Instead of appointing a special prosecutor, what if the president had just called in his top people in the beginning of all this and said, "Folks, we have a problem here. I need to know who's been talking to Bob Novak and I need to know today by the end of business?" That's what presidents used to do, and they're usually pretty good at finding out when they really want to know.
Not many people had the nerve to lie to Lyndon Johnson when he looked them in the eye, and Richard Nixon figured out early on who Deep Throat was, and now we know from Woodward and Bernstein that on that one Nixon was right.
Instead, this White House did what it usually does when challenged: It went into attack mode, called charges that the White House had leaked the name ridiculous, and allowed the controversy to boil until a special prosecutor had to be appointed. Now two years and millions of tax dollars later, the president's trusted friend and strategist Karl Rove has emerged as the top suspect, and we're left to wonder: Can anything said from the White House podium be taken at face value, or does the White House just deny automatically anything that reflects badly on it?
This could and should have been dealt with inside the White House long before it reached the special prosecutor level. Instead, the president's people followed the modern public relations rule, "Never admit a mistake, just do what is necessary to kill the story before it kills you," which often works. What they are learning, though, is that when that involves tearing down the character of your critics, it can also be very dangerous business.
By Bob Schieffer