In a July 13 New York Times article, staff writer David Sanger advanced the White House spin that President Bush could decline to fire White House senior adviser Karl Rove over Rove's apparent outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and still comply with his pledge to take "appropriate action" against leakers in the Plame case.
In advancing this spin, Sanger selectively quoted from a press conference in which Bush responded to a question about whether he stood "by his pledge to fire anyone found" to have "leaked the agent's name." Sanger then quoted unnamed White House officials saying that if Rove merely identified Plame -- which Rove reportedly did when he told Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife worked at the CIA -- rather than "named" her, and Bush took no action, he would not be violating his pledge to fire the leaker.
But in repeating the White House officials' assertion without challenge, Sanger ignored several instances in which Bush and White House press secretary Scott McClellan made a broader pledge that anyone leaking classified information -- and not just the actual name of a CIA agent -- would be fired.
But Atrios thought that Sanger let some light into the debate when he wrote:
The entire contretemps at the White House this week centers on whether Mr. Rove tried to discredit Mr. Wilson by suggesting that his mission to Niger was the product of nepotism, and that Ms. Wilson had arranged for it. Why a mission to Niger would be such a plum assignment is still a mystery, but the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a report last year, quotes a State Department official as saying that Ms. Wilson had suggested sending her husband. She denies it.
I guess he didn't want to take the time to list and explain all the objectionable aspects of the long, long piece. I know how he feels so I'm just going point out the things that immediately jumped out at me:
- Mr. Bush's loyalty has limits, however, especially for those unlucky enough not to be part of the tight inner circle of this White House. Paul H. O'Neill discovered what happens to those on the outside looking in when he was abruptly removed as treasury secretary. Others have suffered similar fates.
He's comparing Rove's situation to O'Neil's? Let me just say that people reading that would have to completely forgotten who Paul O'Neil is and the circumstances of his employment in the administration to get through that sentence without spitting their coffee all over their lap.
- on Tuesday the Republican National Committee put in motion the political machine Mr. Rove has built up over the last four and a half years to rally to his defense. It offered detailed rebuttals to any suggestion that Mr. Rove had done anything wrong, and that there was an organized White House effort to leak Ms. Wilson's identity in retaliation for criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV.
Sanger is reminding us of the First Rule of Journalism when he dares to mention the "political machine" that rallies to Rove's defense without explaining exactly how that machine works. He's in strict fan boy mode here but still smart enough to know not to reveal all Rove's tricks, which would start to look bad not only for Rove but also for the guy with the byline at the top of the story. Wanna buy some soap? Sanger's selling.
- The entire contretemps at the White House this week centers on whether Mr. Rove tried to discredit Mr. Wilson by suggesting that his mission to Niger was the product of nepotism, and that Ms. Wilson had arranged for it. Why a mission to Niger would be such a plum assignment is still a mystery, but the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a report last year, quotes a State Department official as saying that Ms. Wilson had suggested sending her husband. She denies it.
No... the entire contretemps at the WH this week centers on whether Rove outed a CIA analyst (knowingly or otherwise) while he was clearly trying to discredit a critic of the administration's deceitful strategy to sway public opinion regarding a unilateral invasion of Iraq. That the policy was deceitful and possibly illegal has been confirmed by the Downing Street Memos, which are also a big part of the "whole contretemps," but which are never mentioned in the context of Rove's situation, which is just the latest crack in the scheme's foundation. In fact, Paul O'Neil was one of the first whistle blowers to make this case but he fell victim to Rove's "political machine" and its corporate media arm, which Sanger dare not mention. I'm starting to wonder if his subconscious, eager to be caught after so many years of doing this kind of thing for Team BushCo, didn't wedge O'Neil into the story for that purpose. Again, that would be the uncharitable way to look at it. Maybe Sanger just doesn't remember O'Neil as more than the guy who wrote a book with "loyalty" in the title after Cheney fired him. And this story is about loyalty, right? BushCo's deep loyalty to his friends, if not his country. And really, what more can you ask for in a president?
UPDATE: I just saw that Sanger had help from Stevenson and old campaign hand, David Johnston. I bet Stevenson's fingerprints are all over this quote that ends the piece:
But those who know Mr. Bush say that sticking with his old friend would be completely consistent with his personality.
"He is as set in his way about people as he is to his principles," David Gergen, an adviser to many presidents and now a lecturer at Harvard, said in Washington on Tuesday. "Karl is his right arm."
A former official who has worked for Mr. Bush said: "This president is Mr. Alamo. He sees the hordes coming over the hill and he heads for the barricades. And not to raise a white flag."
Ooooooh. That's action-packed!