Tuesday, July 19, 2005

[Insert Silly Pun Here] Plame

From the breathless commentary about the Rove-Plame Affair, you would think that this is July 1974 and we are awaiting the release of the White House tapes and the final denouement of the president. I followed the story fairly closely, but I just don't see how this is a major scandal. First, it sounds like it is very hard to prove criminal activity since even if Rove did out Plame's identity, he had to do so knowingly. Perhaps Peter Fitzgerald, the Special Prosecutor, has the goods on him, but if recent history is any guide, the tendency of Special Prosecutors is toward overzealousness that usually leads to little in the way of criminal convictions. And even if Fitzgerald manages to make a conviction stick on Rove (or someone else), the likelihood of this having a major political impact is nil. First, none of this leads to the President so he can always say that he is "shocked, shocked" that someone in his administration would do such a thing, and then walk away with no lasting damage to himself. Second, the scandal involves technical violations of obscure laws, making it rather hard for average Americans to follow. Some will argue that the heart of the matter, and what will prove so damaging to Bush, is that his associates threw law and morals out the window in order to pursue their own political agenda. OK, but most people just assume that this goes on everyday and that Democrats would do the same thing if they were in the White House.

Perhaps the best analogy is the series of scandals that beset the latter years of the Reagan White House--Iran-Contra, the resignation of Ed Meese, the convictions of Lyn Nofziger and Michael Deaver. Just the first two of these were far more serious than the Rove-Plame scandal, but they ultimately had little political impact. Reagan's popularity stayed high and George H.W. Bush managed to win the 1988 election rather handily. Perhaps there is some major shoe yet to drop, but I think that the Rove-Plame will have even less impact.

Update: Political Animal has a nice post that echoes my thoughts.

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