Monday, August 13, 2007

On The Rove (Again)

Karl Rove holding a "Generation Of Peace" bumpersticker during an interview with Dan Rather in 1972 while working on then-President Nixon's re-election campaign. (Via The Village Voice)

Oftentimes, human beings make jokes about that which we fear most; it's a natural defense mechanism, I suppose, a way to frame the worrisome, the ominous, or even the terrifying as something silly and taunt-worthy, thus (we imagine) curtailing or at least reducing its power--symbolically if not actually.

I'm as guilty of this as the next person: when Spurious George's über-advisor Karl Rove performed an unforgivably dumb rap performance-attempt at the most recent White House Correspondents' Dinner, I couldn't help but notice how much he resembled Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas (and yes, I do indeed have that movie on the brain lately), and helpfully posted a video clip of Tim Burton's puffy menace doing his threatening thing.

None of this changes the fact that Karl Rove was--and still is--an extremely powerful figure in Washington, a man whose career is a tour de force of Machiavellian plotting and, many believe, malfeasance. But now he's reportedly resigning at the end of this month, walking away from the uppermost levers of power that his sticky little fingers have gripped and flipped since winning his boss the White House in 2000 by tying the hapless Al Gore--symbolically if not actually--to Bill Clinton's unimaginably costly blowjobs.

As I've remarked to Robert on more than one occasion, if anything brings down the Bush-Cheney-Rove junta, it will be the fact that they tangled with lawyers. Accordingly, I believe that Attorneygate, rather than the risible "needing to spend more time with the family" excuse, is precisely what's behind Rove's resignation. The Village Voice points to a buried passage in a WaPo article, published earlier this year, that would seem to support this theory (emphasis mine):

Gonzales said he made the final decision to approve the firings but took the recommendations of his assistants without closely reviewing their reasons for dismissing each prosecutor. He said his former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, was in charge of the details and updated him only occasionally on his progress. The attorney general said he made a mistake by not being more closely involved in the process.

Gonzales confirmed statements by Sampson that presidential adviser Karl Rove passed along GOP complaints to Gonzales last fall about the alleged lack of aggressiveness by Iglesias and two other U.S. attorneys in prosecuting voter fraud. Gonzales said he passed on the complaints to Sampson, who at some point in the same time period placed Iglesias on the firing list.

Alleged lack of aggressiveness. More like, lack of toxic partisanship. Republican David Iglesias was only one of several U.S. attorneys fired for, ah, questionable reasons in what may be the scandal that sticks, but the circumstances surrounding his dismissal are right up there among the Most Egregious Bushian Webs of Lies Ever (and that's saying something):

Allen Weh, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House aide for Karl Rove, asking that Iglesias be removed. Then in 2006 Rove personally told Weh “He’s gone.” Weh was dissatisfied with Iglesias due in part to his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation. Weh followed up with, "There’s nothing we’ve done that’s wrong." In March 2007, the White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said Rove "wasn’t involved in who was going to be fired or hired." However, one of the stated reasons for Iglesias' dismissal, by Administration officials, was dissatisfaction in his prosecution of voter-fraud cases. Nevertheless, Iglesias "had been heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department, which twice selected him to train other federal prosecutors to pursue election crimes" and was "one of two chief federal prosecutors invited to teach at a 'voting integrity symposium' in October 2005... sponsored by Justice's public integrity and civil rights sections."

In February 2007 Iglesias publicly alleged that "two lawmakers called him about a well-known criminal investigation involving a Democratic legislator" and that "the lawmakers who called him seemed focused on whether charges would be filed before the November elections. He said the calls made him feel 'pressured to hurry the subsequent cases and prosecutions.' " (U.S. Attorneys in Arizona, Nevada and California were also conducting corruption probes involving Republicans at the time of their dismissals.) According to and later confirmed prior to the 2006 midterm election, Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici called and "pressured" Iglesias "to speed up indictments in a federal corruption investigation that involved at least one former Democratic state senator." When Iglesias told Domenici that an indictment wouldn't be handed down until at least December, Iglesias said "the line went dead," and he was fired one week later by the Bush Administration. After initially denying the call, Domenici admitted making it in March 2007. According to the Washington Post, "A communication by a senator or House member with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation is a violation of ethics rules." Domenici admitted calling Iglesias despite the initial denial, but Domenici said he never used the word "November" when he called Iglesias about an ongoing Albuquerque courthouse corruption case. Domenici has denied trying to influence Iglesias, and has hired lawyer K. Lee Blalack II to represent him. According to the Justice Department, Domenici called the Department and demanded Iglesias be replaced on four occasions. On the day that Iglesias was fired, Harriet Miers' deputy William Kelley wrote that Domenici's chief of staff "is happy as a clam" about Iglesias and a week later Sampson wrote that "Domenici is going to send over names tomorrow (not even waiting for Iglesias's body to cool)."

Conlige suspectos semper habitos. Round up the usual suspects. And pass the popcorn.

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