"Thank you, Mr. Rove"

Fire Karl Rove? The Wall Street Journal says we ought to give him a medal.

Published July 13, 2005 2:06PM (EDT)

The editors of the Wall Street Journal have just weighed in on the Karl Rove case. Their take: "The White House political guru deserves a prize" for telling the truth and "exposing a case of CIA nepotism involving Joe Wilson as his wife."

The Journal says that Rove is "turning out to be the real 'whistleblower' in this whole sorry pseudo-scandal. He's the one who warned Time's Matthew Cooper and other reporters to be wary of Mr. Wilson's credibility. He's the one who told the press the truth that Mr. Wilson had been recommended for the CIA consulting gig by his wife, not by Vice President Dick Cheney as Mr. Wilson was asserting on the airwaves. In short, Mr. Rove provided important background so Americans could understand that Mr. Wilson wasn't a whistleblower but was a partisan trying to discredit the Iraq War in an election campaign. Thank you, Mr. Rove."

Along the way to the beatification, the Journal skips through an inconvenient fact or two and makes up at least one of its own. The Journal says "36 major newspaper organizations that filed a legal brief in March aimed at keeping Mr. Cooper and the New York Times's Judith Miller out of jail" agree that there's no evidence that a crime has been committed in the Plame case. But of course, a legal brief filed "in March" is necessarily one that was written before it was revealed that Karl Rove told Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

And the Journal says that Rove can't be convicted under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act unless he "deliberately and maliciously exposed" Plame as an undercover operative. But that's not what the law says, and it's not what the law requires. While the legal standard for a conviction under the 1982 act is high, the prosecution needs to show that the leak was made "intentionally," not "maliciously."

But who needs facts when there's a hero to worship? "If there's any scandal at all here, it is that this entire episode has been allowed to waste so much government time and media attention, not to mention inspire a 'special counsel' probe," the Journal says. "As for the press corps, rather than calling for Mr. Rove to be fired, they ought to be grateful to him for telling the truth."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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