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October 03, 2003



Rove's denial isn't so "flat" -- the WH line is now simply that Rove didn't leak or condone the leaking of classified material, not that he didn't mention Plame to reporters:

Q Ambassador Wilson says that he was told by a reporter that Karl Rove said, "Wilson's wife is fair game." I know you've spoken with Karl, does he deny that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? [Translation: "Oh shit, buy time!"]

Q Does he deny that he ever used those words, "Wilson's wife is fair game"?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the issue here, and this came up earlier, the issue here is whether or not someone leaked classified information. That is a serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest. I have seen comments from Mr. Wilson. And I have seen him back away from those comments later. It seems to be, he said one thing previously about Karl Rove, and then he backed away from it. And now he's saying other things. There's a changing of the issue here all of a sudden. The issue here is did someone leak classified information, and, if so, who was that person, and then the appropriate action should be taken.

Q You have said previously from the podium that these types of accusations against Karl are "ridiculous."


Q On the very line that Ambassador Wilson says that Karl used, "Wilson's wife is fair game," is that wrong?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've just said, he has said a lot of things and then backed away from what --

Q Scott, I want to know --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and then backed away from what he said. So I think part of your role is to do some further questioning there.

Q I'm asking you, that's why we're asking, to make sure -- I mean, we don't want to continue to report something that's inaccurate.

MR. McCLELLAN: If Mr. Wilson -- well, he made some comments earlier and then he backed away from them, and those comments were reported previously.

Q Does Karl deny that he said that?

MR. McCLELLAN: What were the words again? [Translation: "Oh shit, they're not going for it -- buy time!"]

Q "Wilson's wife is fair game."

MR. McCLELLAN: And who did he say it to? [Translation: "Buy more time!"]

Q To a reporter that then repeated it to Wilson.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is -- the issue here -- what is the issue here? Did someone leak classified information? Is that the issue?

Q It could be about changing the tone, too.

MR. McCLELLAN: All of a sudden now, we're trying to change the topic in this room.

Q There's a legal issue, there's an ethical issue, too. Going after a man's wife is unethical.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me make it very clear. As I said previously, he was not involved, and that allegation is not true in terms of leaking classified information, nor would he condone it. So let me be very clear. But I'm not going to -- we're not going to go down every single allegation that someone makes. That's just -- we can do that all day long. Let's stay focused on what the issue is here.


Can we have a "For heaven's sake"? Andrea Mitchell realized she was not one of the "Insidery Six" because she was called AFTER Novak published. Phone calls by anyone, including Rovew, made after Novak published have not been the topic.

If some reporter wants to pretend that we are having a criminal investigation over the "fair game" phrase, well, have fun. But I think there is a general understanding that Rove made calls AFTER publication. So what? Tha is not a leak, and it is not illegal.

It does suggest that the WH was trying to manage the view of Wilson, and that Rove was involved - "Hey, did you see this story by Novak".

It suggests that sr. WH folks were aware of the Novak story. But it does not mean McClellan lied when he denied Rove's involvement in the illegal part of the incident.


But note that McClellan doesn't say, "Karl may have talked to some people after the leak occurred."

He retreats all the way back to "he didn't leak classified information." Which implies the I-didn't-know-it-was-classified defense that's been popping up as a WH defense strategy.

I'll let the FBI et al. figure out what's a crime and what isn't. I'm just interested in figuring out what happened.

How feasible do you really think it is that Rove knew nothing of the leak to Novak, then read it in the paper and thought, "Hey, what a great idea! I'll make sure some other reporters don't miss this angle!"


I take issue with your conclusion: “And as we pointed out earlier, Dick Cheney gave his Meet The Press talk linking Saddam to 9/11, which the President contradicted several days later.”

Cheney told Russert that we don’t know that there’s a connection between Hussein and 9/11. A few days later, after the uproar, Bush said that the US has no evidence of any connection. But there’s no difference between what Cheney and Bush were saying.

What has confused the pundits is that Cheney made his statement in the midst of a brief overview of the identical strategies and motivations of Hussein and al Qaeda. In a recent interview in Le Figaro French philosopher Andre Glucksmann gives the longer version as follows:
“Indeed, the secular terrorism of Saddam Hussein and the religious terrorism of Bin Laden employ the same methods of war against civilians and pursue the same objective of total domination… The atheistic nostalgias of the tyrant of Baghdad have something in common with those of the Bin Ladenists in their identical fascination with destruction, their identical rejection of America and the free circulation of ideas and beliefs. In short, in the hatred of individual liberty. Yesterday, Khomeini; today, Saddam and Bin Laden: three nihilist warlords whose ulterior objectives are cut from the same cloth. They all aim at the same goal, to become caliph, to rule over all the Arabs (then all the Muslims), to control Riyadh, its oil, its finances and, above all, its theological authority (Mecca).”

