Mark Twain once had a line about how reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. We can say the same about Karl Rove.
Last Friday, a report on a website -- which I will not link here, because I didn't believe it -- insisted that not only has President Bush's political swami been secretly indicted, but that he already has informed a number of White House officials in advance. The rumor was so hot by Saturday that an announcement of Rove's indictment was made from the podium at a Michigan trial lawyers association dinner, prompting a standing ovation.
But there he was earlier today, still innocent of any charges that may or may not be brought, speaking in Washington to one of his favorite conservative groups, the American Enterprise Institute. It's worth noting his most interesting remarks, which I excerpt below:
Referring to the mood of the nation, he said, "I think the war looms over everything. No doubt about it....Look, we're in a sour time. I readily admit it. To be in the middle of a war where people turn on their television set and see people dying is not something that makes people happy and optimistic and upbeat.
"I heard the same kind of language about the 2004 election. We're going to be just fine on the fall elections. We stand for... a strong national defense, (winning) the war on terrorism, which involves victory in Iraq, strong national defense, economic policies that are pro-growth involving tax cuts and free trade, fiscal restraint in the budget process. Our opponents at this point stand for little more than...obstructionism....
"The American people are a center-right country presented with center-right candidates will vote center-right candidates....
"I know our own polls. I love reading your polls. I love this (media) mania that substitutes polls for substance. There's going to be a special Betty Ford addiction for those who are addicted to regular poll numbers. The polls I believe (are those) that get run through the (Republican National Committee). I look at them all the time. Americans like this person. (His) personal approval ratings are in the 60s. Job approval is lower. What that says to me is that people like him, they respect him, he's someone they feel a connection with, but they're just sour on the war. And that's the way it's going to be. We'll just fight our way through."
(Whoa, time out for a second: Rove thinks that more than 60 percent of Americans still like and respect Bush? I suppose there's always the chance that the RNC is right and every single other polling operation is wrong, and that would certainly gibe with the administration's general confidence in its own rightness. But, for the record, let us note that the late-April Gallup poll reported that only 39 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Bush personally; that a separate late-April Gallup poll, cosponsored by USA Today and CNN, found that only 40 percent of Americans viewed Bush as honest and trustworthy; and that the new CBS-New York Times poll reports that only 29 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Bush personally. That's down from 64 percent, as reported by CBS-NYT during the summer of 2002.)
Anyway, those Rove remarks were all in response to audience questions. What's most striking was that his formal address was almost entirely a numbing rendition of economic statistics, designed to demonstrate that Bush deserves political credit for a healthy economy. In other words, his chosen theme totally ignored Iraq. I'm sure that those polls he professes to ignore had no influence whatsoever on his choice of topic.
By the way, the issue of Rove's possible indictment did surface -- but only once, and in an oblique fashion, during the question phase. David Corn of The Nation decided to raise a sensitive topic:
Two years ago, Rove had informed Bush press flak Scott McClellan that he, Rove, had played no role in the outing of CIA employe Valerie Plame, wife of Bush critic Joseph Wilson. Later, it turned out that Rove had indeed played a role, by discussing Plame with a Time magazine reporter. (This is one reason why Rove could be indicted.)
So, Corn asked Rove today: "Scott McClellan told the White House press corps--many are here today--that he had spoken to you and you were not involved in the CIA leak. Can you explain why the American public...two and a half years later hasn't been given an explanation? Don't you think it deserves one, for it does seem that you were to some degree--though it may be disputed--involved in that leak?"
Rove said only that his lawyer had issued a statement on April 26, end of response. It turns out that the April 26 comment only addressed Rove's legal status, and didn't deal with the issue Corn was raising. Here is Corn's recounting of what happened today.