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Karl Rove

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Newt for our Sins.

“There is no more singularly ridiculous figure in American politics. Nobody is close. He squandered an epic congressional victory by waking up on the morning with a Napoleonic complex that made Napoleon look like a Carthusian. He had a comely aide problem that would have embarrassed the Borgias. He ran for president as a kind of elaborate marketing scheme and book tour. And he’s still seen as a political man of ideas. And his ideas still pretty much blow goats.”

Another reason I’ve been stepping away from the politics posts – the estimable Charlie Pierce has this beat covered. Here he eviscerates the Politico-Industrial complex’s continued infatuation with gasbag Newt Gingrich. “Not to stick up for Karl Rove but, Jesus H. Christ on a special episode of Blossom, there is no serious comparison to be made.” Naturally, CNN — home of Serious People™ like David Gergen — has recently picked him up as a political correspondent.

The Change is Us. It Has to Be.

So, how about that Election Night? Once you factor in that the ridiculous gerry-mandering of 2010, coupled with Obama’s terrible, coattail-cutting first debate performance, killed any chance of Democrats retaking the House, Tuesday night went about as well as it possibly could. Every swing state except North Carolina swung blue. The Senate kept some of its best progressives (Sanders, Brown) and added a few more very promising contenders (Warren, Baldwin). Gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization both made important footholds. California moved to end Howard Jarvis’ Tax Revolt, now in its fourth decade. And the Republicans — again, the House notwithstanding — were routed, and their cruel Ayn Rand-inflected ideology decisively repudiated at the polls.

All things considered, it was a great night, and all the more for what it portended about elections to come. Ever-growing in recent years, the Rising American Electorate — unmarried women, people under 30, people of color — showed its power on Tuesday night, displaying its centrality as the backbone of our new Democratic coalition and sending Karl Rove, Bill O’Reilly, and other White Men of a Certain Age into very public paroxysms of despair. (Good times. Enjoy that 2004 experience, y’all.) And while the Republican base is looking long in the tooth these days, our Democratic coalition is only continuing to grow.

As I noted in 2010, even despite the dismal showing then, demography is destiny, and the rest of the country is and will continue to experience Californication. Today we got the first taste of what a really multicultural America will be like at the polls. See also David Simon of The Wire and Treme on this: “A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point.

So, all in all, 2012 was a great victory for we progressives, and things are suddenly looking up. But, of course, we’ve been here before.

I really hope President Obama and his closest advisors are looking at the same demographic realities as the rest of us, and that he decides to spend his second term governing closer to what he promised back in 2008. But I trusted in hope last time around, and, needless to say, that didn’t get it done.

The fact of the matter is our Democratic standard-bearer, at least up to this point, is behaving and governing in a fashion that is clearly to the right of the growing Democratic base that got him elected and now re-elected. No more benefit of the doubt: It is up to us to put pressure on this administration to make sure they hold to the promises they’ve made. That work has to begin right now.

We all know what’s coming up first, and Glenn Greenwald already laid out the dismal pattern we can expect — and need to break — on the Grand Bargain front. True to form, Peter Orszag — and what does it say about our president’s priorities that he staffed up his first administration with this kind of jackass? — has already sent out the let’s-fiddle-with-social-security trial balloon. Erskine Bowles’ name has been aggressively floated as the new SecTreas and High Inquisitor in the matter of the Deficit Witches. By all accounts, President Obama seems to think he can play Nixon-in-China on Social Security and Medicare. But this is not at all why voters gave him a Democratic mandate, and that’s exactly the sort of wrong-headed notion, coupled with Katrina, that turned the electorate against Dubya in 2005.

In his victory speech on Tuesday night, President Obama continued his recent turn toward the progressive rhetoric of citizenship and self-government. He said: “The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.”

On one hand, I should be overjoyed that the President has taken this rhetorical turn, since it’s something I’ve been pushing for here for as long as GitM has been running. At the same time, President Obama has shown over the years an irritating penchant for co-opting progressive rhetoric only to serve centrist, corporatist, and/or neoliberal ends. It would be a shame if we let that happen again.

