The White House Shuffle

In Las Vegas, American culture’s monument to itself, when a new dealer takes the shoe or a new croupier the stick, it’s time for gamblers to check their bets. Will the mojo be upset? Is juju about to reign? It’s never an easy moment for those with their money on the line, and the house always has its own inscrutable plan for retaining the favorable odds.

The Bush administration had such a moment yesterday with the resignation of Press Secretary Scott McClellan and the difficult-to-suss announcement that presidential adviser Karl Rove would be taking leave of “policymaking” duties in favor of turning his attention to “political” matters in advance of the Fall mid-term elections.

Mr. McClellan’s departure comes as little surprise after his having served for three years as the administration’s daily spokesperson for “the message” that all is well, that progress is being made, that there have been no mistakes, that regrets are unthinkable.

Should he be remembered to history at all, it will be for his uncanny ability to suspend both logic and disbelief in the service of shielding the White House press corps from anything resembling a straight answer or an admission of contradiction on the part of the President it has been his pleasure to serve.

It’s impossible to resist repeating the line coined at the departure of his predecessor, Ari Fleischman: in a brief statement to the press, he said he was leaving his post to spend more time lying to his wife and family.

The announcement concerning Mr. Rove, who has been — more than any other figure — a Svengali-like presence in the Bush White House, is far more curious, owing to the fact that it’s never been clear exactly who he is or what he does in the administration.

He’s not a member of the Cabinet, nor has he ever been appointed to a post requiring Congressional oversight or approval.

But his imprimatur has embellished Mr. Bush’s public record, from his days as Governor of Texas, through the entirety of his two terms as President. Mr. Rove is widely acknowleged to be “the brains” behind most everything Mr. Bush has done or tried to do as the nation’s chief executive, and the shift in his role is bound to have tongues wagging throughout Washington and the wider punditocracy — even if it is unlikely to portend any significant change in policy or in the way the President approaches his work.

The change comes at a time when the President enjoys his lowest-ever levels of popularity and the general appreciation for his effort on the nation’s behalf continues to wane. There is clearly now a sense of urgency to salvage some hope for maintaining Republican control of Congress after the elections scheduled for November.

At one time the Bush administration boasted an aura of invincibility, and went about its business with the sense it could do no wrong. In the heady days just after the 2004 election the word mandate was even on the lips of the highest ranking members of the executive branch.

Today, however, the aromas of lame duck and cooked goose are prevalent on the land, and it may well be the heat in the Bush kitchen is rising too high for many of the most faithful to stand.

One can only hope that time is not long before Mr. Rove may be called in his role as Head Chef to face the diners and speak to the recipe for disaster he has served up to the nation.


  1. deep throat - April 20, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    I thought the timing of this piece, and this action by our Pharoah himself, couldn’t be more perfect. It’s pass-over time – and the heat in the kitchen (desert) is making more than one person flee. No time to rise the bread at 10 billion dollars a month (nice rent for a country in a bad neighborhood!)

    Let’s hope the Gods bring the 10 plagues on Mr. Bush and his staff – old and new. They have earned their blood on their doorways…

  2. Tam O’Tellico - April 20, 2006 @ 2:04 pm

    The important matters to which Mr Rove will be attending is keeping his ass out of jail, and if that isn’t possible, keeping the shit from floating up the chain of command. I said here some time ago that the Affaire de Plame was not going to go away, and that no one should doubt that orders for the outing of a covert CIA agent had to have come directly from the top.

    It remains to be seen if this Republican Congress has the good sense, the common decency and the political will to confront the would-be emperor and his incompetent and lying minions. I’m betting they don’t, and I’m also betting they will pay the price for that cowardice come November. The only thing preventing an absolute disaster for the Republicans is that the Democrats offer so little as an alternative.

  3. Michael Herdegen - April 21, 2006 @ 3:48 am

    What covert CIA agent was “outed” ?

    Plame was never a NOC.

  4. Tam O’Tellico - April 21, 2006 @ 5:50 am

    Michael, once again you want to split hairs so you don’t have to own up to the truth – your boy lied thru his teeth, just like he did about wiretapping. But hey, you’re a Unitarian so it’s okay for the President to leak classified information whenever it suits him.

  5. bubbles - April 21, 2006 @ 9:21 am

    Hey Michael,

    When might one expect you to recognize when the boat is sinking, does the entire crew need to drown first? Fox Opinion dynamic’s FOX has Bush’s job approval ratings at 33%. What does that actually make them? 27-29%. Icarus has flown too close to the sun my boy. The wings are off and he’s in free fall.

  6. lonbud - April 21, 2006 @ 11:48 am

    Plame was never a NOC? Says who?

    CIA cover primer here.

    Rather than stand like a man on the achievements of his policy initiatives, w will forever be forced to rely on revisionist spinning of things those of us have witnessed know to be true to defend himself from the title of Worst President Ever.

  7. Tam O’Tellico - April 21, 2006 @ 11:51 am

    Bubbles, Icarus? There is no tragedy here – this was all forseeable and avoidable. The chickenshit voters who returned this dim-bulb boob to office are equally guilty.

