Saturday, July 23, 2005

Rove: Not Entirely Forgotten
Rove: Not Entirely Forgotten

By Dan Froomkin
Special to

Wondering if -- with all the excitement over President Bush's brilliantly scripted Supreme Court nomination -- the press was going to forget about Karl Rove and the White House's role in the leak of a CIA agent's identity?

No worries.

Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei roar into the lead spot of The Washington Post's front page this morning (Thursday) with this development: "A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked '(S)' for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials. . . .

"Prosecutors attempting to determine whether senior government officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative to the media are investigating whether White House officials gained access to information about her from the memo, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

"The memo may be important to answering three central questions in the Plame case: Who in the Bush administration knew about Plame's CIA role? Did they know the agency was trying to protect her identity? And, who leaked it to the media?

"The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the memo made it clear that information about Wilson's wife was sensitive and should not be shared. Yesterday, sources provided greater detail on the memo to The Post."

(Much more - click the link)

The Meaning of the Play

The Post's placement of this story was not lost on media observers.

Tim Grieve writes in Salon that "maybe the Post's editors really think this morning's Plame piece is worthy of front-page attention. But maybe this is what the White House can expect from some journalists who have finally grown tired of getting jerked around."

Greg Mitchell writes in Editor and Publisher: "It was almost as if the Washington Post was saying, 'So there.' "

Liberal Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas writes: "Well, Roberts bought Rove all of what, 24 hours? I hope he got some sleep in, because he's got no reprieve."

The Story That Wouldn't Go Away

Washington Post White House correspondent Michael Fletcher was asked in a Live Online chat yesterday if the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. would push the leak story aside: "I think the nomination will push Rove out of the news only for short period of time," Fletcher replied.

"The Rove story is too important to stay out off the front page for long. Not only does it reveal how the White House sometimes operates, but it shows how sensitive the administration was to any arguments that undercut its rationale for war. The court obviously is important, perhaps almost as important as a presidential election. But developments in the Rove case will surely be back in the news."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann blogged yesterday: "Who knows if President Bush really did rush his nomination of Judge John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court in order to knock the Karl Rove story off the front page. But if he did -- he did a poor job of it.

"Unfortunately for the conspiracy theory and/or the conspiracy, the first 18 hours of Democratic reaction to the Roberts candidacy seems to be almost benign.

"No hair-on-fire, 'Save America!' response means no controversy.

"No controversy means no headlines.

"No headlines means -- we rejoin the Karl Rove story already in progress. . . .

"Karl Rove is the Natalee Holloway of non-tabloid journalism. His story will stick around, whether or not politicians or reporters want it to, because people will watch."

Keeping the Story Alive

The Associated Press reports: "Eleven former intelligence officers are speaking up on behalf of CIA officer Valerie Plame, saying leaking her identity may have damaged national security and threatens the ability of U.S. intelligence gathering."

Here's their letter

Mark Preston (subscription required) writes in Roll Call: "In a set of talking points issued Wednesday morning, the Senate Democratic leadership urged rank-and-file Senators to continue spotlighting Rove's involvement in the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

" 'A Supreme Court nominee will not distract the country from the growing credibility problem at the White House,' Democrats were told to echo, according to a copy of the leadership memo obtained by Roll Call. 'If Bush wants to know what Karl Rove and Scooter Libby did or did not do, he should call them into his office and ask them. It's time for President Bush to show some leadership.' "

And Democrats are planning a joint House-Senate faux hearing Friday morning, "to examine the national security implications of disclosing the identity of a covert intelligence officer."

Brief Respite

At yesterday's press briefing , spokesman Scott McClellan only faced two questions about the leak:

"Q In Chicago in December of '03, the President said, 'I want to know who the leakers are.' Separate from the legal issue, is the President convinced now that Karl Rove was one of the leakers?

"MR. McCLELLAN: I've answered these questions, and I don't have anything to say beyond what I've already said. Go ahead.

"Q What's the answer to that one, then, Scott?

"MR. McCLELLAN: I've answered these questions over the course of the last week. Go ahead."

The second one was not entirely serious:

"Q Is it true Karl Rove was the first person to leak John Roberts' name to the media last night? (Laughter.)

"MR. McCLELLAN: Next question."

But I suspect the pace will pick up again today.

Rove's Odds

A press release announces: " has entered the fray in the latest political storm to rock the White House by offering odds on the future of its Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove. The opening line is that Rove will not be dismissed or resign in the wake of an ongoing criminal investigation, with odds at 1-6."

Conversely, the odds that he will be dismissed are 4 to 1.

Blogger Humor

Liberal bloggers are having great fun pointing out this just-released Associated Press photo taken in June 2003. It shows Rove and Robert Novak at a party marking the 40th anniversary of Novak's newspaper column. Rove, like many other people at the event, is wearing a button reading, 'I'm a source, not a target.'

New White House Star

Wondering why Bush sported a particularly odd grin during parts of his speech Tuesday night?

Ladies and gentleman, the dance stylings of Jack Roberts, age 4.