A presidency really concerned with fostering civic responsibility and self-government would look quite different than the one we have experienced up to this point. In the strictest and most literal sense, it would acknowledge, sometime before the second-term election night, that both our voting and campaign finance systems have been broken for decades, and require a significant overhaul. But, even more than that, a philosophy of encouraging citizenship and self-government presupposes different priorities and different policies.

First and foremost, to paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, it would recognize that necessitous men and women are not free men and women, and work harder to ensure everyone has the basic economic liberty to choose their own path through life. It would not, to take just one example, make the center of their housing reform a foreclosure program designed to help banks rather than homeowners.

An administration advocating citizenship and self-government would do more to emphasize the fundamental importance of education at all levels, and invest mightily not just in schools and teachers but in after-school programs, early childhood education, anti-poverty and anti-hunger initiatives, and all the other efforts that can help alleviate the various and persistent environmental factors limiting children’s potential in America. That requires a significantly different and more comprehensive approach to the education issue than simply competitive grants that reward grant-writing skills and teaching to the test.

It would mean emphasizing a conception of citizenship that is broader and richer than just a world of workers, consumers, and automatons — one that, as per Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herbert Croly, encourages introspection, critical thinking, and self-exploration. This is a hard nut to crack, of course. But at the very least we could fight to give more men and women freedom from the necessities of work to do whatever it is they want to do. We are not just our jobs, or at least we shouldn’t be, unless that’s what we want. That means pushing for a higher minimum wage, equal pay for men and women holding the same job, increasing access to affordable child care, more worker protections, and a shorter work week.

Emphasizing self-government only works if the political system remains accountable to its citizens. That means, along with voting and campaign finance reform, working to break the hold of any particular special interest over the political process — namely, corporate power. But as Matt Stoller, Glenn Greenwald, and others have noted, this administration has perpetuated and even accelerated a two-tiered system of political and economic justice in America. The losses of bankers and corporate elites have been subsidized by the public, even when they clearly broke the law. Meanwhile, the average homeowner and debtor has been disparaged and left on their own underneath a crushing burden — so much so that inequality has actually increased over the last four years. Similarly, the Bush-era torture regime has been swept under the rug, while whistleblowers have been aggressively prosecuted. This will not do.

Meanwhile, even though Obama himself has been a user of illcit drugs, as have the last several presidents, there has been no attempt at all by this administration to undo the drug war destroying communities and putting so many in jail — Quite the contrary, in fact. Nor has this administration done anything to stop the reprehensible practice of private prisons selling their “workforce” as forced labor.

Citizenship is a bond — Being a citizen means that one is part of a larger community and has a stake in it, a sense that we’re all in it together. So emphasizing citizenship means investing in big projects and big ideas that bring the American community together in larger purpose, from a massive rebuilding of America’s infrastructure to a re-energized space program to a WWII-sized response to the climate change crisis. Instead, this administration has trafficked in deficit hysteria for several years, and clearly plans to bring another dose of it in the months and years to come. Meanwhile, the biggest project we have been involved with as a people in recent years is expending blood and treasure on remaking Afghanistan and Iraq. This, it is now clear, has been not just a considerable waste of public resources, but a policy that has resulted in thousands and thousands of lives lost around the world.

Especially in America, where we are tied together not by blood but by an idea, being a citizen also means agreeing on a story — a shared narrative that ties the members of the community together. Because our connection is a story — even a fiction, some might say — it is all the more important that our government uphold the founding values of that story. (As Charles Pierce eloquently argues here, this is why Obama’s re-election is important independent of everything else — it reaffirms our conviction that race is no longer any barrier to the highest office in the land.) But, quite obviously, this administration has not lived up to our founding ideals in many ways, especially with regard to how it has prosecuted the War on Terror. As Mark Danner says in the piece I just linked, “President Obama has taken a position so strongly in favor of unremitting military violence that he has left his Republican rival, struggle though he may to shoulder his way past him, no place to stand.” And let’s be honest: As a party, we Democrats utterly failed to call the president out on this.

