Do Words Mean Anything?
If there's one answer we'll get over the next couple of weeks, as the White House tries to desperately manage the revelation that yes, Karl Rove did tell TIME reporter Matt Cooper that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, we'll find out if the President's word means anything anymore. The AP has helpfully given us those words in easy-to-digest article form:
Sept. 29, 2003
Q: You said this morning, quote, "The president knows that Karl Rove wasn't involved." How does he know that?
A (Scott McClellan, WH press secretary): Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place. ... I've said that it's not true. ... And I have spoken with Karl Rove.
Q: When you talked to Mr. Rove, did you discuss, "Did you ever have this information?"
A: I've made it very clear, he was not involved, that there's no truth to the suggestion that he was.
Oct. 7, 2003
Q: You have said that you personally went to Scooter Libby (Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff), Karl Rove and Elliott Abrams (National Security Council official) to ask them if they were the leakers. Is that what happened? Why did you do that? And can you describe the conversations you had with them? What was the question you asked?
A: Unfortunately, in Washington, D.C., at a time like this there are a lot of rumors and innuendo. There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made. And that's exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals. They are good individuals. They are important members of our White House team. And that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt with that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.
Oct. 10, 2003
Q: Earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wondered if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?
A: I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.
Q: So none of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?
A: They assured me that they were not involved in this.
Q: They were not involved in what?
A: The leaking of classified information.
The President also said, and this time not through his PR flack, that he wanted to know the truth about the Plame leak, and that "if the person has violated law, he will be taken care of." I suppose Bush couldn't get in touch with Cooper to ask him about this. Rove, however, was at his right side (almost surgically) for the last two years. This White House manhunt sounds about as comprehensive as OJ looking for the real killers.
The press corps just jumped all over poor Scotty at the WH Gaggle today. You can see it over at Crooks and Liars. Here's my favorite part:
QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you've decided not to talk.
You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MCCLELLAN: I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation...
QUESTION: (inaudible) when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish.
QUESTION: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything.
You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?
MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.
QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?
MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.
QUESTION: You're in a bad spot here, Scott...
People on the left (even more than on the right) seem to attribute an almost mythic sense of power to Karl Rove, thinking him some sort of evil genius. He's not. He's simply a hatchet man who was willing to go farther than anyone before him, in the belief (some would say hubris) that he could get away with it. Rove's even been fired before, by the previous Bush Administration, for leaking information, to a syndicated columnist you might have heard of named Robert Novak. It takes an extreme amount of balls to do pretty much the exact same thing, again, and expect to get off scot free. And it takes a lack of an ethical center to out a CIA operative for no other reason but payback.
Now we'll have to see if the President's words mean anything, because if they do, Karl Rove will be tendering his resignation in a matter of days. And I certainly don't think that means he'll never be advising the President in an unofficial capacity anymore. But to see the continual upward mobility of incompetents and thugs, to see the total lack of accountability at this White House, should burn the hackles off of every American. And a resignation, while empty, would be in some way at least a testament that words, in America, still have power.