This doesn’t sound like a smart fight to me if it’s true. John Podhoretz theorizes that White House press secretary Scott McClellan has leaked a story to the Washington Post to fight a turf war against Karl Rove:
The much-discussed Washington Post story this morning headlined “Rove’s Future Role Is Debated” is a bit of a breakthrough because it’s one of the few times during Dubya’s tenure in the White House that the press has been used as a tool to fight an internal battle. The thing is that Bush hates such things. The other thing is that press secretary Scott McClellan’s messy fingerprints are all over the WaPo story, as even Bush will be able to see.
The essence of the story is that Karl Rove needs to go because he’s made life difficult for McClellan. You have to figure, therefore, that the story was leaked or sanctioned by McClellan, a fact that is telegraphed clumsily by a series of pro-McClellan sentences. “Many mid-level staffers inside have expressed frustration that press secretary Scott McClellan’s credibility was undermined by Rove, who told the spokesman that he was not involved in the leak….’That is affecting everybody,’ said a Republican who has discussed the issue with the White House. ‘Scott personally is really beaten down by this. Everybody I talked to talks about this.'”
This is the first time ever that a sympathetic word has been published about Scott McClellan, which is tipoff #1 that the story derives from him or his friends. Tipoff #2 is the idea that what’s affecting the White House is less the whole leak affair than its effect on Scott McClellan. Yes, I’m sure people are wandering the halls of the Old Executive Office Building, murmuring to each other, “I just can’t get any work done because of what’s happened to Scott!”
Look, let’s talk turkey. McClellan isn’t a very good press secretary, to put it mildly. He looks as though at any moment he is going to bolt from the podium and go running into the bathroom to throw up. Karl Rove is the most effective White House strategist in our lifetimes.
Absent more bad news for Rove, if there were a choice about which of the two of them ought to exit, the answer would unambiguously be: Keep Rove and let McClellan walk. Unless, that is, you’re the Democratic Party. Or Scott McClellan. Oh, and as for the story’s detail about how Rove may still be in trouble with the special prosecutor because Fitzgerald had a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper’s lawyer this week, give me a break. We know, because Fitzgerald said so, that he’s tying up loose ends and finishing his investigation. Rove spent four hours before the Fitzgerald grand jury nearly three weeks ago and that’s the testimony Fitzgerald is surely doublechecking.
I think it’s fair to presume that Rove didn’t volunteer to go back to the grand jury, as he did, so that he could tell lies and get caught out in them. That would just be demented. Even the anti-Rove hysterics would surely have to agree with this.
From everything I’ve read, President Bush puts a premium on loyalty and zipped lips, and despises internal leaks. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a brief mention in the Washington Post after the new year that McClellan has “returned to the private sector”.