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Plame-gate: Karl Rove, Dick Durbin, and the politics of treason

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It has recently been alleged that White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove was the person who leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media. Such a leak of an undercover operative is a felony. It is likely that the leaking of the name was retribution against Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had publicly discredited one of the Bush administration’s rationales for invading Iraq in the runup to the Iraq war.


Cartoonist and commentator Ted Rall in an op-ed piece compared Karl Rove’s action to treason. While it is likely that Rove’s action undermined national security and the war on terror, it is unlikely that Karl Rove committed treason. What is likely is that this is the next step in a verbal war at the fringes of each party to call the other party traitors.

On the right, the likes of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly believe that hatred of George Bush and his administration and the instructions they give to the troops to send them into battle equates to hating the troops. This assumption is tenuous at best, since most Americans are critical of or actively oppose the foreign policy of the Bush administration, yet almost noone has actually blamed the troops for this, they have blamed the civilian policy makers. Those on the right, however, proceeding with this false assumption claim disagreement with the Bush administration undermines the war on terror, subjects the troops to risk, and hence is treason. Bill O’Reilly went so far as to call for the arrest of some of Air America Radio’s hosts for speech that was critical of the Iraq war.

Absurd, over the top commentary such as this is hurtful to society and outright false. Senator Dick Durbin lamented on the floor of the Senate that an FBI report, describing the torture ordered by the Bush administration, could have been describing Nazis, had he not known this was ordered by current American leaders. He was immediately attacked as being a traitor by the right. Most agree that Senator Durbin had not chosen his language carefully in his analogy, since noone thinks the Bush administration is as bad as the Nazi party. His commentary was over the top but the right tarred him by falsely claiming he had called the troops Nazis, and hence was a traitor.

The ironic part of this back and forth saga is that the person currently at the center of the storm, Karl Rove, had just recently launched a verbal lob, essentially calling a plurality of Americans traitors and sympathizers with Osama Bin Laden. Now that Karl Rove has been implicated in a crime with the possibility of undermining national security, the left will undoubtedly jump all over Karl Rove as being a potential traitor and rightly so. It is a return of the same over the top rhetoric that was directed at them. The true irony of this saga is that in Karl Rove’s case, there is at least an argument to make, that the outing of an undercover CIA operative comprimised the war on terror and amounted to treason.

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  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    Everyone knows that if you don’t vote Dem, you’re a traitor.

  • Quizmos

    This argument is flawed. You cannot equate accusations of treason based on subjective statements of opinion with those based on the illegal act of intentionally outing a CIA operative. This is an apples and oranges comparison and not worthy of intellectual inquiry.
    Clearly, if someone has outed a CIA operative who was actively working under cover on the national security mission to find weapons of mass destruction (at a time when our soldiers were fighting and dying fulfilling their role in that same mission), the act is a violation of national security during a time of war. I defy anyone to come up with a more appropriate description of treason.

  • http://sussfr.blogspot.com Matthew T. Sussman

    Do you know if you keep saying “Karl Rove is alleged to be the leak,” more and more people will speculate it’s him?

    We need more proof, not of the circumstantial flavor.

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    OK, let’s cool our jets here. First off, we don’t know that Karl Rove is involved in this mess. The allegations have been made. Behind the scenes in Washington there have been many people who have maintained all along that Karl Rove is the point man. But the guy deserves a chance to refute the allegations. Is this treason? I think that’s a bit far fetched.

    What this incident does do, however, is crystallize the fact that there is a reputation by this White House that news media who did not cooperate with the Administration were ‘punished’ in some way. This is a real problem that reporters rarely discuss. But the fact of the matter is retribution is a tool used by the White House against the Press Corps. This President claims he is a First Amendment President. I’d like to see what the White House Press Corps feels about that one.

  • http://ideaplace.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    If a person makes statements about the U.S. conduct of the war, whether on the part of troops, civilian managers, or political leadership, which is intended to undermine the war effort or can reasonably be expected to aid the enemy in recruiting or turning public opinion their way, this is not doing the troops or the country any good. Some may call it treason. All should call it stupid.

    If these same individuals who believe that the war shouldn’t have been started, should be done differently now, or should be ended carefully construct their statements to make it clear to the world and the enemy that they support the president, the leadership, the civilian managers, and the troops in their efforts to succeed, but that they have suggestions as to how to do it better, no one would call it stupid or treasonous. Just common sense.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/ThatGayConservative/PersonalSpace.aspx EMT907

    “While it is likely that Rove’s action undermined national security and the war on terror,”

    I’d love to see an explanation of the logic behind that statement.

