The AP scoop by John Solomon that rattled the Washington landscape at 3:15 p.m. yesterday carried this headline:
"Rove to give additional testimony without guarantee he won't be indicted."
Is that true? Yes. Is the headline a bit loaded? I'd say so. Almost everyone who testifies before a grand jury, except for the relatively few granted immunity, has no guarantee he or she won't face charges.
Now this is by no stretch of the imagination good news for Rove. To be called back after you've already testified, as a grand jury is winding up its probe, suggests there were discrepancies in your testimony that a prosecutor wants to clear up. Still, the only thing we know for sure, thanks to Matt Cooper's account, is that Rove discussed Valerie Plame with the Time reporter.
But judging by the way this is played on TV, you can almost hear the reporters salivating for indictment. Not because they don't like Rove--a lot of them have probably dealt with him on background--but because it would be such a juicy story. Plus, it could be added to the litany of woes facing Bush (down to 37 percent in the latest CBS poll | http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/10/06/opinion/polls/main924485.shtml): Katrina, Iraq, DeLay, Miers, the Safavian indictment.
If Karl Rove were to be charged, given his central role in Bush's rise and in this White House, the story would be huge. Massive. Titanic. But I think journalists ought to be careful about getting too far out in front on this.
That doesn't stop liberal Lawrence O'Donnell | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-odonnell/plamegate-the-next-step_b_8447.html at the Huffington Post: "Prediction: at least three high level Bush Administration personnel indicted and possibly one or more very high level unindicted co-conspirators."
Here's the New York Times | http://nytimes.com/2005/10/07/politics/07leak.html?hp&ex=1128657600&en=d524a7a0b669b7a7&ei=5094&partner=homepage account: "The special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case has summoned Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, to return next week to testify to a federal grand jury in a step that could mean charges will be filed in the case, lawyers in the case said on Thursday.
"The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has held discussions in recent days with lawyers for several administration officials suggesting that he is considering whether to charge them with a crime over the disclosure of an intelligence operative's identity in a 2003 newspaper column."
L.A. Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-100605leak_lat,0,7095414.story?coll=la-home-headlines: "Presidential adviser Karl Rove has agreed to give last-minute testimony to a grand jury in the ongoing investigation into the leak of a covert CIA agent's identity." It is unclear why Rove has been asked to make another trip -- his fourth -- to the grand jury investigating who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame."
On the Supreme front, a fascinating rebuttal to all the conservative criticism of Miers is beginning to emerge. It's that she's the victim of snooty intellectuals.
Roger Simon | http://www.rogersimon.com/archive/2005/10/ordinary_people.html#002805 frames it bluntly: "She is no genius. But so what? What have the 'genius' choices that Bush has made for his administration gotten us besides enormous deficits and a quagmire in Iraq?
"Miers is ordinary (a more kind word than mediocre) and I think Bush wanted ordinary. . . . Shouldn't ordinary people have a representative on the Supreme Court?"
Doesn't sound like a bumper-sticker slogan to me.
Slate's John Dickerson | http://slate.msn.com/?id=2127492&nav=tap2/ picks up the "Gods vs. Geeks" theme:
"In this battle, the White House has clearly sided with the churchgoing masses against the Republican Party's own whiny Beltway intellectuals. The Bushies have always mistrusted their own bow-tied secularists, but the rift has never before been so public. 'This is classic elitism,' says a senior administration official of the GOP opposition to the Miers nomination. 'We often blame the left for it, but we have it in our own ranks. Just because she wasn't on a shortlist of conservatives who prepared their whole life for this moment doesn't make her any less conservative . . . and just because she hasn't penned op-eds for the Wall Street Journal doesn't mean she hasn't formed a judicial philosophy.'"
Historian David Greenberg | http://slate.msn.com/?id=2127493&nav=tap2/ offers a roll call of past hacks on the court, including Lincoln's campaign manager.
The New Republic's Noam Scheiber | http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20051017&s=trb101705 looks at the critics' credentials:
"In many ways, the biggest fault line emerging among conservatives is between East Coast elites, on the one hand, and rank-and-file conservatives elsewhere in the country. As soon as the nomination was announced, Beltway conservatives began griping that Miers, a former Dallas lawyer and a graduate of Southern Methodist University Law School, lacked the credentials to serve on the Supreme Court. 'An inspiring testament to the diversity of the president's cronies,' quipped National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum argued that the conservative movement had spent decades grooming legal talent for the next Republican Supreme Court nomination.
