Breaking up is hard to do

Rove salutes AmericaBy Robert Silvey

Karl Rove is a bit testy these days, as Sheryl Crow and Laurie David discovered on Saturday. They ran into him at the White House press dinner and tried to initiate a friendly little conversation about global warming. It was not a success. When Rove tried to escape, Crow touched his arm to continue the discussion.

Rove: “Don’t touch me.”

Crow: “You can’t speak to us like that, you work for us.”

Rove: “I don’t work for you, I work for the American people.”

Crow: “We are the American people.”

And then he skittered away. Rove later accused those uppity ladies of “Hollywood histrionics.” Very testy indeed. He must be worried he’ll be the next Bushie to lose his job, after Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz—maybe even do some prison time too. No wonder he’s on edge. Rove’s missing RNC emails are reminiscent of the 18-minute gap in Nixon’s tape. A smoking gun, I’d say—except that the gun has disappeared, and only the smoke remains, the circumstantial smoke.

Of course, Gonzales and Wolfowitz haven’t actually left their jobs yet, but they have taken the first three steps: shame, emasculation, and receipt of strong support from George Bush. In December, when Bush said that Donald Rumsfeld was indispensable, he was only one day away from appointing his successor. Based on that precedent, Gonzales and Wolfowitz are on their way out sometime this week. Purging Rove may take a little longer, since Bush hasn’t praised him lately in public.

As for Gonzales, the great moment in his Senate testimony Thursday was when he was asked about some details of the prosecutor purge. He said, “There are clearly some things I don’t know about what happened, and it’s frustrating to me, as head of the department, to not know that still today. I think that was my plan.Jon Stewart explains: “Alberto Gonzales doesn’t know what happened. But he assures you what he doesn’t remember was handled properly.”

One by one, Republican lawmakers are calling for Gonzales to resign, for the good of the party—for the good of their reelection chances, they mean. The Gonzo-meter at Slate puts the chance of his departure at 95 percent, and the Intrade resignation contracts for June are at 77.9. But that scenario may be just what Bush and Rove want, and the attorney general’s inept performance may be part of their plan to quash the investigation. If Gonzales appears to be stupid and incompetent, and then (after several more days of media coverage) he finally falls on his sword to “avoid any distractions for the president,” the spotlight is likely to remain on his actions and ability—rather than moving on to the real decision-makers, Bush and Rove. They are hoping that Congress and the media will be satisfied with the head of Alberto Gonzales.

Many of the people calling for Wolfowitz to resign are on his own World Bank staff, including Managing Director Graeme Wheeler, 110 country directors, and the entire staff association. Some staffers are apparently behind the scathing website Wolfowitz Resign! Corruption and concubinage are not welcome at the bank, especially for a leader who came to the presidency with an anticorruption agenda and an attitude that only he knew the secrets of development funding.

The rollcall of publications demanding resignation is worldwide, from the Economist and the New York Times to the Daily Times of Pakistan and the Khaleej Times of the United Arab Emirates. If Wolfowitz remains adamant, it’s the Board of Directors that must finally make the decision, and Tony Czuczka at Monsters and Critics reports that “Germany, Britain and France have pointedly refused to support him and the World Bank’s top steering committee Sunday expressed ‘great concern’ about the affair.” This is an international organization, after all, and whatever Bush may prefer, Wolfowitz’s time now appears to be short.

There’s a thread that runs through all these stories, a shared sense of entitlement and self-righteousness. Or, as Dana Milbank described Gonzales in the Washington Post, it’s “a mixture of arrogance, combativeness and amnesia.” Getting rid of Gonzales and Wolfowitz and Rove will not be enough to expunge the scourge. Getting rid of Cheney and Bush, welcome as it will be (and the sooner the better), will not be enough.

What we need are civil servants who really do work for the American people, who serve the American people. Unlike Karl Rove, they could try to be civil too.

[Cross-posted at Rubicon]

2 replies »

  1. If people continue making noise about it maybe Gonzoles will be given his Medal of Freedom and sent home to polish it, but I think it’s naive to believe any actual good will come of that. They like offering up sacrificial lambs to make it look like all of the trouble was caused by one bad apple.

    Maybe they’ll make Gonzoles “War Czar” on his way out so they can blame Iraq on him, too. Nothing is going to change until the press and the Congress stop falling for this routine.

  2. Good idea. You know, they’ve changed “war czar” to “execution manager.” These guys have never heard of the concept of connotation.

    Then we’ll need some replacements. How about Tony Blair at the World Bank? And as AG, Bill Clinton would work: experienced, trained as a lawyer, and a clear bipartisan choice to mend relations with the Democrats. For Rove’s replacement, Barney might be good: he’s loyal, he wouldn’t give bad advice, and his bark is worse than his bite.