    Ted Rall thinks it’s treason? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

  • http://bandobling.blogspot.com Bando Bling

    Karl Rove in his own words claimed himself to be a die hard ‘Nixonite’. Rove’s mentor Donald H. Segretti went to jail for the Watergate scandal. Like his mentor Rove has been playing it dirty all along. Let’s see how is the real traitor?

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Do you know if you keep saying “Karl Rove is alleged to be the leak,” more and more people will speculate it’s him?

    We need more proof, not of the circumstantial flavor.

    Agreed. It would help if Karl Rove finally would open up and clear the air on the matter. But, thus far, he refuses.

    Oh, Mr. Kirk, one needn’t support your president to wish the troops well.

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Let’s stop all this treason crap. Treason is a serious offense and the word, in and of itself, should be used for treasonous actions against the country, i.e. John Walker Linde.

    If Karl Rasputin, I mean Rove, did leak the information then what he did was betrayal. He betrayed his President and his country. I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that Mr. Rove is the guilty party. On the other hand, it seems to me that no one acts surprised that all fingers are pointing in his direction.

  • Nancy

    I’m surprised to have seen only one other comment so far that followed this to its logical conclusion: that if Rove is guilty, so is Bush, since it’s unlikely to the point of 0 that Bush is/was unaware of Rove’s actions. Opens up a whole new can of worms, hey?

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Unfortunately Nancy, the tragic events in London this day will now create a smokescreen to divert our attention away from the Rove matter, a Supreme Court nominee and political reform.

    When I saw the first reports coming out of London this morning my knee jerk reaction was, “how stupid can these terrorists really be? They are insuring that our political leaders, the very people they want to attack and ruin, remain empowered.” They think they’re on some holy mission for Allah. There’s the next joke. They’re nothing more than ancient Christians in Muslim clothing.

  • Nancy

    Of course these will be diversions. Very convenient for BushCo, yes? Just when US public opinion polls are at their lowest for Smirk, the public will now be reminded (& I have no doubt BushCo will harp on it as hard as they can, milking every little last drop of personal & party advantage from the injured & dead in London) how vulnerable the US is (a direct contradiction of BushCo’s concomitant dogma that the War in Iraq has rendered us safer than ever). I have no doubt the unthinking, sheeplike public will stampede in whatever direction BushCo now wants them to go. It will take very little to convince me that BushCo has some kind of hand in this; the pluses are just too many, too conveniently timed to regain ascendancy over the American public – & while he’s at it, to win over reluctant or hostile foreign allies, as well. Hmmmmm….

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    If this crap in London messes up the premiere of Big Brother tonight I am going to be VERY VERY pissed. Give me a Gatlin gun, I’ll go shoot me some terrorists.

    P.S. This should send a few of them into a tailspin.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    1) Karl Rove I believe has given testimony to Peter Fitzgerald. He certainly is not immune to a grand jury subpoena.

    2) Plame was NOT an operative. That has NEVER been claimed. That doesn’t mean her name wasn’t supposed to be kept quiet, but she wasn’t a spy in the field.

    3) Her identity with the CIA apparently wasn’t that unknown. Considering that a good chunk of CIA operations take place out of embassies, I don’t think a wife of an ambassador is really that discreet.

  • Nancy

    But…how do we sift out terrorists from the rest? Is anyone w/an arab/semitic/middle eastern/muslim background suspect? Just immigrants w/such a background? Native-born w/immigrant parents? Anyone who attends a mosque? I do think a lot of these idiot rabble-rousing imams could stand to be sent back to the pissholes they came from, since they hate the culture of the west so much & preach against it so consistantly. But if the US has leaky borders, Europe is a freakin’ sieve! Look at Holland: they can’t even figure out who shot that filmmaker, much less clamp down on the radical islamic nests that have sprung up there in their capitol. Ditto Germany. France is in the same position: they’re almost 1/3 muslim these days. How to tell the extremists from the law-abiding good citizens? Is every kid who insists on wearing a head-scarf to school suspect? Even the scandinavian countries are infiltrated w/these extremist nutcases, considering several recent criminal incidents they’ve had. I suppose everyone could be indelibly marked at birth w/country of origin (kind of like imported cheeses), & if you mess up that’s where you get sent back to, but that won’t help anyone at this point. So now what?

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Outlaw religion, Nancy. That’s the ticket. Force all holy books to be torched. Turn Churches, Synogogues and Mosques into condominiums. Turn private religious schools into vacation time shares. Turn the Vatican into RomaDisney. Annex Jerusalem and make it Busch Gardens – Middle East. Take the River Jordan and make it a Water Safari. And, finally, take the Celebrity Centre for the Church of Scientology and turn it into a Star Trek Museum.