"Promising young conservatives had attended top law schools, written weighty academic papers, embarked on distinguished careers as professors and judges--all to hone their legal philosophy for the day when they would be able to impose it on U.S. jurisprudence. For Bush 'to take a hazard on anything other than a known quantity of the highest intellectual and personal excellence' was 'simply reckless,' Frum concluded.
"Away from the Eastern seaboard, however, conservatives were warming to Miers. Irate National Review readers wrote to accuse the magazine of elitism. A conservative Texas lawyer complained that calling Miers's old firm 'undistinguished' was 'the kind of thing that only an absolute snob--someone who takes the position that no Texas firm could ever be anything but undistinguished--would say.' Meanwhile, prominent evangelical leaders were busy singing Miers's praises."
Kevin Drum | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com wonders if a non-judge would bring some common sense:
"Oddly enough, I agree with the conservative White House lawyer | http://bench.nationalreview.com/archives/078679.asp who said this:
"Judging takes work, but the folks who think 'constitutional reasoning' is a talent requiring divination, intense effort and years of monastic study are the same folks who will inevitably give you 'Lemon tests,' balancing formulas, 'penumbras' and concurrences that make your head spin. The President sees through that mumbo jumbo and recognizes that good Justices are the ones who focus on the Constitution's text, structure and history and who call balls and strikes.
"I actually think the length of modern Supreme Court decisions is ridiculous, and the 'brilliant thinkers' who produce the cleverest arguments aren't necessarily the best judges. The Supreme Court's job is to provide guidance to lower courts, not to produce absurdly subtle arguments that mere mortals can neither understand nor apply coherently.
"In other words, the fact that Harriet Miers isn't the most brilliant legal mind in the country isn't necessarily a strike against her. On the other hand, it would be nice if she had at least a teensy bit of background in interpreting constitutional law, wouldn't it? Surely we can all agree that President Bush has taken his signature anti-intellectualism to indefensible levels here?"
Captain's Quarters | http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/005568.php doesn't like the religious emphasis:
"The push by more enthusiastic Miers supporters to consider her religious outlook smacks of a bit of hypocrisy. After all, we argued the exact opposite when it came to John Roberts and William Pryor when they appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for their appointments. We derided Chuck Schumer and his references to "deeply held personal beliefs." Conservatives claimed that using religion as a reason for rejection violated the Constitution and any notion of religious freedom. Does that really change if we base our support on the same grounds?"
Is Bush making a self-interested nomination here? Justin Frank | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justin-frank/a-lawyer-and-a-justice_b_8424.html thinks so:
"By appointing his personal lawyer after appointing a Chief Justice who helped him out in the 2000 Florida election, he is 'stacking' the court with justices who will protect him and his colleagues at all costs. After all, Miers kept Bush from one particular jury duty which, had he served it, would have exposed his DWI arrest record before he even had a chance to cover it up. As it stands, the court will protect even more White House secrets than ever, against any and all investigators."
But Frank loses me with this sentence: "The only thing this appointment could be about is self-protection from impeachable offenses." Um, other than the chief justice ceremonially presiding over a Senate trial, the court plays no role in impeachment.
Peggy Noonan | http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110007363 is the latest conservative to say Bush screwed up:
"Miers pick was another administration misstep. The president misread the field, the players, their mood and attitude. He called the play, they looked up from the huddle and balked. And debated. And dissed. Momentum was lost. The quarterback looked foolish.
"The president would have been politically better served by what Pat Buchanan called a bench-clearing brawl. . . .
"The headline lately is that conservatives are stiffing the president. They're in uproar over Ms. Miers, in rebellion over spending, critical over cronyism. But the real story continues to be that the president feels so free to stiff conservatives. The White House is not full of stupid people. They knew conservatives would be disappointed that the president chose his lawyer for the high court. They knew conservatives would eventually awaken over spending. They knew someone would tag them on putting friends in high places. They knew conservatives would not like the big-government impulses revealed in the response to Hurricane Katrina.