So, yes, an emphasis on citizenship and self-government could very well be the basis of a new progressive politics. But, unless he makes a marked shift from his first term, I fear this president is just going to use these words as a new rhetorical toolbox to push for more half-assed, neo-liberal Third Wayisms and lousy Republican ideas from the mid-80′s. We face dire problems in this country, and yet this administration is somehow afraid to even consider the time-tested New Deal ideas, from public works to the HOLC, that worked in the past.

The only way President Obama will make that progressive shift, it is now clear, is if the American people push him in that direction. In this, what Obama said on election night is absolutely correct. No matter what the president has said on the campaign trail, we can no longer hope this administration will bring change we can believe in. He is going to have to be forced into it by a Democratic electorate that refuses to accept anything less. It’s not a coincidence that the two progressive reforms Obama finally embraced this year — same-sex marriage and the DREAM Act — were ones that had passionate, vocal, and uncompromising reform movements behind them.

The election results showed that progressives are and can be ascendant in America. But we need to be much tougher on this administration than we have been in the past. Lip service to good intentions and progressive ideals is no longer satisfactory. And that hard work of keeping this administration in line has to begin right now, before the tentpoles of our current social insurance system are chipped away at by way of Grand Bargain.

Democrats just elected this president for a second time, and we don’t want to see any more compromising with and capitulating to economic terrorists. It is past time for this president and this administration to do right by us.

The GOP Whigs Out.

As this prescient August J. Pollak cartoon predicted way back in 2007, it seems that months if not years of stirring the crazy pot has finally caught up to the GOP. The most recent case in point: Tea partier Christine O’Donnell’s upset win over Mike Castle in Delaware last night, which capped a series of Tea Party upsets in the GOP primaries. Sorry, y’all — You play with matches, you get burned.

Still, the Republicans’ recent intemperate rhetoric aside, one could argue we’re seeing the slow-motion devolution of a movement that began over a half-century ago, with Goldwater in 1964. Since then, Nixon notwithstanding, the Republicans have moved continually to the right, engaging in putsch after putsch to retain the purity of their conservatism (to say nothing of the precious bodily fluids.) Even the much-beloved Ronald Reagan, pretty far right for his day, would be considered a pinko by the standards of the contemporary Tea Partier, as would, in many corners, the Muslim-coddling Dubya.

And so, here we are at the end of the rainbow. The snake is eating itself. Not for nothing is Newt Gingrich, once the Robespierre of this particular Revolution, now frantically swimming right to save his own head — He doesn’t want to end up like Rove. (Speaking of which, Presidents Collins and Snowe, take note: There is no room for you at this table anymore.)

As for the evening’s big winner, well, obviously I think O’Donnell is frighteningly wrong on just about everything, from creationism to onanism, and she’d be an absolute disaster in the Senate. (Good thing she seems unelectable.) Still, however much we disagree, I have to confess a soft spot for anyone who takes their Tolkien seriously.

It’s Not Easy Being Green.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, what better recent release to discuss here at GitM than Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone? Not only do we have two shades of emerald in that last sentence, but we’re now on the cusp of the 7th anniversary of the beginning of the War in Iraq. (It broke out, I well remember, just as I was heading to a March Madness weekend in Vegas.) Alas, I just wish I had a better sitrep to report.

I don’t mean to be too harsh — There’s nothing terribly wrong with this edutainment-y attempt to explain de-Baathification, highly dubious detainee procedures, and most notably the faked WMD casus belli to disinterested laypersons by way of action-thriller. And, in a way, I sorta admire the gutsiness of the the attempt. But, if you were already well aware of these grim developments, and I assume most GitM readers are, then it’s hard to escape the sensation that one is mainly just being talked down to for two hours. Wait, there were no WMD in Iraq? You’re kidding me, right? And, while I’m a great fan of Greengrass’ previous output — I said over and over again in this space that I wish he had stuck with Watchmen, and on the Top 100 films of last decade list, Bloody Sunday was #84, his two Bournes were at #49, and the exemplary United 93 was at #6 — The Green Zone feels quite a bit more leaden than usual.