    Surely I don’t have to remind you that we are all aboard that same ship; if that crew drowns, we likely drown as well. So as much as I enjoy seeing w and his cronies get their just desserts, I am not celebrating.

    It is nothing short of tragic that we had barely recovered from the hang-over from Viet Nam, and now we must face the consequences of Bush’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. Losing in Viet Nam was bad enough, but losing the war in Iraq will have far graver repercussions.

    Add to that the general corruption of Congress by K-Street and the perfidy and massive incompetence of this administration in almost every area of governance, and we have troubles enough to answer for the rest of this century. In fact, this shameful excuse for a leader may well be the ruin of us all, including my son who just turned eighteen.

  8. Michael Herdegen - April 22, 2006 @ 8:45 pm


    Then why did Fitzgerald return no indictments regarding the actual leaking of Plame’s name ?


    Plame was working at CIA headquarters, sent her own husband on a foreign fact-finding mission, and on a previous foreign assignment, she gave her home address as the American consulate.

    Plame was never covert.


    When might one expect you to recognize when the boat is sinking…

    If Bush is impeached or resigns, or if the Dems take back both Houses of Congress by more than 1 member in each chamber, or if the rate of American troops being killed in Iraq increases greatly.

    I don’t expect any of those to happen.

  9. lonbud - April 23, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    The Washington Times is not exactly the last word in veracity.

    It’s clear that Plame’s work for the CIA was not well-known prior to its publication by Robert Novak in 2003.

    Patrick Fitzgerald said

    Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community. Valerie Wilson’s friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life. The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well-known, for her protection or for the benefit of all of us. It’s important that a CIA officer’s identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation’s security. Valerie Wilson’s cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003.

    You really need to stay out of the weeds, man.

  10. Michael Herdegen - April 23, 2006 @ 5:19 pm

    Her friends and neighbors didn’t know that she worked for the CIA, but anyone who ran a credit report on her would know that she worked for the U.S. gov’t.

    Perhaps you’re unclear about the meaning of the word “covert” ?

  11. Michael Herdegen - April 23, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

    Further, it’s humorously ironic that you’re quoting Patrick Fitzgerald, to support your assertion that Wilson (nee Plame) was a “secret agent”.

    Fitzgerald was empowered to charge anyone, should a crime have been committed in spotlighting Plame.
    He has not done so.

    Therefore, we can conclude that your quote means that Fitzgerald thinks that it was bad policy to “out” Plame – but not illegal.

  12. lonbud - April 23, 2006 @ 6:56 pm

    You seem to be under the impression that Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury have concluded their work, Michael. I don’t believe any conclusions are in order just yet.

    In addition, a credit report would have revealed Ms. Plames’s employer to have been Brewster Jennings & Associates, a private legal services office, and not, as you assert, the U.S. gov’t.

    She worked as a “non-official cover operative” (NOC). That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed. She met with people who worked in the nuclear industry, cultivated sources, and managed spies. She was a national security asset until exposed by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. [1]

  13. Tam O’Tellico - April 23, 2006 @ 10:07 pm

    Michael, if you think Fitzgerald is thru indicting, you haven’t been paying much attention. As for what has been charged, he is a clever and experienced prosecutor, and he took the easiest avenue to start the process. Libby’s perjury was all too obvious, but it was merely a device to get the rats gnawing on each other.

    Looks like that plan is working pretty well so far. I’ll wager that Rove at least will be charged with perjury, too, and he and others may yet be charged with ratting out Plame to the inbedwith media – though that case will be hard to make since there were so many rats doing the self-serving ratting it would be hard to tell who was first. I say it was WMD – w mit dick.

    As for Plame, it is idiotic to insinuate as you and Direlict Dicky have done repeatedly – and continue to do that in spite of the facts – that this was some sort of evil nepotistic plot to smear this execrable administration. In the first place it is very unlikely that she didn’t choose her husband, but that someone else made that recommendation based on Joe Wilson’s substantial experience and contacts in Niger. Who would you have sent? Probably John the Mad Bomber Bolton.

    Had this administration done the right thing, they would have backed off of their spurious claims about the Iraq/Niger connection. But of course, that would have squashed claims about WMD and ended the mad rush to a pre-ordained war in Iraq.

    As it was those spurious claims ended up in w’s speech even though he knew full well it was baloney. I suspect we will eventually learn that the highly supsect evidence the administration did use was manufactured by us and distributed thru “back channels” as the CIA likes to call them. That seems even more likely now that we know that bush seriously proposed dummying up a UN spy plane, hoping the Iraqis would shoot it down.

    If anyone in this administration had a shred of common decency, they would neither have outed Plame or villified Wilson for telling the truth. But common decency is unknown to your heroes, but you will keep defending this pond scum to the bitter end.

    But not to fear, the Demos will be taking over soon, and then you can begin the same sort of insidious and subversive attacks you and your kind vented on Clinton.

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