Despite a hasty Supreme Court nomination that many say was timed to distract from the scandal surrounding Karl Rove, calls from the American people are steadily growing: “Fire Karl Rove!”
The scandal involves mounting evidence that Rove — White House chief of staff and a main Bush administration strategist — together with Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis Libby, leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press.
“Whether it’s a criminal offense or not, it’s an act against the national security of the United States,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said recently. “No person who has divulged the name of a CIA covert operative should be in the employ of the United States government.”
Valerie Plame is the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former National Security Council Senior Director for African Affairs. Wilson was sent to Africa in 2002 to inspect the authenticity of reports that Niger had supplied uranium to Iraq. When Wilson returned, he said there was no evidence of any sales of items used in the production of weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, Bush made the claim in his 2003 State of the Union speech and used it as a reason to invade Iraq.
Wilson later wrote a New York Times op-ed article which debunked Bush’s already-discredited assertion about the uranium sales, thus implicating Bush in lying to sell the war.
It is widely believed that Plame’s identity as a CIA operative — which was top secret, as she was then still sent on covert missions — was leaked by the White House as political revenge against her husband.
Under a 1982 law, it is a federal crime to reveal the name of a CIA agent. In 2003, when the leak was first reported, the Republican leadership was united in condemning what they saw as a “treasonous” act.
Ed Gillespie, then-chair of the Republican National Committee, said on the MSNBC news talk show “Hardball,” “To reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative is abhorrent. It should be a crime, and it is a crime.” It would be worse than Watergate, he said.
“The disclosure of Ms. Plame’s name was an unprecedented and shameful event in American history,” ten former CIA officers recently wrote to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
In 2003, President Bush repeatedly promised to fire anyone within his administration who was involved. Now the President has refused to directly answer questions regarding whether he would honor his original pledge. A growing movement is demanding that Bush fire Karl Rove.
“Is President Bush going to stand by his word, or stand by his man?” asks a video posted on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s website.
At press time, Moveon.Org had raised $119,000 out of a $125,000 goal, to air their new ad demanding Rove’s firing.
But Bush’s problems do not end there. After well over 1,700 U.S. soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the war, the Rove scandal and the Downing Street Memo are refocusing the American people on whether Bush lied — in the words of the memo, whether evidence was “fixed” to justify the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The Rove case also focuses attention on other questions. How much did George Bush know? His political career has paralleled Rove’s for years. Could Rove have leaked an agent’s name to the press without Bush’s knowledge? If Bush knew, he would be considered an accomplice. It would also make him a liar. His spokesman specifically told reporters in 2003 that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak.
And, some ask: If Bush did not know, what does that say about the relationship of power in the administration?
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor appointed to determine exactly who was responsible for the leak, questioned Bush in the Oval Office in 2004 with Bush’s lawyer present.
While evidence grows against Rove, including Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper’s statements that Rove gave him Plame’s name, the investigation continues, and pressure grows from Democrats and grassroots organizing groups like MoveOn.org for Rove’s removal.