  • JR

    Silas Kain: When I saw the first reports coming out of London this morning my knee jerk reaction was, “how stupid can these terrorists really be? They are insuring that our political leaders, the very people they want to attack and ruin, remain empowered.”

    Um… maybe they want our current leaders to stay in power? Note that bin Laden is still free, and the terrorists are still able to strike in major Western cities.

    From the terrorists’ point of view, exactly how has Bush been bad for business?

  • http://emeraldcitycomments.blogspot.com/ Roy Smith

    JR:

    Um… maybe they want our current leaders to stay in power? Note that bin Laden is still free, and the terrorists are still able to strike in major Western cities.

    From the terrorists’ point of view, exactly how has Bush been bad for business?

    Not to mention the great big recruiting campaign the U.S. has been running for Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    Another blogger (not here) commented on how convenient the London attacks were for Karl Rove and the administration:

    Who could be ruthless enough to do this?

    Good thing my focus has been shifted away from Bush and G8.
    Good thing the Plame Blame Game is over for Karl Rove.
    Good thing no one is noticing oil heading to $62.
    Good thing that Downing Street memo is now another burnt sliver of paper floating among the other ashes around the London tubes.

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Ashes to ashes,
    Dust to dust,
    We’ve become so cynical
    And lost all trust.

  • Nancy

    Because we’ve been given good reason to, Silas. By those that are the last that should have been the ones to give us reason to.

  • MCH

    Re comment #10;
    I agree 110% Nancy. It wouldn’t be the first time Rove and GW conspired together to undermine someone else’s character (ie, John McCain, 2000 GOP primary).

  • tony

    The allegations that Karl Rove “outed” a CIA agent may or may not ever be determined unequivocally. However, there is no dispute regarding his speech before a conservative audience.

    The statements Karl Rove made about the actions liberals would take if they were in charge on 9/11 are incompatible to what actually happened.

    Without exception, all Americans were united together after the 9/11 attack on our homeland. We were probably in greater unity against our enemies that day, then on December 7, 1941. At that time, there were some Americans opposed to the eventual declaration of war against Germany.

    The assumptions of Mr. Rove cannot be disproved without any doubt, since liberals were not the officials in the executive branch of our government.

    However, there is no doubt that the previous administration was aware of the al-Qaeda threat to our security and conveyed that information to the incoming administration.

    If liberals were in charge they would not have ignored the ” Osama bin-Laden is preparing to attack us” presidential briefing. Perhaps there would not have been a 9/11 tragedy, Madrid or London bombings.

    However, if there was a 9/11 attack, there would have been a determined effort to find Osama bin-Laden. Iraq would not have been a diversion.

    If brave American military personnel were going to be sent into harms way by a liberal administration, it would have been only in Afghanistan and an all out assault and elimination of al-Qaeda.

    What is also disturbing, is that New York State Governor G. Pataki was seated at the dais when Mr. Rove made those outrageous statements. He has not denounced those inflammatory words. Governor Pataki is well aware there was complete unanimity of all Americans to seek and destroy the terrorists who attacked us.

    Shame on Karl Rove, an astute political consultant, for attempting to use 9/11 to divert attention from the Downing Street memos, Gitmo and a grievous Iraq war. Shame on our President if he follows a similar intent, using the London bombings to validate his pre-emptive strike against a sovereign country.

    A greater shame on Governor Pataki, and past NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani for not speaking on behalf of all New Yorkers, who are still traumatized by the events of 9/11 and their aftermath. However, both men were all over the media outlets after the London terrorist attacks bringing up the 9/11 tragedy. The world populace were all New Yorkers on 9/11. Today they are all Londoners.

    Most of all, shame on all moderate republicans for allowing this ludicrous rhetoric to flourish within their party. We all know in our hearts and minds, on 9/11 and the days and weeks that followed we were one nation, under God, indivisible.

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/07/06/221335.php jpw

    London terrorists, maybe Christians in Moslem clothing.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Without exception, all Americans were united together after the 9/11 attack on our homeland.

    I respectfully submit, Mr. Tony, that you are in no position to know that. I assure you “without exception” is not true.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Tony’s statement is so broad that it can’t possibly be true.

    >>both men were all over the media outlets after the London terrorist attacks bringing up the 9/11 tragedy.<<

    BTW, Giuliani was all over the media because he was within a few yards of one of the bombs when it went off.

    Dave

  • alice gordon

    If Valorie Plame was not a covert agent then 1) Why would anyone make a fuss? A special prosecutor was appointed by the President to investigate “outing” a spy. 2) Why was she told she could not publish her own account of what happened because it would endanger national security by the CIA? 3) What makes you say that being wife of Joseph Wilson would not be a perfect cover for covert operations? She meets everyone and hears all the gossip.