As with the political edutainment project Greengrass aspired to here, I like the idea of fusing his highly visceral action work (the Bournes) with his fly-on-the-wall discursions into recent history (Sunday, ’93)…on paper. But The Green Zone gets lost somewhere in the interstice, and lacks the gripping power of either of these previous Greengrass grooves. Instead, Zone ends up mostly being two grainy hours of watching Matt Damon run around at night, as he tries to uncover an insidious government plot that our nation has been fully aware of for years…and has chosen to greet with a yawn.

More on that depressing problem in a bit, but, first, to bring y’all up to speed: Loosely based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a non-fiction examination of Dubyaite imbecility and excess in post-war Baghdad, Green Zone begins with a brief sequence set amid the original Shock-and-Awe period of the war, followed by, a few weeks later, a tense raid on a possible WMD storehouse by American soldiers. Led by Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon), this crack MW2-ish assault ends up finding, well, bupkis, just like the time before and the time before that.

To Chief Miller, the problem here is obvious — the intel must be rotten. But, when he brings this up at the next briefing for high-level military muckety-mucks, he is basically told to shut up and do his job. Nonetheless, events soon conspire to introduce Miller to the “Jack of Clubs” in the Dubya deck, a Baathist general (Yigal Naor) with a still-clearly extant power base in Baghdad. And, when our hero digs deeper to figure out how this Jack might know “Magellan,” the top-secret source of all this lousy intel, he soon finds himself trapped — along with a very Judith Miller-y reporter (Amy Ryan) — in a power play between a slimy executive branch bureaucrat (Greg Kinnear, stuck no more) and a grizzled CIA hand (Brendan Gleeson), one that might just end up getting Miller fragged by the creepy Special Forces guy (Jason Isaacs, with great accent) who keeps popping up…

Along the way, there’s a digression into a detainee facility with all the makings of an Abu Ghraib waiting to happen, the tearful homecoming of the administration’s hand-picked Iraqi stooge (re: Ahmed Chalabi), some rather pained attempts to make the decision to de-Baathify an action beat…In other words, Green Zone is basically an attempt to dramatize the Iraq war for people who, for whatever reason, weren’t paying much attention the first time ’round. And, to be fair, it’s done with solid acting all around (including several folks recognizable from United 93), quality production values, and a reasonable degree of versimilitude throughout. (Note also the brief Paul Rieckhoff cameo, which should nip any IAVA whining about dramatic license right in the bud.)

But, for all its edutainmenty truths to tell, Green Zone still ends up feeling rather fake and film-ish to me, perhaps in part because — unlike Greengrass’ other recent histories — it seems to subscribe to a very movie-like All the President’s Men view of things, where, once word of misdeed gets out, justice will be done tho’ the heavens fall. Not to get all Debbie Downer up in here, but that’s not really the way the world works anymore, is it? One of the saddest and scariest moments in the recent and very worthwhile Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America is when Ellsberg explains how he thought everything would change once the Pentagon Papers got out…and then he finds that, in the face of clear and irrefutable evidence of government wrongdoing, most people just shrugged.

This is the uncomfortable horror that Green Zone almost seems willfully designed not to recognize. The whole premise of the movie seems to be that, if We the People knew what really went down in Iraq (or could just be taught via action-movie), we would be totally livid about the corruption involved. But, is the problem really that the American people don’t know what happened in the build-up to Iraq? Or is it that we know pretty well what happened and don’t much seem to care?

