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Still Obsessed with "Plamegate" By: Byron York
The Hill | Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Last week’s YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas, the first ever gathering of devotees of the popular liberal website Daily Kos, featured an unending series of panel discussions.

You want to build a progressive majority? There were people there to talk about it.

You want to talk back to talk radio? You’d have plenty of help.

You want to reform the electoral system? No problem.

But there was one panel discussion that attracted more attention, and more people, and more enthusiasm, than just about any other. The simply titled “CIA Leak Investigation Panel” featured a who’s who of critics of the Bush administration and its actions in the Valerie Plame Wilson affair.

Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson was there. So was former CIA analyst Larry Johnson. The Washington Post’s online columnist Dan Froomkin was there, along with National Journal’s Murray Waas. Finally, there were three bloggers who have made names for themselves writing about the investigation: Jane Hamsher, Christy Hardin Smith and Marcy Wheeler.

If you were there, it’s likely that you love — really love — the CIA leak case. Certainly Hamsher, who runs the website firedoglake.com, does.

“Why are people so fascinated by this story?” she asked at the beginning of the session. “Why am I so fascinated with this story?”

“Well, it’s got all the elements of a classic drama and the thrill of a gradually unfolding mystery,” Hamsher continued. “It’s got superlative villains: the petulant boy king, the sneering gimp of a vice president and their Machiavellian henchman. …”

You get the idea.

People were excited. If ever there was a palpable sense of hope and anticipation in one room, it was there in the Riviera Hotel. And the hope was this: that Karl Rove would be indicted. After that, who knew how high the scandal might go?

And then, less than a week later, came these terrible words, from Rove lawyer Robert Luskin:

“On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove.

“In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation. We believe that the special counsel’s decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove’s conduct.”

Who was Luskin trying to kid? If he thought a simple lack of indictment would stop the “baseless speculation about Mr. Rove’s conduct,” he hasn’t been keeping up with the YearlyKos crowd.

The day after the CIA leak panel, Marcy Wheeler, who blogs under the name emptywheel, introduced herself to me and asked what I thought of the session. I said I thought there would be tremendous disappointment in the audience if Rove were not indicted. Really? she asked. Yes, I said — I guessed that nearly everyone in the room was hoping for Rove to face charges.

Wheeler later wrote an account of our conversation, and by her own recall she said, “But don’t all reasonable people have hopes that Rove will be indicted?”

I said no, I didn’t think so. Wheeler wrote, “As soon as I walked away, I wished that I had responded, ‘No, Byron, many of us have even higher hopes that Dick Cheney will pay for his obvious involvement in this case.’”

Wheeler wasn’t alone with her hopes. After the announcement of Fitzgerald’s decision, some in the pro-indictment community speculated there is still some blockbuster secret proceeding under way that will blow the lid off everything, once it is finally made public.

In particular, the guessing was that Rove had made a deal in which he will cooperate in return for not being indicted.

“I have to say that immunity in exchange for cooperation is certainly something that has crossed my mind after the unusual multiple testimonial appearances before the grand jury that Rove made,” wrote Christy Hardin Smith.

The hoped-for result of the theoretical Rove bargain is, of course, what Wheeler hoped: a prosecution of Cheney. Fitzgerald wouldn’t have made a deal, the theorists theorize, unless Rove promised to finger higher-ups.

Then another problem emerged. Rove defense spokesman Mark Corallo said, “There are no conditions to this action by the special prosecutor. There has never been any talk of conditions, of cooperation, of anything that could even be construed as conditions.”

Oops. There goes that theory.

It should be said that the Fitzgerald investigation might not be over. It would be irresponsible to say flatly that the prosecutor will not take any more action.

But it has been going on for a long time. And so far, it has yielded criminal charges — for perjury, not for any underlying crime — against just one person, Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff Lewis Libby.

Still, that doesn’t put an end to hope. After all, when you’ve fallen in love with the petulant boy king, the sneering gimp of a vice president and their Machiavellian henchman, you never want it to end, do you?

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