zoro robbin hood
2006-06-14 06:18:14 UTC
11:53 PM CDT on Tuesday, June 13, 2006
By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN - In the political haunts around Austin, where Karl Rove
earned his spurs, there was something decidedly déjà vu about news
that he would not be indicted in the CIA leak case.
Mr. Rove has long had a reputation for tiptoeing right up to the edge
of impropriety without crossing it - or at least not getting caught.
To friends and enemies alike who watched Mr. Rove's political rise, the
Valerie Plame affair seemed to fit a familiar pattern.
The CIA operative's identity was surreptitiously leaked to the media,
apparently in retaliation for her husband's criticism of the Bush
Such bare-knuckle political gamesmanship had a name back in Texas, the
Mark of Rove: Level the opponent, leave no fingerprints.
In 1986 the discovery of a planted listening device in Mr. Rove's
office was widely publicized, damaging Democratic Gov. Mark White's
re-election bid. He lost to Mr. Rove's client, Republican Bill
Four years later, a Rove candidate for agriculture commissioner, Rick
Perry, benefited from newspaper leaks about a federal investigation of
aides to Democratic Commissioner Jim Hightower.
And when George W. Bush ousted Democratic Gov. Ann Richards in 1994,
Mr. Rove was at the helm of the campaign.
She was damaged by a whisper campaign in East Texas that focused on a
small number of gay people she had appointed in her administration. Mr.
Rove denied involvement, and no one could prove otherwise.
A dozen years later, Mr. Bush's 1994 chief media strategist, Don
Sipple, still marvels at the effectiveness of the whisper campaign.
"It worked," Mr. Sipple said. "It was always talked about. It was a
subterranean text of the campaign."
More recently, Sen. John McCain in 2000 touted his valorous service as
a prisoner of war in Vietnam as a strong point in his presidential bid.
In South Carolina, Mr. McCain was targeted by opponents who raised
questions about his personal life and by a veterans group that publicly
questioned his temperament to be president after his searing experience
as a POW.
Mr. McCain blamed the president's guru. Mr. Rove again denied it, and
again, no firm evidence showed otherwise.
So when federal prosecutors began investigating the disclosure of Ms.
Plame's identity shortly after The New York Times published a column by
her husband challenging the Bush administration's rationale for war in
Iraq, the narrative had a familiar look.
But for all the similarity, there was something different in the Plame
affair, something that set it apart from the pattern of political dirty
tricks and hardball tactics that have accompanied Rove campaigns of the
In the CIA case, Mr. Rove had to admit his involvement. He had told a
Time magazine reporter about her CIA role and, over the course of five
appearances before a grand jury, Mr. Rove testified that his failure to
initially tell prosecutors was an honest mistake.
When the federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, informed the
president's aide that he would not be charged with any wrongdoing, Mr.
Rove was off the hook legally.
But for the first time, the strategist couldn't deny involvement in
what prosecutors say was a campaign to smear an opponent. This time,
Karl Rove had left fingerprints.
Senior political writer Wayne Slater has covered Karl Rove and Texas
politics for two decades and is co-author of the upcoming book The
Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power.