Just as with our indefensible dabbling in torture and indefinite detention in recent years, we have known about the lies and incompetence that fueled the Iraq fiasco for awhile now. And, alas, nothing ever happened. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the whole awful, lying lot are still deemed Serious People with Serious Opinions by the nation’s domesticated media watchdogs, who, by the way, have also been studiously ignoring the Blair hearings overseas. Our current president, elected with the largest mandate for change in a generation, has deemed all of this just the sins of the past and refused to “look backward” (or worse, made himself complicit in these Dubya-era crimes.) And life continues, much as it has this past age, with no sense of reckoning whatsoever for the Big Lies that were told.

One of the main reasons Bloody Sunday and United 93 work so well is that they offer complex, nuanced portraits of complicated times. But, as Green Zone moves along, it just ended up feeling more and more like a cartoon to me, and one predicated mainly on wishful thinking. Like I said, I guess I admire what Paul Greengrass & co. were trying do here, but Green Zone as an action film feels flat and mostly uninvolving. And Green Zone as a political enterprise — Iraq War: The Movie!, basically — often seems at best condescending and at worst dangerously naive.

Contempt for Karl.

Remember the persecuted prosecutors? The Senate Judiciary does, voting 12-7 to hold Karl Rove and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress. “Two Republicans, Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley, joined the committee Democrats in the contempt vote. Today’s action means contempt citations are now pending in both the House and Senate.

We’re coming to get you, Karl.

‘We will take the evidence where it leads us. We will not leave any stone unturned.’” Well, Sheryl Crow’s the least of his worries now. Based on the fact that several different current investigations seem to point his way, the White House’s Office of Special Counsel opens an inquiry into Karl Rove, to ascertain if (and how often) he’s violated the Hatch Act. “‘This is a big deal,’ Paul C. Light, a New York University expert on the executive branch, said of [Special Counsel] Bloch’s plan. ‘It is a significant moment for the administration and Karl Rove. It speaks to the growing sense that there is a nexus at the White House that explains what’s going on in these disparate investigations.’” And, in related news, John Edwards calls for Rove’s firing, based on his refusal to testify about the persecuted prosecutors.

Oops, We Did It Again.

“‘You can’t erase e-mails, not today,’ Leahy said in an angry speech on the Senate floor. “They’ve gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there — they just don’t want to produce them. It’s like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes.‘” Breaking last Friday: Just as the persecuted prosecutors case boils to a head, four years of Karl Rove’s e-mail go conveniently missing from the RNC archives. And, also developing on the prosecutorial front, another subpoenaed Justice official, Michael Battle, has contradicted Gonzales’ earlier professions of ignorance on the subject, setting up the Attorney General for a raucous time during his hearings tomorrow: “Gonzales…has been preparing for a pivotal appearance on Tuesday before the committee, including mock testimony sessions lasting up to five hours a day, officials said. Better get that story straight, Al.

Oldboy, Old Boys.

In the past week, I have seen two things that made me want to claw out my eyes Oedipus-style and run screaming down Amsterdam Ave. One was the live octopus scene in Oldboy, a movie that’s worth seeing for the hallway fight sequence alone but, lordy, is hard to watch. (The tongue and teeth parts ain’t much better. I’m learning I just can’t hang with the edgy Korean cinema, but I still find it preferable to grotesque Miike stuff like Ichi the Killer. That film is just plain sick.) The other: Karl Rove rapping. Is it the token black guy standing next to him? NBC’s David Gregory forced to bob up and down in the background? The porcine lack of rhythm and gesticulating of Mr. Rove himself? Or the whole sheer staggering whiteness, bordering on minstrelsy, of the scene taken together? (Paging David Roediger.) Whatever it is, it is straight-up cringeworthy.

Nuclear Subpoenas?

The plot thickens: A battle over executive privilege looms as the Senate handily rejects Dubya’s attempt to evade subpoenas for Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and other administration officials in the persecuted prosecutors dispute. “‘The only thing they would accept is if the Senate did exactly what they told them to, which would be closed-door, limited number of people, limited agenda, no oath and no transcript, so nobody knows exactly what happened,’ Leahy said. ‘So there’s really nothing to look for for a compromise, because that is not acceptable to me.’” For their part, Spineless Specter advocated a capitulation to Dubya, as per the norm, while Republican Charles Grassley supported the Senate’s use of the subpoena power.

