Saturday, July 23, 2005

NYT x 3 on Rovegate

Sunday's New York Times features three major pieces on the Rove/Libby scandal:

First, Frank Rich's op-ed. It's hot stuff, you really need to read it all. But here's the first two grafs:
PRESIDENT BUSH'S new Supreme Court nominee was a historic first after all: the first to be announced on TV dead center in prime time, smack in the cross hairs of "I Want to Be a Hilton." It was also one of the hastiest court announcements in memory, abruptly sprung a week ahead of the White House's original timetable. The agenda of this rushed showmanship - to change the subject in Washington - could not have been more naked. But the president would have had to nominate Bill Clinton to change this subject.

When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south - the story will not end until the war really is in its "last throes."

Next, Scott Shane on how the White House went into attack mode after Wilson's op-ed piece:

If believed, Mr. Wilson's accusations were poised to add an insider's authority to the cloud of doubt beginning to grow around the Iraq enterprise, as the resistance was proving far more stubborn than anticipated and the search for Saddam Hussein's weapons was coming up empty.

Ten weeks had passed since Mr. Bush's speech aboard an aircraft carrier, before a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished." And the president was being criticized by Democrats as taunting Iraqi insurgents a few days earlier by using the phrase "Bring 'em on." Behind the scenes, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council were skirmishing over who would take the blame for inaccurate intelligence.

The White House response to Mr. Wilson's accusations, as it unfolded over the next eight days, would be aggressive and comprehensive. At home and from the African road trip, in on-the-record briefings and in background tips to reporters, the president's aides sought to rebut Mr. Wilson's statements and undercut his credibility.

It was political trench warfare, Washington-style, an early exchange in what would become an enduring conflict over the administration's use of prewar intelligence.

But in the enthusiasm of the campaign to discredit Mr. Wilson, someone would expose the real job of the diplomat's wife, Valerie, a C.I.A. officer who had worked under cover for two decades, hiding her position from even close friends and relatives.

Finally, Richard Stevenson on what effect the scandal will have on the presidency:

His former secretary of state, most of his closest aides and a parade of other senior officials have testified to a grand jury. His political strategist has emerged as a central figure in the case, as has his vice president's chief of staff. His spokesman has taken a pounding for making public statements about the matter that now appear not to be accurate.

For all that, it is still not clear what the investigation into the leak of a C.I.A. operative's identity will mean for President Bush. So far the disclosures about the involvement of Karl Rove, among others, have not exacted any substantial political price from the administration. And nobody has suggested that the investigation directly implicates the president.


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