“Turd Blossom.” That’s what President Bush affectionately calls Karl Rove, his top political aide. It’s an apt nickname, especially these days.
Whenever there is scandal in or near the White House, expect to find Rove’s footprints.
Rove appears to be the choreographer of the latest Justice Department disgrace: the perfectly legal firing of eight US attorneys for the transparently revolting reason that these career Republicans would not compromise their own judgment — not to mention justice — in order to dance to the tune of the White House, which wanted the attorneys to go after Democrats and protect Republicans no matter what the facts.
Even by Washington’s cynical standards, this is a perverse innovation. But perversity, of course, is the stock and trade of the Bush presidency. Bush and his henchmen have polluted public life with lies about Iraq, and corrupted the constitution with the illegal measures they call the war on terror. So what’s another outrage?
What compounds this particular fury is that the Bush-sponsored Patriot Act, which is supposed to protect the nation from foreign terrorists, provides a loophole that allows the White House to replace US attorneys without the review and approval of the Senate. All things considered, this is political perversity of a truly inspired kind.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, was the designated Scooter Libby for this one, and he’s already resigned and taken the blame. Calling on Gonzales to resign is almost beside the point. To say that he should go is a no-brainer. Gonzales should never have been named — or approved — in the first place. His role as architect of Bush’s torture policy should have disqualified him.
Events in Washington are moving into a phase where the contours of a number of interlocking scandals are becoming increasingly clear. With Donald Rumsfeld gone, Vice-President Dick Cheney under a perpetual cloud, and Libby awaiting sentencing, attention is focusing on Rove.
Not quite two years ago — at about the same time that White House counsel Harriet Meyers was suggesting that Bush fire all 93 US attorneys (yes, that’s the same Harriet Meyers whose loyalty the president tried to reward with a spot on the Supreme Court) — a Justice Department investigation in Guam, a US territory in the Pacific, got under way. That investigation involved possible shady doings by now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and was derailed when President Bush removed the supervising prosecutor in a surprise move that raised a few eyebrows but did not seem to connect with any larger political reality.
The political reality is different today. And it does not seem a stretch to ask what Rove’s role was in these events. Could this once-obscure offshore investigation provide the long-rumored but so far elusive link between the corrupt, influence-peddling Abramoff and the unindicted, influence-wielding Rove?
Perhaps it will be more elusive but just as interesting to determine how involved Rove was with the removal of Bud Cummins, the former US attorney for East Arkansas, and the naming of his replacement, Timothy Griffin, a former aide to Rove. According to an e-mail from Sampson, Gonzales’s former chief of staff, “It was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.” that Cummins get the job. Why? Could it be that a well-placed US attorney could resurrect Whitewater allegations to be used against Senator Hillary Clinton if her presidential campaign gathered threatening momentum — threatening, that is, to the Republicans?