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Thursday, July 21, 2005


Plame Name Game

I had, honestly, meant to tackle last week's question, but I found myself rather short on free time. Additionally, I had found myself with no clear opinion on what to say about the whole mess. Obviously Rove did something he shouldn't have. Whether he should stay or go would (in a perfect world) depend on his motive, and on his knowledge of the situation.

One of the points of contention being batted about is whether Rove identified Ms. Plame by name. Examination of the relevant statute suggests that point is irrelevant. It is a criminal offense for an official with access to classified information to provide ANY data that leads to the identification of a covert operative. Rove, in identifying Ambasador Wilson's wife as some one "who works for the CIA on WMD", Rove provided more than enough information for anyone to find out who Plame really was, as this report demonstrates.

Rove's story neatly circumvents that problem, however. The White House Advisor claims that he didn't come by Plame's identity via priveleged info, but from yet another reporter. It is an American ideal that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, so we'll assume that Rove's story is true (lacking evidence to the contrary). That still doesn't satify the question of intent. If, as Wilson suggests, Rove was acting in retribution it is obvious he should be asked to step down. Not because retribution is an ignoble motive, but due to the consequences of his actions. Rove was used as a point of confirmation about Plame's identity which makes him an unwitting accessory to a crime. On the other hand, Rove may have had a ligitamate interest in demonstrating that Wilson was lying about the circumstances surround his fact finding mission to Niger.

All of that hinges on events occuring in a perfect world. The world is far from perfect. Rove has friends in the higest places. It is likely that we'll never know exactly what happened and how he was involved, so it's unliked--baring seriously damaging evidence, that Rove would ever face criminal charges. Rove is an icon of everything the opposition finds wrong with the present administration, so it is unlikely that he'd ever get a fair and honest hearing in the court of public opinion. In the end, that court is the only one likely to matter. So long as Karl Rove remains no more a liability to the administration than he already is there's no reason for him to be removed from his post. Firing him, or accepting his resignation, would be a sign of weakness.

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