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Plamegate Turns D.C. Upside Down

Dotty Lynch is the Senior Political Editor for CBS News. E-mail your questions and comments to Political Points.

Pity the card-carrying member of the ACLU. Loves the first amendment, hates having journalists subpoenaed. Loves Deep Throat, hates Karl Rove. How's a liberal to feel these days? Mostly crying on the outside, laughing on the inside.

After months of grumbling about the aggressive prosecutor who dared to suggest that news organizations and reporters turn over their sources, Time magazine did just that and Democrats weren't so upset about it after all. When Time finally turned over the internal notes from its reporter Matt Cooper, its competitor Newsweek reported what was in them and the spotlight moved from the journalists involved to their sources, in particular to the Democrats' nemesis, Karl Rove.

A Wave, as my colleague Harry Smith described it, overtook Washington. Exactly why it took so long to crest is unclear. Maybe it's because it is summer, maybe because a reporter is sleeping on the floor in an Alexandria jail or maybe because the White House press corps just couldn't stand it anymore.

The fact that Karl Rove was mad at former ambassador Joe Wilson and had it in for Wilson's wife has been on the record for over a year. Joe Wilson said in his book "The Politics of Truth" that MSNBC's Chris Matthews told him Rove called Wilson's wife "fair game." That conversation was never denied except that, according to Newsweek, a "source familiar with Rove's conversation" said the phrase used by Rove was that it was "reasonable to discuss who sent Wilson to Niger." That would lead to Wilson's wife.

Karl Rove's lawyer insists that he is not a target of the investigation and that he committed no crime. The fact that Rove gave a specific waiver to Time's Matt Cooper to testify about their conversation signifies some comfort level with what he did.

From reading between the lines on the story, it sounds like Rove was doing what he's advised candidates to do for years: when under attack, push back. Joe Wilson hit the Bush administration and they struck back. What if Joe Wilson's wife worked at HUD and got Wilson a trip to Detroit, and then Wilson wrote an op-ed piece about how the Bush policies undercut the auto-industry. "Ingrate," Rove would shout. "His wife got him that gig. And besides he got it all wrong about the auto industry."

Standard operating procedure except of course that Wilson's wife was at the CIA and was an undercover agent. Whether Rove realized that fact is unclear and it is plausible that he didn't. But Rove's decision to hide behind the White House press secretary and the cloak of an investigation has put the President and the White House on the defensive.

In the last week a number of bizarre things have happened, especially in the media. Judy Miller was hauled off to jail for a story she never wrote while Bob Novak, who first published the agent's name, continues to move around town. Newsweek started scooping Time by publishing the e-mails which Time turned over to the court. The New York Times started writing more about Time magazine than about the investigation. The Washington Post published an article suggesting that the New York Times was too aggressive in its legal strategy. The Wall Street Journal proclaimed Karl Rove the new Coleen Rowley - a whistleblower just trying to help reporters sort out Joe Wilson's bad information.

The politicians were true to form. Newt Gingrich and a host of Republicans decided to take another whack at Joe Wilson - this time leaving his wife out of it. Republican Rep. Peter King called for the media to be shot for the way they covered the story and some liberals took him literally. John Kerry called for Rove's firing and Hillary Clinton, who likes most Republicans these days, managed to nod in agreement.

A flash of sanity emerged on Wednesday. After his testimony before the grand jury, Matt Cooper said he was going back to work to write about what happened at the grand jury. Finally, someone started acting rationally. No hiding behind the ruse of a lawyer's advice or an ongoing investigation. Only the prosecutors and grand jurors are bound by secrecy. Cooper's action should lead the way for everyone, including Bob Novak and Karl Rove, to come clean and get this information into the public domain.

And, oh yes. Judy Miller needs to be sprung from the Alexandria Detention Center.

By Dotty Lynch

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