Heck of a Job, Al (and Karl).

With even Republicans such as Senator John Sununu now calling for his firing as a result of the furor over persecuted prosecutors, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gets the usual heck-of-a-job from Dubya: “I’ve heard those allegations about political decision-making — it’s just not true…What Al did, and what the Justice Department did, was appropriate.” Meanwhile, side-stepping Gonzales’ misdeeds, Salon‘s Sidney Blumental sees the hand of Karl Rove at work in the firings.

The Case of the Persecuted Prosecutors.

“‘I’ve always been trained that loyalty is a two-way street,’ Iglesias answered. ‘I started thinking: Why am I protecting these people who not only did me wrong but did wrong to the system for appointing U.S. attorneys?’” The House and Senate Judiciary Committees listen to testimony from eight former U.S. attorneys concerning what appears to be an epidemic of illegal GOP arm-twisting. “The [Justice] department has also acknowledged that Cummins, the Little Rock prosecutor, was asked to resign solely to provide a job for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.”

Let’s Go to Prison.

The wreckage of the midterms behind him, disgraced GOP operative Jack Abramoff heads to prison today to begin a 5-year, 10-month stint in the Big House…but, not — according to ABC News — before dropping dirt on Karl Rove and “dozens of members of Congress and staff” including “six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators.” Sounds like the Ballad of Casino Jack might keep on keepin’ on right through the next cycle…Let’s hope the Dem Congress are much more vigilant about rooting out the corruption in their midst than were their predecessors.

House Party! | The Senate in Sight…

Every single Dem incumbent returned to office. At least 26 more seats in the House. The nation’s first woman Speaker. Six new governorships. At least four Senate seats. And, if all goes well in Virginia (which, at 5am EST, is looking likely — Webb’s up 8,000, which is a pretty solid lead heading into a recount) and Montana (which seems positive for us, albeit less so — Tester’s up 5,000 with 85% reporting), perhaps even control of Congress…Yessir, all-in-all, it was a pretty grand night for us. So, Dubya and Karl…how you like them apples? Update: Make that 28 seats in the House and 5 in the Senate….soon to be six. Congress is ours!

Voices Kerry | The GOP Scandalized.

I don’t really have anything to say about Kerrygate, except, well, is it Tuesday yet? Way to stick your foot in it, Senator. But, really, is this all you guys got? Is this all you can conjure, Rove? The whole GOP media onslaught about it reeks of desperation (as do the gutterball ad campaigns), and, hey, I don’t blame them: times are desperate: “‘So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that’s pretty unique,’ Zelizer said. ‘There were scandals throughout the ’70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming.‘”

November Reign?

“Lame Duck” Dubya and his man behind the curtain, Karl Rove, may be “inexplicably upbeat,” but John McCain is apparently contemplating suicide. Meanwhile, Dems Carville and Greenberg suggest breaking out the party credit cards, while the bellwether state of Ohio sours on the GOP completely. Only 20 days left until Election 2006…

Talk to Ken.

“‘Everyone would appreciate it if you would contact Ken only and not others here at the WH,’ reads one message to Abramoff from Bush advisor Karl Rove’s assistant Susan Ralston, ‘because they just forward it to him anyway.’” Salon‘s Mark Benjamin takes a gander at Casino Jack’s man in the White House, Republican Party chair Ken Mehlman. “More than once, Abramoff asks for a favor, Mehlman fulfills the request, and then one of Abramoff’s wealthy Indian tribe clients sends a political donation to a GOP cause.

Casino Jack and Runaround Sue.