"The headline is not that this White House endlessly bows to the right but that it is not at all afraid of the right. . . . Maybe the president has simply concluded he has no more elections to face and no longer needs his own troops to wage the ground war and contribute money . . . Maybe he is a big-government Republican who has a shrewder and more deeply informed sense of the right than his father did, but who ultimately sees the right not as a thing he is of but a thing he must appease, defy, please or manipulate."
Laura Ingraham | http://lauraingraham.com for Supreme Court? Richard Miniter | http://nationalreview.com/comment/miniter200510060731.asp says she's more qualified than Miers, having been a high-court clerk and worked for a bigger law firm.
Finally, I've been trying to get to this item for some time:
Mary Mapes has dug in her heels.
Mapes, you may recall, was the pit-bull CBS producer at the heart of the Bush/National Guard fiasco that gave the network a black eye, got Mapes fired and hastened Dan Rather's exit from the anchor chair he had held for 24 years.
For those with only a hazy recollection, an independent panel retained by CBS found "considerable and fundamental deficiencies" in the reporting of the "60 Minutes Wednesday" piece, said Rather and Mapes "failed miserably" to authenticate the documents at the heart of the story and rushed to air in a "myopic zeal" to be first.
At the time, Mapes put out a statement and never submitted to a single press interview. Instead, she went underground and wrote a book, now on the verge of being published. I have read the first chapter, which is posted on Amazon | http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/031235195X/qid=1127884771/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/102-3693921-5606503?v=glance&s=books.
If there's any sign that Mapes thinks she did anything wrong, moved too fast, made a single mistake, it would have to be in the other chapters. To wit:
"I remember staring, disheartened and angry, at one posting. '60 Minutes is going down,' the writer crowed exultantly. My heart started to pound. There is nothing more frightening for a reporter than the possibility of being wrong, seriously wrong. That is the reason that we checked and rechecked, argued about wording, took care to be certain that the video that accompanied the words didn't create a new and unintended nuance. Being right, being sure, was everything. And right now, on the Internet, it appeared everything was falling apart. I had a real physical reaction as I read the angry online accounts. It was something between a panic attack, a heart attack, and a nervous breakdown. My palms were sweaty; I gulped and tried to breathe. . . . The little girl in me wanted to crouch and hide behind the door and cry my eyes out."
What about the suspect memos by that long-dead Guard official? "Faxing changes a document in so many ways, large and small, that analyzing a memo that had been faxed -- -in some cases not once, but twice -- -was virtually impossible. The faxing destroyed the subtle arcs and lines in the letters. The characters bled into each other. The details of how the typed characters failed to line up perfectly inside each word were lost."
The problem is that three of CBS's own document experts later said they could not have authenticated those memos, and two had warned the network about that.
Mapes on her critics: "To these people, there was no such thing as unbiased mainstream reporting, certainly not when it came to criticism of the president, no matter how tepid. To them, there was Fox News and everything else -- and everything else was liberal and unfair."
Mapes on the MSM: "I was incredulous that the mainstream press -- -a group I'd been a part of for nearly twenty-five years and thought I knew -- -was falling for the blogs' critiques. I was shocked at the ferocity of the attack. I was terrified at CBS's lack of preparedness in defending us. I was furious at the unrelenting attacks on Dan. And I was helpless to do anything about any of it."
Problem: Lots of MSM outlets, including The Post, did their own reporting and concluded the memos were highly suspect at best.
Rather hasn't given up either, says the New York Post | http://www.nypost.com/entertainment/54213.htm:
"Dan Rather wants to reopen the investigation into President Bush and the National Guard story that resulted in the Memogate scandal and led to his early departure from the anchor desk.
"But his bosses at CBS have forbidden him to go back at it, he said. 'CBS News doesn't want me to do that story,' Rather said during an interview that aired on C-SPAN. 'They wouldn't let me do that story,' he said during the shockingly frank interview with former NBC newsman Marvin Kalb . . .
" 'I believed in the story,' Rather said. 'The facts of the story were correct. One supporting pillar of the story, albeit an important one, one supporting pillar was brought into question,' he said. 'To this day, no one has proven whether it was what it purported to be or not.'"