I'm going to take a brief break from the Rove wars to talk about the real war.

Maybe I'm just a glass-half-empty kinda guy, but I found some recent poll numbers on attitudes toward terrorism pretty depressing.

Others are spinning the study from the Pew Global Attitudes Project | http://www.pewtrusts.com/pdf/PRC_global_Terror_0705.pdf (pdf file) as good news because it shows a drop in support among Muslims in a number of countries for Osama and suicide bombers.

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters | http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/004954.php declares:

"This demonstrates that Bush's policies of attacking terrorists where they have hidden themselves and demanding the liberalization of the Arabic world has had a huge, positive impact. Despite the carping of how Iraq has created terrorists in Muslim nations, the unmasking of Islamofascism as a bloodthirsty movement perfectly happy with killing fellow Muslims by the hundreds to make its point has destroyed its credibility. In contrast, the success of the Iraqi elections, followed by the popular democratic uprising against Syria in Lebanon and the demand for free election in Egypt, has shown Arabs and Muslims that democracy and pluralism works."

Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_07/006725.php notes the upside:

"Take a look at the three Muslim countries that have been hit with major al-Qaeda bombing attacks since 2002 -- Morocco, Indonesia, and Turkey. Support for suicide bombing is down to 15% or less in all three countries and, even more dramatically, confidence in Osama bin Laden has been cut nearly in half. Attacking Muslim countries appears to have backfired badly on al-Qaeda."

That's true, and encouraging. Progress is obviously going to be slow in the global struggle of ideas. But Drum does note some other, less inspiring figures in this WashPost | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/14/AR2005071401030_2.html?nav=rss_nation piece that caught my eye when I read it:

"The proportion that expressed confidence in the al Qaeda leader dropped from almost half to about a quarter in Morocco, and from 58 percent to 37 percent in Indonesia. Bin Laden's standing went up slightly in Pakistan, to 51 percent, and in Jordan, to 60 percent. . . .

"Jordan was the only country where the majority surveyed -- 57 percent -- still support terrorist acts in defense of Islam, possibly because the majority Palestinian population is tied to the conflict with Israel, Kohut said."

Think about that for a minute. If the poll is even reasonably accurate, more than a third of those Muslims living in Indonesia have confidence in a man who masterminded a plot of flying airplanes into buildings, killing 3,000 innocent Americans, and has probably inspired the cells that perpetrated the bombings in London and Madrid. Five out of 10 Muslims in Pakistan, which is supposed to be our ally in the war on terror, have confidence in a mass murderer who kills innocent men, women and children. Six out of 10 in Jordan.

This is hard for me to process. I understand the way anti-American sentiment gets whipped up, Muslim grievances toward the west, animosity toward Israel and the rest. But I've always thought, perhaps naively, that most people in these communities were not cheering for indiscriminate killing by terrorists; That, however strong their grievances, support for bombings on buses and trains and in restaurants and nightclubs came mainly from extremists with little regard for human life. And in these communities, if Pew is right, that's clearly not the case. And that is truly sobering news.

Back in Roveland, when I watched the prez yesterday, the phrase "moving the goalposts" popped into my head. Hours later, on MSNBC, Howard Fineman trumped me, saying "he's moving the whole stadium."

The Los Angeles Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-071805leak_lat,0,2743579.story?coll=la-home-headlines has the rhetorical shift:

"President Bush, whose White House is facing increasing pressure in the investigation of the public identification of a covert CIA operative, said today that he would fire anyone found to have committed a crime.

"Last year, he had said he would fire anyone who had leaked such information. Thus, his remarks today appeared to shift his standard, allowing continued service in his administration until the commission of a crime had been established, rather than simply the determination that classified information had been leaked."

Um, excuse me, but wouldn't we expect that someone charged with a crime would be bounced from the West Wing?

"At the same time, the president avoided discussing in detail the role of his deputy chief of staff and top political advisor, Karl Rove, in the disclosure that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV had worked on weapons issues at the Central Intelligence Agency."

Chuck Schumer makes the obvious Democratic point: "The standard for holding a high position in the White House should not simply be that you didn't break the law."

Here's an abundance of journalistic caution, in USA Today | http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-07-18-bush-rove_x.htm: "Some Democrats charged that Bush had shifted his position." Bush has shifted his position. Just check the record.

The Wall Street Journal describes the document that may have alerted administration officials to the Plame angle:

"A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document. . . .