As a former Abramoff assistant, Ralston played intermediary between the lobbyist and Rove. The congressional report found 66 Abramoff contacts with the White House, more than half of them with Ralston. In addition, Abramoff’s lobbying colleagues contacted Ralston 69 times.” The Casino Jack affair claims another White House victim in Rove deputy Susan Ralston, who, it was recently discovered in a House report, made the mistake of accepting Abramoff swag — choice tickets and such — without paying for it. Illegal, no doubt, but somehow I suspect her procuring courtside Wizard tix is the least of the Abramoff-related corruption going on in Karl’s outfit.

Revolving Door Redux.

A new report by the House Committee on Government Reform finds that Casino Jack and his associates billed the White House for 485 visits, ten of which were with Karl Rove. The White House says he’s lying, but really now: 485 sounds closer to the mark than two.

Plame’s Civil War.

“I and my former colleagues trusted the government to protect us in our jobs.” Plamegate enters a new phase as Valerie Plame files a lawsuit against Cheney, Rove, and Libby for “leaking Plame’s identity to ‘discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs.’” And for all the rabid right-wingers out there cheering on Paula Jones back in the day, it looks like the chickens have come home to roost: “Cheney and others might be compelled to turn over documents to the Wilsons, as well as give sworn depositions, as President Bill Clinton eventually had to do when Paula Jones sued him for sexual harrassment.

Not this time, Karl.

“He’s making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside saying, ‘Stay the course.’ That’s not a plan.” As justifiably disgruntled veteran John Murtha lights into bile-spouting chicken-hawk Karl Rove for another gutterball attack on Dems’ patriotism, the Democrats step up to the bar and offer two substantive plans for phased withdrawal from Iraq, to be debated tomorrow. “Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin…pushed an amendment requiring that U.S. combat troops be out by July 2007…In a statement, Kerry and Feingold said a deadline ‘gives Iraqis the best chance for stability and self-government’ and ‘allows us to begin refocusing on the true threats that face our country.‘”

Karl free to Rove.

Fitzmas is cancelled? Lawyer Robert Luskin announces that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has told him he “does not anticipate seeking charges” against Karl Rove for his alleged role in Plamegate, partly because Rove apparently told the truth about his involvement to the FBI: “It’s now known that Rove had discussed Plame’s CIA employment with conservative columnist Robert Novak, who exposed her identity less than a week later…Rove’s truth-telling to the FBI saved him from indictment.

For their part, Karl and the GOP are now strutting about in vindication mode and the Dubya White House is breathing a sigh of relief, but Salon‘s Walter Shapiro says don’t fret, Dems: “Rove was not exactly doing hard time on a federal rock pile when Bush’s popularity plunged to around 35 percent. It was Rove’s handiwork to make Social Security privatization the signature issue of Bush’s second term. The disastrous fate of that political gambit, combined with the Iraq war, turned Bush into a lame-duck president before his time. As a political strategist, Rove runs the gamut of issues from A (national security) to B (tax cuts). Six years into his tenure in the White House, Rove may be running on empty, just like the president whom he serves.

Banking on the Bigot Brigade.

“‘He couldn’t not do it,’ explained Richard Viguerie, a prominent conservative activist who believes that gay marriage will not have much of an impact in 2006. ‘He’s got an election coming up and he is 30 percent in the polls. Nothing, Dr. Samuel Johnson told us, focuses the mind like an impending hanging.’” The conservative coalition collapsing in historic fashion around their ears, Dubya and Rove invoke an old standby and attempt to shore up the bigot vote in November by publicly coming out for the anti-gay marriage amendment. Unfortunately for them and the GOP, the same old freak-baiting trick — however carefully worded — doesn’t seem likely to catch fire amid all the war and scandal, and the Senate, as well as GOP moderates, want none of it. Update: As expected, the Senate spike the amendment, with 2 Dems (Byrd, Ben Nelson) backing the bigots and 7 Republicans (Chafee, Collins, Gregg, McCain, Snowe, Specter, Sununu) joining the rest of the Dems in voting against the measure.

Closure for Karl?

