While many things remain unclear in the Karl Rove leak scandal, one thing is certain: Rove was one of the sources that Time reporter Matthew Cooper nearly went to prison to protect. Rove's leak outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame (even if not by name) thus compromising an agent engaged in undercover WMD work, presumably a high-priority area for the US Government in the War on Terror.
It is not yet known whether Rove's leak was intentional—if so, Bush's top advisor could face 10-years in a Federal prison. The Rove Affair dredges up a far more troubling question as well.
If the leak really was an honest mistake, then why didn't Rove come out immediately, admit it and throw himself on the mercy of the president? Instead, two years have passed with nary a peep. Meanwhile, in his silence, Rove blithely allowed one reporter to go to jail and another to be dragged more that halfway there, all to protect himself. These don't appear to be the actions of an innocent man. If he really did nothing wrong, then why all the obfuscation?
It is unspeakably arrogant of Rove to behave in such a manner, but, if White House reaction is any indication, he has every reason to do so. Rove denied involvement in the leak when asked by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan back in 2003. Now McClellan refuses to talk about that denial. Also in 2003, after the story broke, President Bush promised to fire anyone in his administration who was the source of the leak. Yesterday, however, McClellan said, "any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president." Thanks to President Bush's "loyalty," it looks like Rove has nothing to fear. It makes one wonder exactly how much Bush and other White House officials knew about Rove's involvement.
Conservatives are, as one would expect, on the offensive, wailing about partisan attacks against Rove and the Bush administration. Let's try a little thought experiment. What if the tables were turned and a prominent Democrat on the Intelligence Committee had leaked the name of a CIA agent engaged in covert WMD work in order to punish an outspoken supporter of the Bush administration? The Republicans would be crying treason, measuring their rope and looking for the nearest low-hanging branch.
So, how will Bush justify going back on his word and not firing Rove? Well that's one whopper that he's going to have to let "Bush's Brain" think up.