The story that was burning up the blogs last week finally made it into the mainstream media: Karl Rove was involved in blowing a CIA agent's cover as an act of political vengeance. What a difference a scoop makes. As soon as Newsweek made the definitive link between Rove and CIA-leak-gate on Sunday, the mainstream media kicked into scandal overdrive, throwing in the administration's face a pattern of contradictory quotes from high officials that had been circulating on blogs for some time.
This was the media's own version of revenge for being mislead on the leak story for two years. On Tuesday, July 12, the New York Times trotted out a list of old statements by Bush and his spokesman Scott McClellan (statements that bloggers like Daily Kos had dug up and posted in the run-up to the news), and let the dissonance speak for itself: At a briefing on September 16, 2003, a reporter asked McClellan how President Bush knew that Rove wasn't involved. McClellan responded, "Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place... If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."
Democrats followed suit, calling on Bush to make good on his previous promise and can the leaker (i.e., Rove). They also called for congressional hearings (unlikely in a Republican-dominated Congress). And they called for Rove to publicly explain himself. This strategy seemed to be bearing fruit on at least one editorial page: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ahead of the mainstream editorial pack, called for Rove's dismissal on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the White House daily briefings got unusually testy. McClellan, who in the past has strongly denied Rove had anything to do with the leak, on Monday was told on camera by a reporter that his new decision not to comment on Rove's role was "ridiculous."
As comparisons to Watergate stonewalling abounded, President Bush was asked at a Tuesday public appearance whether he would fire Rove. He responded, the New York Times reported, with "stony silence." ■