Karl and Karma

Down here in Texas, many of us have almost given up on obscure concepts like justice and the ephemeral notion of karma. Since the late 1970s, we have watched Karl Rove push so hard on ethical boundaries that he has turned lying into a conventional political tactic. Instead of being prosecuted or humiliated, he has risen in the Republican Party. And there are already signs he is a few steps ahead of the federal investigators trying to resolve the mysteries of the Valerie Plame affair.

He always starts his evasions by parsing language and law. Rove's attorney has quickly conceded that his client spoke to Matt Cooper of Time, and other reporters. This is the presidential advisor sending forth his minions to frame the ensuing discussion.

"Of course, I talked to the reporters," the reasoning goes, "I've got the same First Amendment rights in the White House as every other citizen."

Positioning is Rove's favorite political sport and that's the purpose of this admission. It's a metaphorical "so what" shrug of the shoulders. But the sub text of Rove's words shows another strategy. The presidential advisor undoubtedly knows he is guilty of a federal crime but, for obvious political reasons, he needs it to be something less than treason. Perjury will be his default position. The political harm to be done to his president and his party for a conviction of treason is incalcuable.

And the federal investigators appear to be making a case for perjury. The American Prospect has already reported that, in his 2003 appearances before the federal grand jury, Rove said he had not spoken to reporters about Valerie Plame's identity until after her name was published in Robert Novak's column. Unfortunately for Rove, early reports indicate that the e-mails being turned over to the federal prosecutor by Time magazine apparently show Rove was in communication with reporter Matt Cooper well in advance of Novak's piece. Sending such e-mails directly from his West Wing computer is not the kind of mistake Rove can be expected to make but Cooper's identification of his source through Time communications ought to facilitate a simple case of perjury against Rove, particularly if Judith Miller of the New York Times can be compelled to stop protecting a source who appears to have betrayed the entire country.

If, in fact, Karl Rove did testify before a federal grand jury it is possibly an indication he was not originally a target of the investigation; or that he had bad legal advice. If investigators notified him that he was a target, he ought not to have appeared to answer their questions. His counsel should have told him to stay away and let them make their case on whatever evidence they might gather. Rove, though, ever the practitioner of a dark craft, knows that his appearance would eventually leak out and that reporters would analyze its meaning.

The legal points of the case against Rove and the other White House Plame leakers almost seem irrelevant. Justice is a kind of bonus if it ever comes to this case. There has never been any real denial by the Bush administration that people working closely with the president made a concerted effort to contact reporters and promote the idea of writing stories about an undercover CIA agent. And yet nobody on the right seems to have any outrage. The confessed unethical behavior, regardless of whether it is legally treason or not, ought to be enough to prompt the "accountability" president to send Rove and his consorts home.

The simple, unavoidable truth is that Karl Rove orchestrated the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. No one who knows this man and has watched him work has any doubt that Rove came up with the idea of the leak and then set the plan in motion. Having watched him as he leaked, lied, obfuscated, and denied for political goals over the past 25 years, my own conviction of Rove's involvement is unwavering. He has a history of seeking revenge and the Texas landscape is cluttered with political cadavers he left behind before departing for the big show. In every campaign Rove has managed, there have been questionable tactics and unethical attacks. None of them has happened by accident because nothing that happens in Rove's world is accidental. And neither was the eposure of Ms. Plame. It was no more spontaneous, independent, or random than the campaign run by the Swift Boat Veterans.

In Texas, progressives are hoping Rove's trail of tears has led him to his own inevitable sadness. And there is the slight chance that the awful weight of all of his wrongs has finally begun to crush Karl Rove. There is a moment of hubris in most great achievements. But I am skeptical that this is Karl's moment. His justice may be long overdue. Unfortunately, however, in Rove's case, the law has been about as reliable as karma.