Rove CIA Scandal Heats Up the Capital

Analysis at NPR.org

The connection of presidential advisor Karl Rove to the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity has been the talk of Washington, D.C., all week. Critics of the Bush administration are calling for Rove's resignation, while Rove's supporters are concerned about the politics of the investigation and have launched a counter-attack. Alex Chadwick talks about the controversy's effect on the President's agenda with NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, who is trying to steal your identity and what are they going to do with it?

First, the lead--Washington. He's been called Bush's brain, the Wizard of the West Wing, and President Bush is said to refer to him as Boy Genius, among other more colorful terms. Karl Rove is a presidential confidante and the deputy chief of staff in the White House. This week, with mounting allegations that he's had at least some role in the unmasking of former CIA operative Valerie Plame, the aide risks becoming a distraction from his boss's agenda. At a news conference earlier this week, reporters posed question after question to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mr. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Spokesman): If you'll let me finish...

Unidentified Reporter: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved, and now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved or was he not? 'Cause contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?

Mr. McCLELLAN: David, there will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

Unidentified Reporter: Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?

Mr. McCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.

CHADWICK: NPR senior correspondent and regular DAY TO DAY contributor Juan Williams joins us again. Juan, sounds like it's getting pretty heated back there in Washington.

JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:

Kind of testy. You know, it's hot and muggy. These summer storms come in Washington, Alex.

CHADWICK: Let's just start here, if we may. First of all, Karl Rove is someone you have interviewed repeatedly. I've heard your conversations on "Morning Edition." Describe exactly what it is that Mr. Rove does for this administration.

WILLIAMS: The fact is, Karl Rove does what he wants to do. He is the president's top political adviser. He is the man that was called not only Boy Genius, as you pointed out, but the architect after the victory in 2004, and has been at his side since Texas, since his days as a gubernatorial candidate in Texas. So he's a personal confidante, friend. At times I remember that former Secretary of State Powell would get upset that you would have Karl Rove getting involved in what he considered to be international affairs. There really is no limit because Karl Rove is such a power. If you think back to Karen Hughes, who was in the White House and was a kind of counterpoint to Karl Rove for a while, when Karen Hughes left, there was great concern in the White House, people on the record saying, you know, now with Karen gone, there's nobody to counterbalance the power, the tremendous power that Karl Rove has in this White House.

CHADWICK: He has been a friend of Mr. Bush since the early '70s. He's been his closest political adviser through all his political campaigns. And apparently he's someone who talks to reporters, who guides them in the thinking of the administration. When you want to know what the White House is thinking, can you call up Karl Rove and get him to explain things for you?

WILLIAMS: Well, he doesn't necessarily return the call right away, but he does call back. And also e-mail works. He can be very short and he can be evasive. So sometimes you think, `Well, why did I bother to do it?' But yeah, he takes you inside. And the fact is that once you have that level of access, then you feel as if you have a better understanding. And he can guide you away from stories as well as to stories, which is the case on this controversial phone call he had with Bob Novak as well as with Time magazine corespondent Matt Cooper.

CHADWICK: Well, Juan, the development today is The New York Times and the Associated Press are reporting that someone--again, an anonymous source, apparently friendly to Karl Rove--says that Karl Rove got the information about Valerie Plame from a journalist.

WILLIAMS: You have a source, who we don't know, but who apparently is supportive of Rove, saying that Rove was truthful when he said he did not reveal Valerie Plame's name, that he simply responds to Novak, `I heard that, too.' But is that a matter, then, of having Karl Rove, you know, a top White House adviser, reveal classified information? Would that be a violation of the law? That brings us to a whole new level of questions about exactly what his exposure is. We've been told that Patrick Fitzgerald says to his lawyer that Karl Rove is not a target of this probe. Has that changed? We don't know.

CHADWICK: We do know that he's this increasingly controversial figure. He has been in the president's company quite publicly this week. How much longer is he going to be in the White House?

WILLIAMS: Alex, I think that President Bush would have to leave the White House himself before you'd see Karl Rove leaving. There is such a matter of loyalty for this president. He makes that a priority in all his relationships. And Karl Rove has been with this president even before he was governor of Texas, has guided him through every political campaign, been by his side. And I say this despite a Wall Street Journal poll that came out Thursday, I believe, that indicated that now just 41 percent of Americans give the president high ratings for being honest and straightforward. Forty-five percent say he's failing in that regard. But you know what? It doesn't matter to this president. I believe that he feels that Karl Rove is his adviser, that Karl Rove is taking unfair political shots from Democrats because he has been so successful in promoting George W. Bush.

CHADWICK: NPR senior correspondent and regular DAY TO DAY contributor and analyst Juan Williams. Juan, thank you.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex.

CHADWICK: And if you, dear listeners, are having trouble keeping up with the twists and turns in this case, as am I, there's analysis and a time line at npr.org.

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