According to Cheney, despite the differences between the secular Hussein and the religious Bin Laden, there are reasons to believe that they’d work together to achieve short-term goals. But the US does not know if they cooperated in 9/11. (There are plenty of reasons, the foremost being operational security, to believe that all aspects of 9/11 planning and implementation were closely held even within al Qaeda. But, given the hopes and desires of the bad guys, there is the remote possibility that there could have been some coordination.)

What’s frustrating is that thoughtful discussion and argument are overlooked by simple media folks who take up the talking points that the administration’s political opponents parrot. Snippets taken out of context are overanalyzed and under-understood.

Brad DeLong

This is too strange to be believed.

The _Washington Post_ reports that Joseph Wilson says that Karl Rove condoned the leak. But the reason Joseph Wilson believes that Karl Rove condoned the leak is that reporters (_Washington Post_ reporters?) have told him that Rove said that "Joe Wilson's wife is fair game." The _Washington Post_ *knows* more than Wilson does about this. The _Washington Post_ knows who the principal leakers are, and knows whether Rove did in fact say the "fair game" line.

And then I cannot tell whether Fineman is saying, "Rove did it," or whether he is saying, "There are people inside the White House who hate Rove so much they want to manufacture evidence that he did it."

I suppose the leaks from the White House staff are good. They indicate that not everybody in the White House staff thinks that exposing covert operatives is a fun thing to do...


Hey, prof, thanks for swinging by. And you have done a great job deconstructing the WaPo - do they have a premium edition that comes with a Dana Milbank autographed Decoder Ring? I want one - this is the craziest way to read the news I can recall. Although it was weird with Starr, and Watergate too.

Anyway, I think Rove probably did say "Fair game", but the Andrea Mitchell case is key - if Rove spoke after the Novak piece was out, so what?

If this had been my story, and I wanted to continue to hint about Rove, I would have printed the Wilson accusation, the WH denial ("flat denial"!, which I thought was Rove via McClellan, so why are they strengthening it?), and then followed with a Dem staffer expressing concern avbout Rove and wanting tosee his phone logs.

Instead they switch over to Libby.

Still, putting Rove in the story may be the hint in itself.

Cecil Turner

You guys are a load better at this than I'll ever be. I heard part of that exchange and it was like being in a Charlie Brown special when the adults do the "wah wah wah wah" thing. But I think I've managed to translate one part:

"Please say something stupid."
"I'd really rather not get fired."

"Did Karl Rove ever say something stupid?"
"Uh, no comment."

"If something stupid were said, would you tell us?"
"Probably not, but please don't quote me on that."

"You know, we can make your job hell?"
"Not if I get fired first for saying something stupid."

Then I fell asleep. I desperately need one of those rings.



Jon Henke

Apropos of very little, I just wanted to mention one quick thing:

"Dick Cheney gave his Meet The Press talk linking Saddam to 9/11, which the President contradicted several days later."

- - -Cheney said "We don't know".

Bush said "We have no evidence..."

Doesn't sound like a correction to me.
Seems like they were pretty much saying the same thing.


We are sticking TIME here for future reference.


Even TIME admits to a news management moticve, although they favor "revenge":

That was news enough, but Wilson went a crucial step further. He implied that Bush either was wrong about the yellowcake or ignored information that "did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq." In the view of the hard-liners, the gravity of the charge demanded a response in kind. In the days after Wilson's essay appeared, government officials began to steer reporters away from Wilson's conclusions, raising questions about his veracity and the agency's reasons for sending him in the first place. They told reporters that Wilson's evidence was thin, said his homework was shoddy and suggested that he had been sent to Niger by the CIA only because his wife had nominated him for the job.

The double-barreled leak had two targets. One was to tag Wilson as a tired, second-rate diplomat who couldn't get a job without his wife's help. The leakers also wanted to drop the hint that the CIA had purposefully chosen someone it believed would come back with a skeptical finding.

To the hard-liners, Wilson was exactly the wrong guy to send on a WMD hunt, particularly when it concerned Iraq. He had worked on President Clinton's national-security staff, contributed $2,000 to John Kerry's presidential campaign and made a donation to Al Gore's presidential bid in 2000 (as did his wife). And even though Wilson had given money to Bush that year as well, the hard-liners believed his instincts matched those of most people at the cia—moderate, internationalist and, above all, too slow to see the enemy forming over the horizon.

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