Wednesday, July 20, 2005

# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COVER STORY OR NO STORY? Karl Rove doesn't look like a powerful man. He looks like a middle-aged middle-manager from Middle America. If you look at the photo of Rove on the cover of Time magazine, you can't even tell what he's feeling. Is he about to smile? About to cry? Sedated? Waiting to attack? It's hard to believe that a man whose head melts so unthreateningly into his neck could be at the center of such a firestorm.

But appearances are often deceiving. Had anyone other than Karl Rove been identified as the key figure in DoJ's investigation of the Valerie Plame affair, I have to wonder whether they would have made it onto the cover of both Time (and Newsweek). But Rove is the supposed mastermind withing the Bush White House, the supposed engineer of two stunning victories for a candidate considered by the experts to be thoroughly subpar. Personally, I'd say that those kind of judgments tell you more about the experts than they do about Karl Rove or George W. Bush. Nonetheless, they do explain why a scandal about which we still have extraordinarily little information has become such a sensation.

What we do know is summarized quite well by Time correspondent Matt Cooper, who testified before a grand jury after Rove released him from his initial commitment to protecting Rove's identity. Here's what Cooper writes in the current issue of Time:
So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the "agency" on "WMD"? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me. At this point, I'm as curious as anyone else to see what Patrick Fitzgerald has.
I suspect that Rove allowed Cooper to break his commitment to confidentiality because Rove knew very well that he hadn't said anything inappropriate to Cooper. Which still doesn't really tell us whether Rove did anything inappropriate. Perhaps he wanted Cooper to testify in order to clear his name. Or perhaps he wanted Cooper's inconclusive evidence to make him seem innocent, whereas some other journalist may have more damaging information about Rove. Paging Robert Novak...
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