It depends on what the meaning of the word "Plame" is

Spinning 101: How Karl Rove did everything right.

Published June 15, 2006 6:26PM (EDT)

Karl Rove didn't leak, and he didn't mislead anybody about it afterward.

That's not the truth, exactly -- OK, it's not anything even remotely like the truth -- but it's the spin coming out of the "Rove is owed an apology" crowd. Jim VandeHei has the long version in today's Washington Post. Here's the short one:

Fact: Rove revealed the identity of Joseph Wilson's wife to both Robert Novak and Matthew Cooper.

Spin: Rove's conversations with Novak and Cooper weren't "leaks" because they called him, not the other way around. "He did not have a role in leaking anything," a source close to Rove tells VandeHei. "In this town, leaking is a proactive action: Someone gets on the phone and calls reporters for a purpose."

Fact: At a White House press briefing in October 2003, a reporter asked Scott McClellan if he could say "specifically" whether Rove or Scooter Libby "told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." McClellan responded: "Those individuals -- I talked -- I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands."

Spin: Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie tells VandeHei that McClellan's statement wasn't misleading because everyone knew the real issue was whether the leak -- sorry, the passing of information in a telephone call initiated by a journalist -- revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent.

Fact: When CNN asked Rove about Valerie Plame in August 2004, he said: "I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name."

Spin: The "source close to Rove" tells VandeHei that Rove's statement was technically correct: Although Novak and Cooper talked with Rove about Joseph Wilson's wife, Rove may not have used her name in his conversations with them.

What about the president's promise that his administration would do "not only what is legal but what is right"? Rove's supporters have that one covered, too. As current RNC chairman Ken Mehlman tells ABC, "Not only has Karl Rove done nothing wrong, but he in fact did everything right in cooperating with the investigation."

By Tim Grieve

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

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