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General News    H2'ed 8/22/09

Rove's Sorry Victim Act

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August 21, 1:46 PM

A few years ago, when I was trying to fathom Karl Rove's approach to politics, one of Rove's Texas business associates pointed me to a strategy memo that Rove wrote for former Texas governor Bill Clements. Rove quoted Napoleon: "The whole art of war consists in a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by rapid and audacious attack." When things are down, he noted, Rove's instinct is always the same: attack.

Right now, things have never been worse for Karl Rove. He sits in the crosshairs of yet another special prosecutor, and after resisting requests from Justice Department investigators and congressional inquiry, he was compelled to give evidence. But Rove's response to this is—as always-to attack. The House inquiry has proved him innocent of the charge of manipulation of U.S. attorneys, he writes in the Wall Street Journal, so now the Judiciary Committee chair, the New York Times and Washington Post among others, owe him an apology! The main problem with Rove's piece is that it is utterly fact-free—a point which never stops Rove, of course, nor the editorial page editors of the Wall Street Journal. Both are intent on creating the "facts" that please them. Last night Rachel Maddow did a bit of burrowing into the record to show just how absurd Rove's claims are:

One point that fairly emerges from a review of the 6,000 pages of White House and other materials released by the Judiciary Committee is this: when Republican politicos wanted to influence something at the Justice Department, there was one phone number they knew to ring. Rove would have us believe that he was just a patient listener, but the record shows otherwise. Rove was crafting an environment in which U.S. attorneys around the country knew that failing to follow Rove's agenda carried a price: being fired and smeared.

One curious aspect of the Rove column is its heavy attack on a relatively unknown Republican lawyer from Alabama named Jill Simpson. He singles out Simpson, charging that Committee staff considered her not credible and claiming that she refused cooperation with investigators. Rove's claims are totally false. If Committee staffers considered Simpson not credible, why did they release a report that draws heavily on her testimony, demonstrating that it is corroborated on key points with supporting documents? On the other hand, evidence collected by the Committee and by news outlets around the country provide a solid basis to question Rove's credibility, as Representative John Conyers noted. Rove's own conduct fuels these suspicions: he struggled for two years to avoid testifying under oath, and when he testified he gave evasive, oblique half answers, always conditioned on present recollection. Rove also states that Simpson refused to cooperate with a Department of Justice investigation. This claim is curious coming from Rove, who in fact refused to cooperate with the Justice Department's probe, but it is also untrue, as I noted in an interview with Raw Story yesterday.

Rove's attacks are not from a position of strength. They're more akin to the pathetic lashings of a cornered feral animal. Perhaps Rove knows more than we do about the prosecutor's intentions with respect to his case.


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Scott Horton is a contributor to Harper's Magazine and writes No Comment for this website, A New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law, especially human rights law and the law of armed conflict, (more...)
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