All the t’s have been crossed and Novaks have been questioned…Now, according to the Post‘s Jim Vanderhei, Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s extended investigation of Karl Rove is nearing resolution. “Rove expects to learn as soon as this month if he will be indicted — or publicly cleared of wrongdoing — for making false statements in the CIA leak case, according to sources close to the presidential adviser. An indictment would be devastating to a White House already battered by low poll numbers, a staff shake-up and a stalled agenda.

Rove Returns (Again).

Fifth time’s the charm? Karl Rove returns once more to testify before Patrick Fitzgerald’s Plamegate grand jury, mainly to discuss his interactions with TIME reporter Viveca Novak. Will this fifth round of testimony of Dubya’s consigliere result in an indictment (and finally make Karl a household name?) Hopefully, we’ll know sooner rather than later. Update: Make that 2-3 weeks.

Beam me Out, Scotty.

I dannae if the ship of state could take any more…As suspected, the continuing White House shakeup claims another victim in press secretary Scott McClellan. (Text of statement.) Also, Rove got reassigned from policy to politics, but that sounds like more of a cosmetic switch than anything else.

Jack in the Box.

Little ditty about Jack and Dubya: “Bush ‘has one of the best memories of any politicians I have ever met,’ Abramoff wrote to Kim Eisler of Washingtonian magazine. ‘The guys saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids.’” Confiding to a reporter friend (and contrary to the White House’s protestations,) Casino Jack complains that Dubya has forsaken him. In related news, as David Safavian, one of Abramoff’s White House men, is formally charged with obstruction of justice, TIME Magazine publishes the first pic of Dubya and Abramoff together, although it’s not what you’d call a slam dunk. Casino Jack (and Karl Rove) merely lurk in the corners while Bush presses the flesh of Abramoff’s clients. Ok, they’re in the same room together — that’s a start. But there’s undoubtedly better pics of the two out there…it’s only a matter of time.

Rove: Feel the Fear.

“The curtain got pulled aside, and there’s not even a wizard behind it…these people are incompetent.” As you probably heard, Karl Rove emerged from hiding to offer his blueprint for Republican resurgence in 2006. Yep, you guessed it: terror, terror, terror, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, garnished with a smattering of tax cuts. But, to their credit, it sounds like Dems are relishing this coming fight, with Intelligence Committee Dem Jane Harman pushing back once more on the illegal wiretaps, and, in keeping with the recent trend of presidential also-rans finding their voice, John Kerry taking off the gloves on the Sunday shows. “Osama bin Laden is going to die of kidney failure before he’s killed by Karl Rove and his crowd.

The other Novak speaks.

One final note: Luskin is unhappy that I decided to write about our conversation, but I feel that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said.TIME reporter Viveca Novak explains her testimony before the Fitzgerald grand jury. Novak, who may well have tipped Luskin to a hole in Rove’s story, is now on a leave of absence with TIME “by mutual agreement.”

Dubya the Dauphin Divine.

“After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that ‘God put me here’ to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that ‘he’s the man,’ the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reelection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.” By way of Salon‘s War Room, The New Yorker‘s Sy Hersh scrutinizes the terrifying dogmatism and tone-deafness at work in the White House with regards to Iraq.

Here’s more: “[Rove and Cheney] keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,’ the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. ‘Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,’ the former official said, ‘but Bush has no idea.’

Update: According to the Daily News, who published a similar story yesterday, the White House won’t comment on the Hersh piece.

2nd Time Around.

Meanwhile, the investigations continue. This weekend, Time reporter Viveca Novak announced she’s cooperating with Plamegate prosecutors, who have been asking her about her conversations with Robert Luskin, Karl Rove’s attorney, beginning in 2004. Doesn’t sound like Rove is off the hook, does it? Update: Apparently, Novak was Rove’s alibi: “‘This is what caused [Fitzgerald] to hold off on charging’ Rove, the source said. But another person familiar with the conversations said they did not appear to significantly alter the case.

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