Bush, wagging the court, dodges Plame question

If the plan was to avert attention from the Plame case, it seems to be working -- more or less.

Published July 19, 2005 4:04PM (EDT)

If the White House intended to get the focus off Karl Rove and the Valerie Plame investigation by floating the news that a Supreme Court nomination is imminent, the strategy sure seems to be working, more or less.

The president just appeared before the press with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and the two leaders took a few questions from the press. First out of the box: A query as to how soon Bush will make his Supreme Court announcement and whether he feels obliged to replace Sandra Day O'Connor with a woman.

The president didn't have much to say. "I'm comfortable with where we are in the process," Bush said. "I have thought about a variety of people from different walks of life, some of whom I've known before, some of whom I'd never met before. I'm trying to figure out what else I can say that I hadn't said yesteday that sounds profound to you without actually answering your questions."

As for the timing of an announcement, Bush said: "I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you who it is."

A second reporter asked a question about how long Australian troops will remain in Iraq. And after that, a third reporter asked about the Plame investigation -- specifically, whether Rove or anyone else in the administration had offered to resign and whether Bush wanted to expand on his pronouncement Monday that he'd fire anyone who "committed a crime" in the case.

"My answer really hasn't changed from 24 hours ago," Bush said. "It's the same answer. I'd be glad to answer another question if you've got one. I'd be glad to repeat what I said yesterday -- there's an ongoing investiation and people shouldn't jump to conclusions in the press until the investigation is over. Once the investigation is over, I'll deal with it. Have you got another question?"

Instead of asking a follow-up -- or even insisting that Bush address the question put to him about the resignation of Rove or other officials -- the reporter asked Bush what he thought of
Edith Clement.

The president didn't answer that question, either.

By Tim Grieve

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

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