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Is Karl Rove Screwed, or Not?

For once, Bush or Rove or somebody in this administration may get an uppercut that keeps them down on the mat, or at least out for an eight-count.
 
 
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A week ago, what Karl Rove may have done to expose the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame was just another gone-nowhere, 2-year-old, dusty Bush scandal on the shelf, relegated to languish among the lies that got us into the war in Iraq and the doctored FDA reports that suppressed the risks of Big Pharma's moneymakers.

Today, What Karl Rove Said is the story. And there's every indication that for the first time, he is in deep shit. That's really what everyone wants to confirm: Is Karl Rove screwed, or not? And luckily for us, for the first time he's going to have to answer some questions on terms other than his.

Kenneth Lerer, a former top exec for AOL Time Warner, nailed in the Huffington Post how times have suddenly changed for Bush's Svengali advisor. Here's the world Karl Rove until now has lived in:

[When] Rove says he can't be quoted, he's not quoted. Period. He knows what he says will never ever come back to haunt him. Talk to the reporter. Say what he wants to. Move on to the next call. It's like talking to your psychiatrist or rabbi/priest: It's a private conversation never to be repeated.

And now in the present:

But now imagine if some of the things you said to your psychiatrist, rabbi/priest all of a sudden were to become public. Shit. Now you understand Rove's problem.

But, considering the fact that not one of the seven hairs on Rove's balding head has been so much as singed since Bush took office, it's worth looking at what it is that will take the man down. Is it the court case, or will it be political damage?

David Corn points out that Rove doesn't need to go jail for this incident to do grievous harm to the White House -- and that's what we all care about anyway, right? That for once, Bush or Rove or somebody in the administration gets an uppercut that keeps them down on the mat, or at least out for an eight-count. It's about seeing that you can hurt these folks, who have been miraculous untouchables in their first four-and-a-half years.

Corn writes, "This is proof that the Bush White House was using any information it could gather on Joseph Wilson -- even classified information related to national security -- to pursue a vendetta against Wilson, a White House critic. Even if it turns out Rove did not break the law regarding the naming of intelligence officials, this new disclosure could prove Rove guilty of leaking a national security secret to a reporter for political ends. What would George W. Bush do about that?"

Corn reminds us that in George Bush's statements on the leak scandals of 2003, Bush threatened to "take care of" anyone behind the leak. And that he ordered anyone with knowledge about the Plame affair to come forward. Corn writes, "Has Rove done so? No. So it seems he violated a presidential command. Would Bush be obliged to fire him for insubordination?"

Rove is certainly nailed for that. His firing would certainly approach the political damage so many have waited years for.

But it will take media bullying and a concerted effort by all the progressive bully pulpits to turn the Rove's role in the Plame affair into The Question that Bush Must Answer. Oddly enough if it comes down to a political and media battle, Karl Rove is screwed only if a convincing public case is made that what Rove Did Was Wrong, and that Karl Rove Is Screwed.

Reading all the articles and analyses out there, it's pretty clear that no one has a clue if the court case will bring down Rove; with the possible exception of Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in charge of the case, and even then, he probably doesn't have a clue, either. Not very satisfying, is it? Imagine that despite all this frenzy, no one has even got a solid lead so far on whether on not Karl Rove will be indicted, and if you consider that the stretch between being indicted and going to jail for something is longer than Tom DeLay's list of ethics scandals, there's no point in waiting to find out if Rove will plea-bargain for parole before he turns 60.

Consider Sunday's Big Revelation, which comes from Michael Isikoff in Newsweek. Isikoff published a copy of an email by Time's Matt Cooper in his report that names Rove as the source who leaked Valerie Plame's identity. Here's the money-shot sentence pulled whole-cloth from the email: "It was, KR said, Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip."

Not only this, Rove is now known to have leaked this information before Bob Novak wrote about it in his infamous column of 2003, a loophole in Rove's potential defense now sealed. Potential defense, because of course, if Rove hadn't talked about Plame until Novak published his column, then Rove would be able to say that he learned about Plame reading the column.

So he's screwed, right?

Well, there's no proof that Rove lied about this yet, because in what has become his central public testimony is that he didn't know or leak her name. By saying "she" or "Wilson's wife," or whatever, he's not necessarily lying. Whether Rove lied under oath is still a private matter between Fitzgerald and the grand jury. And then the only other way Rove goes to jail is if he "knowingly" blew Plame's cover, and of course, whether or not someone knowingly did something is one of the hardest things to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

There is one thing causing a distraction from the wave of reports on the Rove scandal, and that is much of the reporting itself. All the big breaking stories on the Rove scandals carry a tone that makes it clear that each word tapped out by every journalist from Michael Isikoff of Newsweek to Dan Balz at the Washington Post was produced in an atmosphere where the authors were judging their work against the giant stories of journalism: the Pentagon Papers, the discovery of My Lai massacre, Watergate. Same with the TV analysts and their pronouncements.

The vanity of these power-hungry hacks swarming around Karl Rove's fate is, I think, revealed perfectly in the very same email from Time's Matt Cooper that confirmed Karl Rove as his source. Cooper writes with boyish glee that Rove told him these things about Valerie Plame on the condition that they use the Tree-House Gang's highest security clearance: "double super secret background." Cooper of course agreed, but only on the condition that Rove would supply the chocolate bars.

But that's another distraction from the real story here, which is that for the first time, there is real blood in Bush's political waters -- and that Karl Rove Is Screwed.

Jan Frel has worked as an editor for AlterNet and TomPaine.com, and is a contributing editor to Personal Democracy Forum .