NEW YORK-"Karl Rove is loyal to President Bush," a correspondent wrote as Treasongate broke. "Isn't that a form of patriotism?" Not in a representative democracy, I replied. Only in a dictatorship is fealty to the leader equal to loyalty to the nation. We're Bush's boss. He works for us. Unless that changed on 9/11 (or 12/20/00). Rove had no right to give away state secrets, even to protect Bush.
Newly loquacious Time reporter Matt Cooper has deflated half a dozen Rove-defending talking points since we last visited. Republicans, for instance, have argued that Rove had merely confirmed what Cooper already knew: that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. That claim evaporated in Cooper's piece in the magazine's July 25 issue: "This was the first time I had heard anything about Wilson's wife."
"I've already said too much," Cooper quotes Rove as he ended their 2003 conversation.
Rove may avoid prosecution under the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act, says John Dean, counsel at the Nixon White House. "There is, however, evidence suggesting that other laws were violated," he says, alluding to Title 18, Section 641 of the U.S. Code. The "leak of sensitive [government] information" for personal purposes-say, outting the CIA wife of your boss's enemy-is "a very serious crime," according to the judge presiding over a similar recent case. If convicted under the anti-leak statute, Rove would face 10 years in a federal prison.
Even if Rove originally learned about Plame's status from jailed New York Times journalist Judith Miller, Dean continues, "it could make for some interesting pairing under the federal conspiracy statute (which was the statute most commonly employed during Watergate)." Conspiracy will get you five years at Hotel Graybar.
Rove's betrayal of a CIA WMD expert-while the U.S. was using WMDs as a reason to invade Iraq-is virtually indistinguishable from Robert Hanssen's selling out of American spies. Both allowed America's enemies to learn the identities of covert operatives. Both are traitors. Both are eligible for the death penalty.
And he's not the only high-ranking Bush Administration traitor.
In last week's column, I speculated that Treasongate would almost certainly implicate Dick Cheney. Now, according to Time, Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby is being probed as a second source of leaks to reporters about Plame.
We already know that Rove is a traitor. So, probably, is Cheney. Since George W. Bush has protected traitors for at least two years, he is therefore an accomplice to the Rove-Libby cell. We are long past the point where, during the summer of 1974, GOP senators led by Barry Goldwater told Richard Nixon that he had to resign. So why aren't Turd Blossom and his compadres out of office and awaiting trial?
Democrats are out of power. And, sadly, Republicans have become so obsessed with personal loyalty that they've forgotten that their first duty is to country, not party or friend. Unless they wake up soon and dump Bush, Republicans could be permanently discredited.
Bush sets the mafia-like tone: "I'm the kind of person, when a friend gets attacked, I don't like it." His lieutenants blur treason with hardball politics: "[Democrats] just aren't coming forward with any policy positions that would change the country, so they want to pick up whatever the target of the week is and make the most out of that," says GOP House Whip Roy Blunt, and "blame the victim." Rove absurdly argues Congresswoman Deborah Pryce was innocently trying to expose Wilson's "lies."
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds Bush's credibility at 41 percent, down from 50 in January. Given events past and present, that's still a lot higher than it ought to be.
We don't need a law to tell us that unmasking a CIA agent, particularly during wartime, is treasonous. Every patriotic American-liberal, conservative, or otherwise-knows that.