But Keep Your Eyes On What Matters, As the Investigation Moves Up the Food Chain...
"I am saying that if anyone was involved in that type of activity which I referred to, they would not be working here."
- Ron Ziegler, press secretary to Richard Nixon, defending the presidential aide Dwight Chapin on Oct. 18, 1972. Chapin was convicted in April 1974 of perjury in connection with his relationship to the political saboteur Donald Segretti.
"Any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president. They wouldn't be working here at the White House if they didn't have the president's confidence."
- Scott McClellan, press secretary to George W. Bush, defending Karl Rove on Tuesday.
Thus begins Frank Rich's NY Times editorial today, "Follow the Uranium" (we might have suggested, "Follow the Yellowcake Road", but they didn't ask us first).
It's been said that the political landscape is littered with the corpses of those who've "misunderestimated" George W. Bush. But it's not Bush who should take the credit for his political mastery. It is, of course, his brain, Karl Rove.
Misunderestimating him and what he's able to pull off, slither out of and otherwise apply his ample slime to is a game that one plays at his own peril. As Rich summarizes points of Rove's illustrious career (but barely scratches the surface):
Trashing is in his nature, and bad things happen, usually through under-the-radar whispers, to decent people (and their wives) who get in his way. In the 2000 South Carolina primary, John McCain's wife, Cindy, was rumored to be a drug addict (and Senator McCain was rumored to be mentally unstable). In the 1994 Texas governor's race, Ann Richards found herself rumored to be a lesbian. The implication that Mr. Wilson was a John Kerry-ish girlie man beholden to his wife for his meal ticket is of a thematic piece with previous mud splattered on Rove political adversaries.
Yet even with those "successful" campaigns under his belt, this time, it seems Rove is quickly finding himself at a dead-end. At least as Rich sees it. And we tend to agree with him.
Aside from his observation that "there's only one certainty ahead: the timing of a Karl Rove resignation," Rich aptly moves the ball forward by pointing out that Rove, Joe Wilson, Matt Cooper, Judith Miller et al. are small potatoes in this matter.
As the Plame Game moves up the food chain, through All The President's Men, the real question is rapidly --- and we mean rapidly --- becoming a matter of What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?
It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.
Rich is precisely correct here, and makes a damning case for it. On the pages of the Pro-War, Pro-Bush New York Times nonetheless. Read it. If only so that you'll know what happened when the house of cards quickly tumbles any moment...or when it doesn't because the evil genius Karl Rove is once again able to amass his dark, hateful, whispering armies to overcome the voices of truth.
When you play clean against those who play dirty --- and who have gained an alarming body of professional experience in doing so as they've slimed their way to the very pinnacle of world power in the process --- one should never "misunderestimate" the ability of these sorts of charlatans to retain that power. No matter how many decent human beings, public servants, innocent civilians and patriots need to be destroyed along the way.