Wednesday this week, the Valerie Plame grand jury will assemble again, and that might be the day that Jason Leopold’s report on Rove’s indictment last Friday either makes global news or fizzles out.
While I haven’t been in the position to work my own sources who have been close to the Fitzgerald investigation, one of the nuances of the Rove-watching I have done in the past may be in play here.
A week before the 2004 presidential election, Rove was decidedly despondent. His numbers showed him that John Kerry was likely going to win, but the furor about Teresa Heinz Kerry’s comments about Laura Bush as well as a last minute Osama bin Laden video gave momentum to a turn-around that Rove saw unfold in the last few days before the race. According to those around him, his mood turned cheery and upbeat, really rather than falsely up, and TWN reported this.
Likewise, before the Libby indictment — about a week before — when Libby had received a letter notifying him of his pending indictment and Rove had not, Rove’s mood reportedly shifted from utter despondency to a much more positive mood. And this indicator proved correct and was also reported on TWN before the five count indictment was handed down. Rove missed the bullet that day, and Libby was taken down.
I don’t have a good read on Rove’s spirits today, but what is suspicious is the degree to which the White House spin machine has gone out of its way to show Rove as calm, in control, witty. . .up.
He was ebullient — too much so — in his AEI speech today. And AP is pushing a line that Rove’s retainers are in unison divulging how “unfazed” the guy is about the Fitzgerald investigation.
From Deb Reichmann’s AP report:
President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, arrives at the White House every day wearing a jovial smile that masks his boss’ political troubles and his own legal woes.
Rove, the man Bush dubbed “the architect” of his re-election, has the arduous task of halting Bush’s popularity spiral and keeping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in November elections – while under the threat of indictment in the CIA leak case.
His friends and colleagues say he’s not fazed by his precarious situation.
“Karl’s focus is sharper than ever and his spirit is high,” said Dan Bartlett, White House counselor, downplaying any claims that Rove is distracted. “He packs more work into one day than most of us get done in a week.”
Rove was asked about his legal problems Monday after a speech on the economy at a conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. He ducked. “Nice try,” Rove told the questioner.
If the grand jury weren’t in the news, it would be hard to tell that Rove, a deputy White House chief of staff, is waiting to find out if he’ll be indicted.
She continues with a bit that Rove thought he’d be off the hook by now:
Rove apparently thought it would be over by now.
In a thank-you note to Israel last December, he predicted a quick end. “In short, he thought he would be cleared,” said Israel, who has kept in touch with Rove since leaving Austin in 1999.
Some of Rove’s colleagues suspect the president’s poor poll ratings and the high-stakes midterm elections are weighing the adviser down more than his legal woes.
“It’s not easy, but this is not as tough as 2002 or 2004,” said conservative activist Grover Norquist, who doesn’t think the threat of indictment is real.
“I saw him at dinner last night. He’s fine.”
Rove apparently gave a humdinger of a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, and some are clucking that this could be the last word from Bush’s “architect”.
If indicted, Rove will send Bush’s favorability levels to astounding lows for the self-proclaimed “war-time” President. But while distracted by legal matters, Rove will no doubt likely to lurk behind the scenes of Republican grand strategy for some time. He’s a real genius when it comes to knowing how to gut the Democratic party and call the issues that get the Republican ‘base’ to turn out.
Clearly, Rove & Co. are weakened, but those challenging today’s status quo — whether as dissident Republicans or Democrats — make a major mistake underestimating Rove’s strategic political senses — in or out of the White House.
The best way to beat Rove is to out-Rove him and Bush’s fellow travelers, but there is scant evidence that that is happening yet.
— Steve Clemons