While we've been treated before to a series of fairly pointless leaks transparently by Luskin, Rove's attorney, since then we've been treated to far more significant leaks coming from the special counsel's office, the grand jury, and/or fellow witnesses unfriendly to Rove. Regardless of whether the leaks are intentional or not, it likely moves up Fitzgerald's timetable for any possible indictments -- once the information is public, and the defendants know what you're working on, it rapidly closes down avenues for further investigation, and it's time to put the cards on the table.
And in the middle, the President of the United States is wading in hipboots through the worst of it. As more leaks come out, Bush continues to embrace those figures now known to have played pivotal roles in the outing of a CIA NOC agent, even as the investigation becomes more encompassing and the questions, more pointed. Towards what end was Press Secretary Ari Fleischer -- who had already announced his imminent retirement from the administration, and was hardly a member of the Bush intelligence circle -- given access to classified Wilson information seemingly intended specifically, on Air Force One, for Powell and Bush? How is it that so many administration figures could be simultaneously involved, and the campaign against Wilson be orchestrated according to such specific classified talking points? What did the president and vice president know of the involvement of their immediate staff in the outing -- and, critically, when did they learn it, and what did they do about it?
What poses perhaps the greatest threat of all for the Bush administration is that, as each news agency puts the story in the hands of some of the best investigative reporters, the various threads of the story are being woven into a compelling -- and disastrous -- storyline. A Bush administration crime, carried out by Watergate-era and Iran-Contra figures that this administration has embraced wholeheartedly, done in the service of shoring up "fixed" evidence used to justify a preemptive war. And news services are tying the Plame outing to the "fixed" nuclear intelligence cited by Bush in his pre-war declarations to the nation. Those links are, finally, being made, and it's beginning to make the Nixon White House look like a Norman Rockwell painting in comparison.
There is very little time left for the White House to come up with some path -- any path -- by which to distance themselves from the wider allegations against not just Rove, but against the president and vice president themselves. Instead, they are stonewalling reporters asking them to clarify their involvement. In fact, both Bush and Press Secretary Scott McClellan haven't even backed off their previous public statements that Rove, by name, wasn't involved -- they've just refused to discuss it.
That's not going to cut it. The President needs to answer for his subordinates, who at this point are looking like they have given up any credible pretenses of innocence, and are now simply shopping for the weakest possible charges against them.
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