SORRY, NOT SORRY. I realize this is not a mystery that ranks up there with whether the president really read a biography of Chairman Mao, but I suppose I should clarify that no, we won�t be apologizing to Karl Rove as per David Broder�s suggestion today.

Broder cites a Salon piece by my friend Sidney Blumenthal (reprinted in Sid�s new book How Bush Rules; buy it now!), a Newsweek piece by an unnamed writer, and a TAP cover story by our investigative editor Joe Conason as having unfairly calumniated Rove in connection with Plame-gate. It�s the standard line: that Mike Isikoff and David Corn�s revelation in their new book, Hubris (buy it now!), that Richard Armitage was Bob Novak�s source has to mean that Rove and Scooter Libby are completely innocent.

Joe dispensed with this argument in his Observer column yesterday:

But whatever Mr. Armitage did, or says he did, in no way alters what Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby did in the days that followed, nor does it change their intentions. It�s a simple concept -- two people or more can commit a similar act for entirely different reasons -- but evidently it has flummoxed the great minds of contemporary journalism.

Rove and Libby both told journalist -- respectively, Matt Cooper and Judith Miller -- about Plame�s identity. They weren�t confirming things that Cooper and Miller had learned from Armitage. They told them. Rove told Cooper about Plame on the morning of July 11, 2003, three days before Novak�s column appeared in the Post (the column moved across the AP wire sometime on July 11; it�s not known what time of day). As Corn�s Web site notes (scroll down to eighth bullet point), Hubris also reveals that Rove told Chris Matthews (apparently in a conversation) that the Wilsons �were trying to screw the White House, so the White House was going to screw them back.�

That quote makes it quite clear that Rove was working to discredit Wilson and Plame (as does an earlier, widely reported Rove-to-Matthews comment, that Plame was �fair game�). Corn and Isikoff apparently describe this effort to discredit the Wilsons in their book (according to Corn�s Web site -- I haven�t read it yet).

That Rove wasn�t Novak�s source means only that, by happy (for him) coincidence, he did not out Plame. But he was very clearly trying to do exactly that at the same point in time. The existence of that scheme is well documented. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald wrote of a �concerted action� by �multiple people in the White House� to �discredit, punish, or seek revenge against� the Wilsons.

Conason�s piece did speculate that Rove, given what we know about his past m.o. in such situations, might have been Novak�s source. But it certainly didn�t charge outright that he was (and it said that like any American, he deserved the legal presumption of innocence). It charged that he was central to an effort to discredit the Wilsons, which is true, and that he �certainly revealed Plame�s identity�-- which he did, to Cooper.

--Michael Tomasky

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