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

Sunday, November 06, 2005 A White House Without Rove? -- Nov. 14, 2005 -- Page 1

He's not gone yet, but his Texas-size ambitions are giving way to smaller goals

He's weary. his wife and only child, who is approaching college, miss him. He has monstrous legal bills. His unique bond with the President is under stress. His most important work is done.

Karl Rove's colleagues don't know exactly when it will happen, but they are already laying out the reasons they will give for the departure of the man President George W. Bush dubbed the architect. A Roveless Bush seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. But that has changed as the President's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff remains embroiled in the CIA leak scandal.

Despite Rove's flashes of ebullience in recent days and the insistence of friends that he is out of legal jeopardy, several of the most important lawyers who deal with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said they saw more clues last week that Fitzgerald is continuing to look into the possibility of charging Rove with lying to investigators or the grand jury or both. If that happens, Rove almost certainly would resign immediately, as did I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, when Libby was indicted two weeks ago. Otherwise, Rove is likely to wait for a chance to minimize the perception that he is being hounded out or leaving under a cloud. And he's got one constituency rooting for him, the conservatives who rely on him to be their voice. If he leaves, he will not be alone. Several well-wired Administration officials predict that within a year, the President will have a new chief of staff and press secretary, probably a new Treasury Secretary and maybe a new Defense Secretary.

The expected departures are among a host of new signs suggesting that Bush's sixth year in office—the last one before midterm elections and a turn in attention toward the 2008 race to succeed him—will be very different from his first five. The sunny optimist who loved to think big is now facing polls in which for the first time a majority of Americans say they do not trust him. "It's like it's twilight in America," says one frustrated conservative.

At the White House, aides are meeting every day to work out a new agenda. A possible centerpiece is a road show next year to promote a plan for simplifying the million-plus words of the tax code, one of Bush's most reliable applause winners on the stump in 2004. Some aides have visions of the local-news-friendly "tax families" who appeared with Bush back in 2001, as he promised that if you pay taxes, his plan would give you relief. But in one indication of the kind of autumn it's been, the tax-reform commission he appointed to lay the groundwork for new tax legislation reported back last week with an unsalable hash that one senior Administration official called "a dog." So White House and Treasury officials will have to rewrite it, stripping out, among other things, a proposal to scale back the politically sacrosanct home-mortgage tax break, before Bush spells out particulars in his State of the Union address in January. With foreign travel and the holidays eating up the end of this year, his advisers concede that Bush has little chance of getting back his mojo before then.

Bush plans to make post-Thanksgiving trips to the Southwest to talk up border security. His aides hope to set the stage for legislation that would both crack down on illegal entry, which appeals to conservatives, and make it easier for undocumented people to become guest workers, which tends to appeal to Hispanic voters. G.O.P. House members who fear that Bush's guest-worker plan could tear the party apart say Administration officials have recently assured them that the White House would support a separate border-security bill first rather than insist on a linked package. Doing so could make it harder for Bush to later get the guest-worker program, which he once thought would give substance to his rhetoric of compassion. That is one of the many ways that Bush, who has always talked about the presidency as a vehicle for doing great things, may have to make concessions to what he once derisively called small ball.

"A President who loves to hit home runs and wants to be remembered for swinging for the fences is being forced to take base hits," says a former White House official. Since 1999 Bush and Rove have imagined engineering a decades-long G.O.P. majority in America. But Republicans fret these days about losing the House or Senate in next year's midterm elections. So if Rove does head out, he may leave behind a wounded President who faces the prospect of having to abandon some of the pair's Texas-size dreams. Don't cry for Rove when time comes


November 6, 2005

It's been a long time since the president of the United States has been openly booed by crowds abroad. Thousands of protesters in neighboring, largely friendly Latin America called President George W. Bush a "fascist" Friday and, interestingly, a "terrorist." We have never before had the chief of staff of a sitting U.S. vice president indicted for lying to a grand jury.

These not unrelated, history-making events are but the latest ticks on the clock running down on the second Bush term.

Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. The president journeyed to Argentina on Friday to promote the Central America Free Trade Agreement with leaders from the 34 concerned nations in the region. Organized protesters who opposed Bush's push for an expanded U.S. role in Latin America marched in the streets of Argentina's key resort city hosting the fourth such summit of the Americas.

This session was played against a growing bitterness between Bush and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who has been accused of forging a bloc with Cuba and others against U.S. interests.

Unable to avoid the heckling, Bush faced it head-on with a customary aside to host President Nestor Kirchner: "It's not easy to host all these countries - particularly not easy to host, perhaps, me. But thank you for doing it."

Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Entreaties to "Go Home, America!" have not been heard in modern times in a somewhat pacified Latin America since the ending of the Cold War. Yet, the Bush administration appears to be squandering the nation's reputation, if not its capital, in this largely Christian region with burgeoning democracies. Amid the cries against U.S. expansionism were heard shouts against the Bush war in Iraq.

Chavez, no friend of the White House, led the protesters in rallying against Bush and his war and economic policies. "Peoples of the Americas are rising once again, saying no to imperialism, saying no to fascism, saying no to intervention - and saying no to death." CNN reported that Chavez tweaked "Washington's nose by embracing Cuban President Fidel Castro, who was not invited to the summit because he is not democratically elected." The U.S. State Department downplayed Chavez's role

Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. The fiasco in Argentina is but another indication of the heavy weather the Bush administration is encountering in the wake of the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald charged Cheney's key aide and confidant with lying to the grand jury investigating the disclosure of the name of an undercover CIA agent.

Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. The Valerie Plame case has involved not only news reporters and columnists, but key White House officials suspected of leaking the agent's name to punish her ambassador husband, Joe Wilson. In addition to Libby, who before his resignation was the right-hand man to the most powerful vice president in U.S. history, the prosecutor has centered his investigation on Rove, the senior White House adviser to Bush.

These two are perhaps the most influential White House aides since John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman served President Richard Nixon as the "Berlin Wall" during the days of the Watergate scandal. After lengthy delays and trials, both presidential aides were convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, and each served 18 months of prison time.

Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Little about the Watergate coverup case, some charge, matched the unfolding Valerie Plame leak case. The former involved a White House-authorized burglary that threatened the rights of the major opposition party in a supposed democracy. The Plame case, at bottom, involves the possibility that the White House fabricated evidence to deceive the American public and its representatives into taking the nation into war in Iraq under false pretenses.

Rove, the president's master of false appearances, is still under the prosecutor's glass but remains free to manipulate White House reality. His are the strings that doubtlessly have the president whirling like a dervish to divert attention away from the CIA leak probe. Last week, among other staged events, Bush attempted to scare the pants off the public by calling for the United States to patrol the streets in case of a bird flu pandemic in America.

Karl Rove did not make the trip to Argentina. This is a good thing.
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.