Although the spin seems to change hourly, there is one underlying theme in most of the efforts by the White House and it's allies to save Karl Rove. It usually boils down to "no crime was committed, because..." The entertaining part comes after the "because." The because points have gotten sillier and less relevant and probably reached bedrock yesterday with National Review editor John Podheretz writing:
But Plame's undercover status at the time was and is a little questionable in any case. How undercover could she have been when her name was published at the time as part of Joseph Wilson's own biography online?
The biography that Podheretz refers to says, "He is married to the former Valerie Plame and has two sons and two daughters."
Meanwhile on Fox News, John Gibson tried to make the same point:
Were you ever in any of those receiving lines where Joe Wilson brought his CIA operative wife out into public view in front of cameras to meet the president and such? If he brings her out in public to be photographed by TV, hasn't he outed her?
I think you can all see where the problem lies. The existence of Valerie Plame was not a secret. The fact that her name is Valerie Plame was not a secret. The fact that Valerie Plame was married to Joseph Wilson was not a secret. It is the fact that Valerie Plame was a covert operative for the CIA that was secret.
The backup point to the "no crime" argument is the "Wilson is the real criminal here" argument. Wilson, they tell us, was only able to get the highly desirable unpaid trip to the Sahara Desert through nepotism. Hundreds of more deserving Republicans wanted a trip to a dusty, malarial, third-world hell-hole, but Plame pulled strings and got her husband the job. This was, in fact, the point Novak was attempting to make back in his original article.
Two years ago, the right-wing talking heads and bloggers tried to deny that a crime had been committed by pretending that Valerie Plame wasn't really a covert operative. The problem with that strategy was that no amount of arguing on their part would change her job classification at the CIA. It wasn't theirs to decide. Today, they have picked up that strategy and run with it again. And again, it's not theirs to decide. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald and the grand jury will decide whether they think Rove committed a crime. The Wall Street Journal tried this argument out today in an editorial. Mustang Bobby points out that the editorial is probably Rove's defense team testing arguments. After all, no one in their right mind would seriously make such a stupid argument.
What is the point of this strategy of embarrassingly dumb defenses? I can think of only one possible explanation. They are assuming that Rove is guilty, that he will be indicted, and convicted. The spin is entirely aimed at minimizing the importance of the crime.
Ever since Watergate, it has been the strategy of Republicans to dismiss all ethical and legal lapses as not important, everyone does it, or the liberals/Democrats/press are picking on us. To be fair, most politicians make that argument when caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. The difference in the Republican Party over the last thirty years has been their discipline in closing ranks to protect their own and the success they have had in blurring the lines between the serious and the insignificant.
If Rove does go to trial, you can bet the right wing message machine will be screaming witch-hunt, out of control judges, and Democrat conspiracy. I'm sure they will somehow make it all look like the ones wanting to protest the integrity of the intelligence service are the ones who are being treasonous in a time of war. Don't we know everything changed on 9-11?