July 13th, 2005

Gaining Traction

It's nice to see that the allegations against Karl Rove are starting to gain traction, with both the press and more Democrats speaking up about it. Unfortunately, the Republican camp is still way too organized in fighting this story. It's been reported than the RNC put out a 3 1/2 page guide of talking points when discussing the story. While I haven't seen these talking points, it's clear from the latest coverage what the broad strokes are:

1) Deny There's Any Evidence - Point out that nobody is really sure what grand jury testimony has been. Except that many reliable reports -- including published excerpts of Matt Cooper's emails -- clearly identify Rove as the primary source. Clearly there's more reliable evidence than there was that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger. This seems to be the 'big lie' tactic where a half truth repeated often enough tends to become believed by people.

2) The Comments Were Misinterpreted - This theory has it that the intent of the information divulged was to counter claims that Wilson's uranium expedition was approved at a high level in the CIA. The information was not intended to be published, but was intended to prevent other information from being published. This falls flat because the same story was told to at least four reporters, and two of them actually published it. It was also completely unnecessary to give as much detail if this was the point; it would have been sufficient to just say the funding decision was made at a departmental level.

3) He Didn't Reveal Specific Information - The current claims are that Karl Rove was not in violation of law because he did not reveal specific information; that he did not know or reveal her name, and by implication that he didn't know her role at the agency. This is at first plausible if you read Cooper's notes which say that Rove stated that the trip was recommended by Wilson's wife who is apparently agency (CIA). But this falls apart because this only requires the most basic additional information to fill in the gaps. And again, he told substantially the same thing to at least four reporters, and the two who published articles based on the information were both able to easily fill in the gaps. Such consistency indicates that it was a very deliberate release of information, not an off the cuff remark. This is splitting legal hairs, and while it may or may not work in a court room, it should not work at all in the court of public opinion. And Rove should know that the court of public opinion is ultimately what matters in politics.

It's quite clear that those involved are trying to weasel their way out of this becoming a full blown scandal by these intentionally misleading half truths. The real story seems to be that Rove thought he could do a political hatchet job on someone critical of the administration's fabricated Iraq WMD claims, and it's finally blown up in his face. The Republicans should be careful in how much they invest themselves into protecting Rove, when that might end up blowing up in their faces. If they are smart, they'll find a way to let Rove step down for some plausible unrelated matter and hope it blows over. I'm hoping they're not so smart. My feeling is it could go either way. The Republicans have been nimble at avoiding scandal previously, but on the other hand they also tend not to do anything that would imply that they were even possible mistaken about anything.

There's a good article, Just The Facts M'am by Steven Brant which provides excerpts on White House and Rove's official responses on this issue over the last two years in case you want to see exactly the way they are trying to weasel the issue. By the way, I highly recommend reading the The Huffington Post which is a refreshing source of intelligent political commentary. (Though it's a bit odd - Arianna Huffington used to be the wife of our local Santa Barbara conservative politician, Michael Huffington.)