"The memo's details are significant because they will make it harder for officials who saw the document to claim that they didn't realize the identity of the CIA officer was a sensitive matter."

The New Republic's Michelle Cottle | http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w050711&s=cottle071505 has a theory on why Rove is safe:

"It is reasonable to expect that Leakmeister Rove will not suffer any serious legal repercussions for his dirty deeds. What is far more infuriating, however, is that Rove is also likely to avoid any sort of professional blowback--despite the White House's previous vows to deal harshly with anyone discovered to have been involved with this leak. Democrats can scream for blood and dream about 'Karl Kanned!' headlines all they want; the smart money says Rove will weather this storm with both his job and his close ties to W. intact.

"In part, this is because of Bush's famous loyalty to his friends--an oft-noted point in the media coverage of this matter. There's also the issue of how desperately Bush needs Rove's political cunning if he hopes to enact any of his second-term agenda. But even if he weren't Bush's good buddy, Rove would likely escape unscathed because this White House has consistently shown itself to be completely uninterested in personal accountability--so long as the person in question has been doing the administration's bidding.

"Rove is just the latest, most egregious example we've seen. Before that, America watched as the CIA head who screwed up the Iraq WMD intelligence was given a pass--and then a medal. Ditto the geniuses who botched--or rather failed to do any--postwar planning. Meanwhile, the man who helped build the legal foundation for the scandalous abuses at Abu Ghraib got himself bumped up to Attorney General and may soon be on his way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Then there's Thomas Scully, the former Medicare chief who reportedly threatened to fire his top actuary if the man dared admit to Congress that the White House was low-balling its cost estimates for the Medicare drug bill. Later asked to investigate the matter, the Government Accountability Office, citing federal law that bars the government from paying the salary of any official who prevents another employee's communication with Congress, ruled that the administration should require Scully (who had since decamped for a private-sector post) to repay half of his previous year's salary. The administration refused, insisting that, in its view, Scully had done nothing improper.

"Of course not. Because, in Bushworld, the definitions of such terms as 'proper' and 'right' and 'good' depend entirely upon whether the act in question serves the goals of, and the version of truth propounded by, the administration. At the end of the day, despite all its moral posturing, this White House has a highly fluid, relativistic approach to right and wrong that one typically associates with fuzzy-headed lefties."

Slate's Tim Noah | http://slate.msn.com/id/2122976/ adds a new puzzle piece:

"John Solomon of the Associated Press reported this weekend that Karl Rove sent an e-mail about his phone conversation with Time's Matt Cooper -- the conversation in which Rove informed Cooper that the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson worked for the Central Intelligence Agency -- to Stephen Hadley, who was then deputy national security adviser (and is now national security adviser). 'I didn't take the bait,' Rove wrote Hadley, apparently meaning that, in speaking to Cooper, he didn't try to refute the substance of Wilson's assertion that the president spoke falsely in his 2003 State of the Union address when he said that Iraq had sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger before the war. Instead, Rove told Cooper that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA employee, had authorized the trip. What kind of sissy-boy accepts a job assignment from his wife?

"As I've explained before, Rove's insinuation, in addition to being unenlightened on the matter of equality between the sexes, was untrue; Plame merely suggested her husband for the job. But the more important point is that Rove and Hadley were in communication about Joe Wilson. This is significant because it raises the likelihood that Rove had earlier turned to Hadley for confirmation of these crazy CIA rumors that reporters kept telling him. If that's true, then any subsequent conversation Rove would have had with a reporter in which he stated that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA -- including Rove's conversation with Matt Cooper -- would constitute a genuine security breach."

Craig Crawford | http://www.cq.com/public/crawford_current.html says the Stakes Are High for the administration:

"If Karl Rove's involvement in the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson ultimately forces him out of the White House, what will President Bush do without the political guru he calls 'boy genius' on good days -- but 'turd blossom' in tough times?

"A lot rides on the answer to this question, both for the president and his party. Rove's legendary skills at political tactics and message management could prove to be as indispensable in the remaining three and a half years of Bush's presidency as they were in getting him to the White House in the first place.

"For starters, Rove would be needed for the escalating ideological battle over judicial nominations, the never-ending need to spin the Iraq war as favorably as possible and the imperative to keep wobbly Capitol Hill Republicans in line for Bush's shaky domestic agenda.

