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Getting Worried at the White House

"The frustration over McClellan's silence this week has reached fever pitch not just because of the feeling that the White House may have misled the media about Rove's role, but also because reporters have become increasingly fed up with what they see as the White House's stonewalling on other issues, including Iraq, Social Security and, most recently, Bush's search for a Supreme Court nominee. "

Actually, McClellan has at least one more escape route: stay away from the press! He's taking advantage of today's trip to Indiana to hold neither a gaggle nor a briefing today. And tomorrow, Bush is off to North Carolina.

The Curse of Iraq

David Gregory answers questions on NBC.

Q. "Is this a case of the curse of the second-term scandal?"

Gregory: "No, it would be the curse of the first term. This happened in the first term. This is perhaps the curse of a controversial basis for going to war.

"Really what this is about is the case for going into Iraq. The issue is really the debates about the war, the evidence that was used to go to war, and the claims that were made by this administration that proved to be false."

As I wrote in yesterday's column , the heart of the GOP strategy in defense of Karl Rove is attacking the credibility of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson, Plame's husband, is the person who Rove was trying to discredit when he mentioned Plame in the first place.

But Holly Rosenkrantz and William Roberts write for Bloomberg: "Two-year old assertions by former ambassador Joseph Wilson regarding Iraq and uranium, which lie at the heart of the controversy over who at the White House identified a covert U.S. operative, have held up in the face of attacks by supporters of presidential adviser Karl Rove. . . .

"The main points of Wilson's article have largely been substantiated by a Senate committee as well as U.S. and United Nations weapons inspectors."

Opinion Watch

USA Today editorial: "Bush should decide whether Rove or anyone else in his administration acted unethically and whether he'll countenance it."

New York Post editorial: "[T]he bottom line here is that Karl Rove acted to protect the president against a partisan, blatantly false smear on a matter with grave national security implications. . . . It is simply outrageous that he is cast as the villain in this episode -- while Joseph Wilson, a disgraceful liar, skates."

Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: "The inspired exaggeration of the case against Iraq, the hype about weapons of mass destruction and al Qaeda's links to Hussein, makes everything else pale in comparison. It was to protect those lies, those exaggerations, that incredible train wreck of incompetence, ideologically induced optimism and, of course, contempt for the quaint working of the democratic process, that everything else stems from."

Margaret Carlson via Bloomberg: "Two years ago, he could have come clean, orchestrated his own redemption, saved millions in taxpayers' dollars, and spared everyone a lot of agony. Instead, we've had a two-year investigation to find out what President George W. Bush could have walked across the hall and learned."

Timothy Noah in Slate: "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?"

Live Online

I was Live Online yesterday, for an exceptionally lively session.

The Importance of Being Karl

Mark Silva writes in the Chicago Tribune: " 'Rove is not just any White House staffer. He is the man,' said Scott Reed, a Republican consultant with close ties to the White House. 'They haven't named it the "Roval Office" at this point, but that's coming down the pike. At least they should call it the "Rove Garden." ' "

Deficit Watch

Edmund L. Andrews writes in the New York Times: "The White House predicted on Wednesday that the federal budget deficit would drop sharply this year and that it would continue to shrink for the next four years. . . .

"President Bush and his supporters used the report to claim victory for their supply-side philosophy of cutting taxes to spur economic growth and ultimately tax revenues. . . .

"Democratic leaders said the results, though a welcome improvement, omitted many looming costs and had done little to improve the long-term fiscal problems that are expected as more baby boomers begin to retire at the end of the decade."

Today's Calendar

William Douglas writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers: "President Bush is skipping this week's annual NAACP convention for the fifth straight year, but that isn't preventing the White House and Republican Party from waging a drive to woo African-American voters.

"The outreach effort, which began shortly after Bush's re-election, will be on display Thursday as the president addresses about 3,200 people at the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration luncheon in Indianapolis and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman speaks at the NAACP convention in Milwaukee."

Gonzales Watch

Charles Lane writes in The Washington Post: "White House officials weighing the nomination of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to the Supreme Court are considering whether a federal ethics law would require him to sit out cases of critical importance to the Bush administration once he was on the court, according to Republican sources who have discussed the issue with administration officials."

Ask the White House

Christopher Cooper writes in the Wall Street Journal about Ask the White House : "In some ways, the virtual chats on the White House Web site resemble drunken cocktail conversations that veer in all directions. . . . But Ask the White House is also used to prop up the flagging items on Mr. Bush's agenda."

Twins Watch

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "First lady Laura Bush's trip to Africa this week has brought her 23-year-old daughters back into the spotlight that they have shunned for most of their father's presidency. . . .

"Back in Washington, Jenna has followed her mother into the teaching profession, and will continue this year working at a public charter school that serves inner-city elementary-age students. . . .

"As for Barbara, Mrs. Bush said she was due to return to the United States later this month after spending several weeks working in the South African hospital with some friends. She didn't elaborate on what was next, and the White House wasn't revealing what -- if any -- plans Barbara has made."

Helen Kennedy writes in the New York Daily News: "The 23-year-old twins, who gave the White House headaches in their father's first term by causing spectacles of themselves in bars -- falling down, getting busted with fake IDs and generally carrying on -- appear to be settling down."

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