Where's Karl Rove?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, March 9, 2007; 3:08 PM

Denis Collins, a juror in the Scooter Libby trial, wasn't just channeling his fellow jurors on Tuesday when he faced the microphones and asked: "Where's Rove?"

Collins's point was that Libby, who he had just helped convict on obstruction-of-justice charges, was quite obviously not the only person involved in the politically motivated outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Rove managed to wiggle off prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's hook in June with a just-in-time recanting of earlier testimony in which he -- just like Libby -- misinformed investigators about his role. (See my June 13, 2006 column, Fitzgerald Leaves Questions Unanswered.)

And in spite of President Bush's assurances that anyone involved in the leak of Plame's identity to journalists would be fired, Rove -- who eventually admitted confirming Plame's identity to Robert Novak and volunteering it to Matthew Cooper -- is still on the White House payroll.

But since the Democratic sweep in the November elections, the "architect" of the previous three Republican victories has been largely out of public view.

So where is Rove? And what is the master manipulator up to?

It turns out he's alive and well and plotting in his windowless West Wing office just how to spin Bush's greatest weakness into a great strength -- and in that way burnish his boss's legacy.

With Iraq representing such a vivid indictment of the Bush Doctrine, you might think Rove would be steering away from that particular expression of the president's world view when it comes to the matter of legacies.

The Bush Doctrine -- which I have long thought was quite dead; see my March 16 and July 10 columns from last year -- maintains that regimes that harbor terrorists are as culpable as the terrorists themselves and that the U.S. is entitled to take preventative military action to neutralize potential threats before they have materialized.

As Iraq has shown, it turns out the Bush Doctrine is a recipe for launching disastrous and unpopular wars for unfounded reasons. But Rove's most successful moves have often been somewhat counterintuitive (such as going after John Kerry's war record.)

Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post: "While he has kept a low profile in Washington since the midterm election losses took some of the edge off his reputation as a political genius, Rove, a Bush senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, has begun trying to put his own distinctive spin on current events and the longer historical view."

Abramowitz interviewed Rove this week in his office and was in the audience yesterday in Little Rock, when Rove give a speech about the debts that presidents owe their predecessors.

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