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Winning the Roverian Way

Published by the Sunday Independent of London

But we are now.  The volume is turned up, the newspapers are spread across our laps, and the Web browsers are flashing.  Americans are finally politically engaged because we fear that the federal grand jury investigating Rove and other senior administration officials will show us things we do not wish to see.  A president who promised to return honor to the White House and launch a new era of accountability may have as his most trusted confidante a man who has committed a heinous act of treason by exposing an undercover CIA operative.  And he likely acted in consort with the vice president’s top counselor, I. Lewis Libby.  We are a nation at war and face the internal horror that the people who claim to be leading us through these tremulous years may have betrayed the very people putting their lives at risk in the conflict.  Can that be possible?  In America?  The nation that roars hoary, endless criticisms demanding democracy in distant countries?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  And the facts of the case may prove to be considerably more disturbing than the act of exposing a CIA agent.  Karl Rove’s involvement means there was probably a grander scheme he was determined to protect.  Small things are not worthy of his mind.  When I first met Rove, he was working endless hours building the donor lists that were to transform American politics.  When he summoned reporters to his office 20 years ago to suggest a listening device he had found on the wall was put there by his Democratic opponent, we all smirked.  But he had us.  We wrote the story and it helped his candidate win.  A few years later, the FBI agent who had investigated that bugging began issuing subpoenas to every Democratic officeholder under the Lone Star sky.  Rove told journalists what was going to happen before it did.  Connections were obvious.  But impossible to prove.  The careers of honest, innocent people were ruined.

Daily, I am asked if Karl Rove is capable of doing what is suspected.  The answer is in his history.  After following him around and traveling on all of his campaigns for a quarter century, I am probably the most frightened of all Americans.  Providing Rove access to real power in the White House was a grave mistake by voters.  Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who is investigating the leak, may eventually have some horrible truths to share with America and the world.  Those of us who have closely tracked Karl Rove’s political ascension and know what is in his tool box are relatively confident we know why he and others in the administration ran the great risk of  leaking the name of former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife.  Rampant speculation is that an inquiry by Wilson in Niger threatened to uncover a far more devious plot, a yarn that most reasonably unfolds on the pages of a mass market paperback on an airport book rack.

If I were writing a novel about Karl Rove and Lewis Libby’s endeavors, my main characters would be worried that there was no proportionate response to the attacks of 9/11.  How do you fight an enemy who has no country?  My protagonists find a more convenient villain in the same region and the invasion provides political and economic benefits.  The challenge is to convince the public the sacrifice is necessary to protect the great republic.  And how do my characters do that and keep it simple to understand?  Maybe they dispatch fervent neo-conservative operatives to Italy for a meeting with the Italian intelligence agency SISMI, along with the head of Italy’s defense department, an operative from the office of the vice president of the United States, and a man named Larry Franklin, (who actually is, back here in the real world, going to be prosecuted for leaking government information to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee.)

Let’s say, for the sake of intrigue, that not too long after this clandestine meeting, the Niger embassy in Rome is burgled and nothing is stolen except for letterheads and seals.  Eventually, clumsy forgeries begin circulating that claim to prove Saddam Hussein tried to buy yellowcake uranium from the African nation.  Suddenly, my anti-heroes have an argument for invasion: Saddam and the bomb.  The plot twists, however, when the man who will eventually win the Nobel Peace Prize calls the evidence fake.  His warnings are ignored.  The drums of war bang louder and faster.  The vice president wants the faux faxes to be real.  Word comes that a dashing former ambassador has been an emissary of the CIA to Niger and has discovered they are false.  He is a threat to the case for war with Iraq and my characters hatch a plan to smack him down by leaking his undercover agent wife’s name to reporters.  If my hero were Karl Rove, he understood how obsessed Lewis Libby, the vice president’s top advisor, was with Wilson.  Rove would suggest the leak idea and step back.  His back story showed he was always good at creating helpful environments for his causes and candidates.  Others acted out his plans.

Maybe two low level staffers handle the leak to Judith Miller of the New York Times, an old friend of Libby’s, and Robert Novak, a GOP gunslinger of a columnist and long time associate of Karl Rove’s.  (What a story!  My editors will never think it plausible.)  Predictably, I have Miller call her pal Libby and Novak phone Rove and the story is thus confirmed by “senior administration officials” that the ambassador’s wife is a CIA agent.  Novak writes it fast and Miller backs off when she sees the firestorm of controversy.  Rove, though, in my tale, is determined to place the story with mainstream media and not just a partisan columnist.  More calls are made to NBC News, Time magazine, the Washington Post.  The act of treason is completed.

There is more to my story, of course.  I am thinking this will also become a screenplay and will include a prosecutor, straight as a West Texas horizon, who is totally apolitical and humble and shows eyes worn weary by determination to serve the law.  The deeper he digs, the closer he comes to discovering the most powerful people in the land appear to have acted as covert agents against their own country, manufactured evidence to deceive a great democracy into a hopeless war, committed the crime of lying to the US congress and an investigating grand jury, and cost the lives of young people from America, the UK, Spain, Italy, Australia, Iraq, and numerous Arab nations.  The law and democracy are in great peril as my narrative approaches its denouement.  My publisher scoffs.  A book won’t sell without a believable plot.

My novel, though, keeps intersecting with reality.  Lewis Libby got indicted.  Karl Rove remains under investigation.  The grand jury’s term has concluded but American law allows their authority to remain open until the prosecutor advises jurors they are finished with their public duty.  The plot turns again.  A nation trembles.

And like a father reassuring a frightened child, I keep telling myself and my friends, “Don’t worry.  It’s only a story.  It’s only a story.  It’s only a story.”