9/27/2005

Washington Examiner: Opinion - Don't Plame me!

By Robert Schlesinger
Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 9:19 AM EDT
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From its start, the second Bush administration has been marked by three themes: loyalty, a refusal to admit error and proud anti-Clintonianism. Chief White House political operative Karl Rove orchestrated this thematic stew, so it's appropriate that he is at the epicenter when they become a perfect storm centered on the White House.

At issue is Rove's involvement in the July 2003 leak of the identity of then-undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the news media.

It is a crime for a U.S. government official to knowingly and deliberately disclose the identity of an undercover CIA agent. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has spent much of the last year and a half investigating whether a crime was committed when government officials leaked Plame's name and identity to the press.

At the time, Rove was quoted as describing Plame as "fair game" because her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had had the temerity to publicly dispute President Bush's (incorrect) statement that Iraq had tried to procure uranium from Niger. What we did not know until this month was that Rove told at least one reporter that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent.

Breaking national security-related laws is serious business, especially in an administration whose public raison d'etre is national security. So Rove made statements like, "I didn't know her name and didn't leak her name."

In an era before we debated what the meaning of "is is," such a statement would have been understood as a flat denial. But the ghost of Clinton apparently lives on in the White House as channeled through Karl Rove.

It was not supposed to be this way, of course. Bush came into the White House promising to restore "honor and dignity." But there were warning signs. ... After it became clear that Bush was indeed incorrect in his Niger-uranium assertions, the president's defenders argued variably that he could not be held responsible because technically he had simply relayed a British report without saying it was true or that he had not written the speech but was merely delivering it.

For now the administration appears to have hunkered into a stance in which it is comfortable: the smug stonewall. Refuse on-the-record comment until Rove is either indicted or let off on a technicality, while distributing Clintonized talking points to the conservative talk-machine. Does the wall hold? Stay tuned.

Washington Examiner: Opinion

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