"In short, Rove is Bush's hatchet man -- the tough guy who berates wandering believers and bullies the opposition to the sidelines. But even more than that, Rove is an unusual combination of policy wonk and political mechanic, the guy who ties it all together for Republican power players."

Press blogger Jay Rosen | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/jay-rosen/rollback_4257.html deconstructs the anger of the WH press corps:

"The press attacks when it feels openly lied to. (Emphasis on 'openly.') Also when it senses weakness, which of course means it's safer to attack. Dana Milbank spoke for most of the reporters when he said to McClellan: "It is now clear that 21 months ago, you were up at this podium saying something that we now know to be demonstratively false." The press secretary and the White House didn't try to contest it, choosing silence until the prosecutor is done.

"Lying to the press--though a serious thing--is what all Administrations do. In Washington leaking to damage people's credibility or wreck their arguments is routine, a bi-partisan game with thousands of knowing participants. I rarely see it mentioned that Joseph Wilson (who is no truthtelling hero) began his crusade by trying to leak his criticisms of the Bush White House. When that didn't work he went public in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. . . .

"The brutalizing of McClellan was no recovery of courage by a suddenly-awakened press. It was the Bush team's bald assertiveness coming into conflict with truth collection in the criminal justice system, which has exposed a seamy story that journalists themselves would have kept hidden because it involves their confidential sources.

"In the normal conduct of McClellan's briefings, the non-answer (a refusal to engage a question, or even grant it validity) is the standard answer. 'Why bother asking...?' becomes a problem in professional conscience. . . .

"Scott McClellan isn't particularly good at spin or telling the President's side of the story. That's not the game anymore. His are the skills of non-communication; he was hired to absorb questions and let no light escape through his non-answers. Beyond that he repeats a pre-determined White House line in rote (many say robotic) fashion.

"Press rollback, the policy for which McClellan signed on, is not about feeding but starving the beast, downgrading journalism where possible, and reducing its effectiveness as an interlocutor with the president."

Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush | http://www.blogsforbush.com/mt/archives/004882.html writes fini to the story:

"It's over, folks - there is no scandal involving Rove; and there never was. This thing was made up out of whole cloth by Joe Wilson, who also made up a story about not finding any evidence of attempted uranium purchases by Saddam. . . . I don't know if Wilson is just insane or a con artist, but in either case he's not a man anyone should be listening to. And yet, our Democrats bought his scam hook, line and sinker - and they bought it because they stupidly believe that if they just keep up the drumbeat of scandal talk that President Bush will be destroyed."

Well, that takes care of that.

Wonder why we're not hearing more about Judy Miller in jail? Bill Keller explains to Editor & Publisher | http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000980703:

"'It has definitely dawned on her that this is really in jail -- it is certainly no summer camp,' Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told E&P Monday. 'The food has not agreed with her and we have been trying to impress on her that she needs to eat. We have been hammering that in.'

"Surprisingly few stories about Miller's experience in jail have emerged, with just one such story in her own paper. 'I don't want to cross over the line into using the newspaper as a promotional vehicle for her case,' Keller explained. 'The story she is caught up in is a big story -- to the extent she is news we will write about it. We aren't going to start writing a Judy story everyday just to drum up sympathy. That becomes advocacy instead of journalism.'

"Keller added that Miller has also been cautious about doing any press interviews, saying 'there is always a chance it could antagonize the judge. If I were her, I would not want to take a chance, they still control her life.' When asked if Miller might write something first-person about her time in jail, Keller said, 'nothing I want to talk about.'

"Keller said Miller had been trying to answer the many letters she has received 'as much as she can.' Her time is also occupied with reading from the prison library and watching CNN and Fox News when other prisoners do not keep the shared television on hip-hop and rap music videos. 'Those seem to be the favorite of the cell block,' the editor said."

I hate when someone else seizes the remote--especially if they've got a long rap sheet.


"White House Delay On Court Nominee Is Calculated Plan; Stretching Out Time for Selection Intended to Cut Into Senate Debate":

"If Bush names a nominee between July 26 and 28, as many advisers now predict..."--Washington Post, Sunday.

"GOP Allies Say Bush Is Close to Court Pick; Choice May Be Announced This Week"--Washington Post, Monday.

Hey, the news changes every day, awright? That's why they call it news.

Brought to you by the people who ran 127 speculative stories on Rehnquist's resignation.