Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A whiff of Rovian rhetoric


Mark my words: Karl Rove's new rock group, The Hatcheteers, began tearing into special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald this morning with arguments so cynical that they'll take your breath away.

No. Karl Rove, facing a possible indictment, isn't stupid enough to publicly take on his accuser.
He never operates in the public view. But John Tierney's column in today's New York Times sure reeks of Rovian logic and tactics.

As rumors spread of imminent indictments in the investigation of the Valerie Plame/CIA operative leak, Tierney positioned the Republican response in three ways.

1. By branding the scandal with a snide moniker that undercuts its very validity. Tierney has coined the logo "Nadagate" in the hope that the press buys into it. That precisely the kind of "out front and on message" approach the administration has used repeatedly to frame the words of American journalism. (A recent example is "up or down vote," repeated so often by the Bush administration in connection with the approval of federal judges that it's now used regularly and mindlessly by journalists all over the country.)

2. By warning journalists that an indictment of Rove or I. Lewis Libby, the vice-president's chief of staff, for hawking classified information could, if it came to pass, dry up the ocean of off-the-record leakers in Washington. By undercutting the prosecutor's moral authority with the people who will translate the case to the public, Tierney is trying to change the tone of press coverage.

3. By suggesting that plagiarism and obstruction of justice aren't real crimes anyway. This is cynicism as an art form, particularly by supporters of the political party that spent months and millions of dollars imipeaching a Democratic president for lying about nothing more central to national security than his sex life. Writes Tierney: "Besides switching to the vague law against disclosing classified information, (Fitzgerald) might indict Libby or Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice -- crimes that occurred only because of the investigation (emphasis added) .... Unless Fitzgerald comes up with something unexpected, neither is Nadagate."

Translation: It's fine for government officials to lie under oath, to smear undercover agents (just politics as usual) and to strong-arm others to keep the truth from getting out. It's fine, that is, as long as they are Republican officials devoted to fighting the War on Terror.

Expect to see much more of these three tacks. John Tierney has merely fired the first round.
You can bet the rest of the Right will be on message as it tries to divert attention from the sleaze
oozing out of Washington.


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