July 16, 2005


Where's the Newt? (JOHN TIERNEY, 7/16/05, NY Times)

We are in the midst of a remarkable Washington scandal, and we still don't have a name for it. Leakgate, Rovegate, Wilsongate - none of the suggestions have stuck because none capture what's so special about the current frenzy to lock up reporters and public officials.

The closest parallel is the moment in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" when members of a mob eager to burn a witch are asked by the wise Sir Bedevere how they know she's a witch.

"Well, she turned me into a newt," the villager played by John Cleese says.

"A newt?" Sir Bedevere asks, looking puzzled.

"I got better," he explains.

"Burn her anyway!" another villager shouts.

That's what has happened since this scandal began so promisingly two summers ago. At first it looked like an outrageous crime harming innocent victims: a brave whistle-blower was smeared by a vicious White House politico who committed a felony by exposing the whistle-blower's wife as an undercover officer, endangering her and her contacts in the field.

But if you consider the facts today, you may feel like Sir Bedevere. Where's the newt? What did the witch actually do? [...]

Karl Rove's version of events now looks less like a smear and more like the truth: Mr. Wilson's investigation, far from being requested and then suppressed by a White House afraid of its contents, was a low-level report of not much interest to anyone outside the Wilson household.

This much can be said without fear of contradiction: the one person who's come out of all this looking the worst is Mr. Palme.

Rove E-Mailed Security Official About Talk (JOHN SOLOMON, 7/15/05, Associated Press)

After mentioning a CIA operative to a reporter, Bush confidant Karl Rove alerted the president's No. 2 security adviser about the interview and said he tried to steer the journalist away from allegations the operative's husband was making about faulty Iraq intelligence.

The July 11, 2003, e-mail between Rove and then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley is the first showing an intelligence official knew Rove had talked to Matthew Cooper just days before the Time magazine reporter divulged CIA officer Valerie Plame's secret identity.

"I didn't take the bait," Rove wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press, recounting how Cooper tried to question him about whether President Bush had been hurt by the new allegations. [...]

"Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming," Rove wrote in the e-mail to Hadley.

"When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger. Isn't this damaging? Hasn't the president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn't get Time far out in front on this."

Hadley, now Bush's national security adviser, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Friday. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said his client answered all the questions prosecutors asked during three grand jury appearances, never invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or the president's executive privilege guaranteeing confidential advice from aides.

Rove, Bush's closest adviser, turned over the e-mail as soon as prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into who leaked Plame's covert work for the CIA.

He later told a grand jury the e-mail was consistent with his recollection that his intention in talking with Cooper that Friday in July 2003 wasn't to divulge Plame's identity but to caution Cooper against certain allegations Plame's husband was making, according to legal professionals familiar with Rove's testimony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 16, 2005 10:29 AM

I swear if that if I walked outside right now and saw pigs flying through the air I could not be more stunned than I am this very minute - an honest and factual piece in the NY Times that DOESN'T try and smear Karl Rove, George Bush, Dick Cheney, or Don Rumsfeld, AND calls points out Joe Wilson is basically a self promoting liar. What's next? Kerry admitting he didn't really earn one of his purple hearts? Bill Clinton announcing his marriage to Hillary is a sham? Ted Kennedy finally admitting he might have a drinking problem? The mind reels at the possibilities.

Posted by: Robert Modean at July 16, 2005 12:16 PM

The scandal here is that we on the outside are getting a detailed view of the inner workings of the Circus on the Potomac. Someone lifted up the rock and gave us a good view of all the bugs scurrying about, and just how petty and mean things really are there. And the smallmindedness that drives so many people there. Has anyone been able to enunciate the high ideal that's been violated? Since when does the Left care about outing CIA employees, or leaks, or phony reports that serve the cause (like Wilson's) as criminal matters?

(And why do you keep calling him "Palme" and not "Plame"? Some sort of dead Swedish socialist PM obsession? )

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 16, 2005 12:28 PM

It's the Emily Litella gambit: After 2 years of 'Rove to the stake', now it's 'oh, never mind.'

Posted by: old maltese at July 16, 2005 12:29 PM