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.
A DEAL MAY HAVE BEEN STRUCK
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.
"SEALED VS. SEALED"
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
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.
DESPAIR AND TRANSFORMATION
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
Christy Hardin Smith and the blogger
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
(www.crisispapers.org). For comments: >> firstname.lastname@example.org