what verbal shorthand Wilson used when discussing this matter "on the airwaves," but to the extent he emphasized this trip was instigated by Cheney, his point would have been not to indicate Cheney hand-picked him for the trip but rather to emphasize that the trip itself never would have happened had Cheney not ordered the CIA to assign it. Because the CIA had already concluded, correctly, it turns out, that the Iraqis had purchased no yellowcake.

But let's suppose that Wilson did indeed claim, falsely, that Cheney personally selected him to go to Niger ("Go get 'em, tiger!"). To blow the whistle on this lie, Rove still would have no logical need to expose Wilson's wife as a CIA employee. He could merely tell Time's Cooper, "Cheney did not select Wilson for the trip. Cheney has never met or spoken to Wilson in his life. Some faceless bureaucrat at the CIA picked Wilson." For Rove to add (falsely) that Wilson's wife authorized Wilson, or even to add (correctly) that Wilson's wife recommended Wilson to her superiors, would serve merely to castrate Wilson (at least in Rove's overheatedly macho imagination).