News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Friday, October 28, 2005 A 'brain' drain if Rove goes

Ellis Henican

October 28, 2005

So this is what happens when Karl Rove is otherwise occupied:

FEMA fumbles Katrina.

Harriet Miers collapses, supremely.

And people keep noticing that soldiers keep dying in Iraq.

No wonder George W. Bush now has an approval rating almost as low as the Asian bird flu's! His most trusted political adviser hasn't been whispering in his ear day and night!

Karl Rove, architect of the president's campaign victories and deputy chief of staff - "Bush's brain," some in Washington like to call him - has had his own big troubles to worry about. Instead of watching his boss' back like he used to, Rove has been struggling to protect his own endangered butt.

Blame Patrick Fitzgerald for this. The Republican special counsel, who has been investigating the leak of a CIA agent's name, is finally finishing his two-year probe.

Indictments could very well be announced this morning.

And two names are most likely to be typed near the top of Page 1: Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's hard-charging chief of staff, and Karl Rove.

Just watch what happens if either becomes an "alleged felon:" He'll be bum-rushed out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. quicker than Hillary Clinton from a Federalist Society brunch.

And that's pretty quick.

Deep personal loyalty is one thing Bush is famous for. Risking his own fragile legacy to stand by an indicted aide is not.

Libby and Rove arrived for work as usual at the White House yesterday. Rove attended the senior staff meeting, like he always does. Libby was tied up in a national security briefing.

They wore nice suits. They exchanged polite greetings with the staff. And nobody was fooled by any of it. This was the eve of destruction. All anyone else could do was duck.

Back when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was set to explode, Clinton administration officials used to claim all was "business as usual" in the White House. No one believed them either.

It's actually hard to imagine the next three years of the Bush administration without the crafty mind and nimble arm twists of Karl Rove. Not just Karl Rove distracted. Even worse. Karl Rove gone.

Who will bollix the Democrats in Congress? Who will placate the Religious Right? Who will think for the president?

Democrats, so often beaten by Rove, will take their chances - and hope for the best. As far as they're concerned, they'll take upheaval over order any day.

We've all gotten a glimpse of it these past few weeks, and the view has not been pretty. The administration has stumbled from crisis to crisis, greeting each new one with another tone-deaf response.

The Miers nomination, which fell apart so spectacularly, was only the latest. Of course, Rove had little to do with choosing her. He's much too shrewd to have flubbed like that.

Miers was the president's personal choice. In consultation with his wife, Laura, Bush picked a crony - his personal lawyer and the White House counsel. He was sure her paper-thin resume and murky views would be overlooked beside his dazzling endorsement.

"I know her heart," he said.

Which was like applying for college and telling the admissions committee: "No, I didn't take the SAT ... No, you can't see my high-school grades ... But here's a fine letter of recommendation from a very important guy. Won't that be enough?"

Uh, maybe not.

But the Miers mess wasn't the only Rove-less malfunction in the past few weeks. It's been one glitch after another with "Bush's brain" on the fritz.

Like the 2,000th dead-soldier milestone this week in Iraq. Pentagon officials pleaded that the number meant nothing. In fact, it was pounded in the media and by the growing chorus of war foes. Support for the war dipped even more.

The Katrina fiasco was another huge misstep. Washington took four days to deliver the first bottle of water to a desperate New Orleans, while Bush heaped praise on the incompetent FEMA boss: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

If this is the result of a distracted Karl Rove, mark my words: Things will be even dicier if the man is actually gone.
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.


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