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Frog-Marching Time for Rove?

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 12, 2005; 7:57 AM

The liberal blogosphere is aflame with animosity toward Karl Rove, now that he's been sucked deeper into the Plame probe.

Some folks out there think he should just be thrown in the jail cell next to Judy Miller's, no indictment or trial necessary.

To some on the left, Rove is the epitome of all they despise about the administration. He is Bush's brain, pulling the strings from behind the scenes, injecting politics into every conceivable decision. Rove further infuriated his critics a couple of weeks ago when he seemed to use the 9/11 tragedy to score political points, saying Republicans wanted to wage war and liberals wanted to offer the terrorists therapy.

Add the fact that this controversy is about the runup to the Iraq war and an apparent White House effort to discredit a prominent Bush critic, Joe Wilson, and you have an incendiary mixture. (It was Wilson, Valerie Plame's husband, who once declared that "fun to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.") And this dovetails nicely with the conviction that the press did a lousy job on WMD before the war and has been too soft on Karl & Co. ever since.

There are two issues here, it seems to me. Legally, what Rove said to Matt Cooper on "double super secret background" (according to this Mike Isikoff piece) may or may not have violated the law against identifying intelligence agents. There are questions about whether Rove knew that Plame was undercover, whether he was "knowingly" outing her, and so forth.

But politically, this is a bombshell. Rove, who has insisted he did not leak Plame's name, had something to do with this effort, even if he didn't "name" her. ( The defense: It all depends on the meaning of the word "leak?") He was attempting to undercut Wilson when he told Cooper that wifey had helped set up Wilson's fact-finding trip to Niger (where Wilson didn't find the facts the administration wanted on Saddam seeking uranium) and that the uranium business could still be true (it wasn't). And didn't the White House promise to fire anyone involved in the leak?

What does Rove do now? Give a couple of interviews and explain his role? Or remain in the background while his lawyer issues carefully parsed statements?

The newspapers all jump on the White House in stonewall mode, beginning with the New York Times :

"Nearly two years after stating that any administration official found to have been involved in leaking the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer would be fired, and assuring that Karl Rove and other senior aides to President Bush had nothing to do with the disclosure, the White House refused on Monday to answer any questions about new evidence of Mr. Rove's role in the matter.

"With the White House silent, Democrats rushed in, demanding that the administration provide a full account of any involvement by Mr. Rove, one of the president's closest advisers, turning up the political heat in the case and leaving some Republicans worried about the possible effects on Mr. Bush's second-term agenda. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, cited Mr. Bush's statements about firing anyone involved in the leak and said, 'I trust they will follow through on this pledge.'. . . .

"In two contentious news briefings, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, would not directly address any of a barrage of questions about Mr. Rove's involvement."

"Reporters at Monday's question-and-answer session at the White House peppered spokesman Scott McClellan with 41 questions in 35 minutes," says USA Today .

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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