More Rove ...

While you're drowning in a tsunami of Rovian knowledge, here are some basic points to keep in mind.

One, the sound and fury displayed by the Washington press corps doesn't mean they smell blood in the water, as in the tantalizing possibility of high crimes -- though that would be nice for ratings. The conventional wisdom in the media is that Karl Rove did not commit a crime. The reason they're mad is because they don't like being lied to, period -- think Gary Hart or Bill Clinton. Here's a relevant line from the Post: "It was the issue of credibility, more than of criminal culpability, that produced some of the most aggressive questioning at a White House briefing in recent memory -- but no answers."

Still it made for a rare treat to see guys like NBC's David Gregory's do a Helen Reddy-like "I am reporter, hear me roar" kind of thing:

MCCLELLAN: We're not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you've decided not to talk? You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MCCLELLAN: And, again, David, I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously that. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation...
GREGORY: (OFF-MIKE) when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish.
GREGORY: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything.
You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?
MCCLELLAN: David, there will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.
What can I say, it brings out the Paris Hilton in me: That's hot!

The other thing to keep in mind is the Bush administration's plan of action, which thus far seems to be a two-pronged strategy. The first is the Clintonian approach, which is to limit the discussion to what is legal in the most technical sense. ABC's The Note sums it up: "It is interesting (wethinks) to Note how McClellan used the word 'criminal' so often in the briefing yesterday (when he wasn't on the verge of throwing up) — as if to define the scope of what's appropriate, so when (assuming) Rove doesn't get indicted, Scott can say 'the criminal investigation concluded he did nothing wrong, so there's nothing to talk about.'"

The hope then is that either Rove said something uncharacteristically stupid in his testimony to the grand jury or that this eel-like maneuvering may well bring with it a huge political fall-out that will hurt the Bush administration. Let the god-begging commence.

The other "prong" of the Bush response has not been deployed yet, but is likely to rear its ugly head very soon. And that's to go after Joe Wilson. Deborah Orin of the New York Post offered a preview of the delights to come last night on Chris Matthews' Hardball:
ORIN: What has come out pretty clearly so far, I think, is — there is an issue of whether Karl Rove told the truth and the whole truth. But what's more important is, it is clear that Joe Wilson didn't tell the truth. We have a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report that says, on virtually every point that Joe Wilson made, starting from denying his wife had him sent on the trip, which turns out to be not true.
MATTHEWS: Right. She did.
ORIN: She did. And to claiming that he found that there was no ties with Iraq and that he reported that, which he did not report. He reported, if anything, the opposite. To claiming that he reported there were forged documents, which was not true, because he never even saw the documents. So, Joe Wilson's credibility is seriously in question. And what we now see is, what Karl Rove appears to have been doing was to be pointing out to “TIME” magazine that Joe Wilson could not be trusted, rather than trying to get even with Joe Wilson.
And it is sort of fascinating, because, you know, for a year, the press reported Joe Wilson's charges. And then, when the Senate Intelligence Committee said they were all false, it didn't.
What's interesting is that Orin's liberal counterpart, E. J. Dionne, said nothing to defend Wilson, but made the point that his credibility, or lack thereof, is simply not the issue at hand. I don't know enough to gauge the substance -- if any -- in Orin's accusations, but an attack on Wilson will gain traction if Dionne's lukewarm reaction is any indication of the former ambassador's standing amongst the Beltway pack.

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