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Bernard Weiner: What Rove's Skate May Mean

What Rove's Skate May Mean

By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers

The 24-hour-news cycle bit me.

You see, I had written an imagined "Peek into Patrick Fitzgerald's Diary" where the Special Counsel was ranting on about how he was going to tighten the legal noose around Rove's pudgy neck and maybe wind up getting Cheney as well.

When I woke up early this morning, the news was out: Fitzgerald apparently wasn't going to indict Rove.

My heart fell. Not just because the Rovester, perhaps the most detested and dangerous member of the Bush Bunker crew, was allowed to skate, but also because the piece I had worked on for days suddenly was behind-the-times and irrelevant.

Such happenstances don't come along often, but a satiric writer riding the lip of the news wave always risks being overtaken and wiped-out by real-life events of the moment, and this was my turn. The water was cold and I felt a bit embarrassed -- the story was pulled at Democratic Underground before it even saw the light of day, but it was on The Crisis Papers home page in the early morning for several hours before we took it down.

But that was merely a personal hiccup. The more serious matter was that Rove would be able to devote his full time, attention and dirty-politics skills to the upcoming November election, instead of having to spend inordinate amounts of time in consultation with his legal defense team trying to stay out of the federal slammer.


That last expression may help explain what is going down here. It may just turn out that Rove was so desperate to escape the likelihood of incarceration that he made a deal with Fitzgerald. He gets to walk away if he testifies against Scooter, and tells what he knows about Cheney and maybe even Bush, among others.

That certainly is one way to interpret the Rove news this morning. The other is that Fitzgerald simply didn't think he could make the charges stick against Rove and felt obliged to cut him loose.

If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on the former interpretation, or maybe even a combination of the two. Even just judging from news reporting on this story, it would appear that an open-and-shut case had been made for charging Rove with, at the very least, perjury and obstruction of justice. Whether or not Fitzgerald was convinced he could make the case stand up in court, he may have convinced Rove that conviction was pretty much a slam-dunk.

Rove's lawyer won't release the text of Fitzgerald's letter that reportedly gives his client a walk. It's possible there are hints in the actual text indicating why Rove is free to go: on condition that he cooperate with the ongoing investigation, that sort of thing.


Which brings us to Jason Leopold's story Monday that asserted, with far less bravado than his previous "scoop" weeks ago announcing Rove's "indictment," the likelihood that the indictment had been under seal for nearly five weeks. Leopold even supplied the title under which the likely indictment was kept secret ("Sealed vs. Sealed") and a case number ( "06 cr 128").

Hardly anyone was willing to publish that story. Was Leopold full of crap (again), many editors and bloggers mused? Or is there a more complicated, and compelling, interpretation?

Here's mine: If indeed Rove was told that a sealed indictment had been issued for his arrest in the case, it's possible that Fitzgerald used that scary fact as added inducement to Bush's chief political advisor to use this last chance to cut a deal. Rove, seeing the likely prison handwriting on the wall, made the deal, which took weeks of detailed discussions between Rove's team and Fitzgerald to work out.


Or, a contrary interpretation, not mine: That Fitzgerald's bluff didn't work because Rove didn't bite. He looked at all the far-right ideological loyalists that Bush has appointed to the various appeals courts and decided that even if convicted he'd never have to spend a day in federal prison, or that Bush would pardon him one way or another.

Of course, we're all speculating in the dark out here in the cybersphere. We won't be able to pin this story down more until or unless Fitzgerald himself makes a public move, and he's given no indication he's ready to do so. Indeed, if his probe is ongoing, he may not reveal much for a while yet. (For more on the unfolding events, see the invaluable insights of former federal prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith ( LINK ) and the blogger Billmon ( LINK ).

The despair I felt this morning upon hearing the Rove-going-free news may be transformed some weeks or months down the line, one can hope, if more indictments are unsealed, with key players in the Bush Administration -- and you know who I mean -- frog-marched for their fingerprinting and picture-taking prior to court appearances. If there is no additional legal action from Fitzgerald's office, it will lend more support to those who never believed Fitzgerald was completely on the up-and-up in the first place and that all along the fix was in.

Stay tuned. This story is "hot," no matter what does or does not happen, and it is not going away.


Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( For comments: >> << .

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