Now that a number of reporters for national news outlets are going out of their way to attack senior White House adviser Karl Rove, one has to wonder what they could be thinking given the number of news stories these same reporters broke from the same kind of conversations Time magazine writer Matthew Cooper purportedly had with Rove on that fateful day two years ago. Never mind that much of former Ambassador Joe Wilson‘s supposed Niger “intelligence” was largely revealed to be baseless, or that a number of reporters who socialized with him and his friends at the time knew exactly where his wife was and what she did at the CIA.
“What Rove appears to have done was something half of the Clinton White House was doing almost every day to Republicans on the Hill if we got the chance,” says a Washington lobbyist who worked at 1600 during Clinton’s first term. “We pushed gossip about Newt [Gingrich]; we badmouthed Grover [Norquist]; we did what we thought they were doing to us.”
And of course, they pushed stories and story leads. “I just don’t see what — beyond their screwing with Rove — this accomplishes. And I gotta believe that there are people on our side pushing this thing, and if they are, it’s not smart,” say the former Clinton staffer. “This kind of thing has a way of biting you on the ass. That 60 Minutes II story on Bush’s military record should be on everyone’s mind right now. I don’t think the media wants anyone looking into how they develop stories, and this is where this Rove thing is going.”
President Bush — assuming there has been no major change in scheduling — broke breakfast bread with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and other Senate leaders Tuesday morning, assuring all will be right with the world, at least when it comes to the Senate confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominations.
Who will be nominated and how the nomination fight is developing is a Washington parlor game, but in the past few days several myths have developed, apparently targeted at undercutting the influence of the Senate Majority Leader and his staff.
For example, one rumor has it the White House drew in former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson as a slap at Frist’s authority overseeing the confirmation process. Yet according to knowledgeable White House and Senate staff, Thompson’s role in the confirmation fight had been discussed by both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue at least three weeks before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her intention to retire.
“We would not do anything to undercut Senator Frist’s leadership role in the confirmation process…that is Senate business. We have our role, they have theirs,” says a White House legislative adviser. “There is a process here. The process is working, and the Senate leadership and the White House are on the same page.”
Another rumor is that the White House has pushed Texas Sen. John Cornyn into the limelight to burnish his leadership abilities in the face of a Frist retirement. But again, according to White House and Senate sources, Cornyn, who is well thought of by both the White House and his Senate colleagues, was tabbed by Senate leadership to help in the initial media onslaught over the confirmation fight.
“When everything was said and done, it was Frist on the floor of the Senate opening up the fight before the July recess,” says a former White House staffer with knowledge of the confirmation process. “There are a lot of people in this town who want to think they are part of the process of selecting and confirming a Supreme Court nominee. People ought to focus on what we’re trying to achieve, and work not to make it any more difficult than it already is. That’s just playing into the Democrats’ hands.”
Democratic Senators like Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy aren’t just singing from the far left’s songbook, they are using its playbooks too, in fighting the Bush Supreme Court process. Senate Judiciary Committee staff, as well as the personal offices for some of the highest profile Democrats in the Senate, are working with such groups as NARAL Pro-Choice America, MoveOn.org, and Emily’s List to coordinate research and background checks on prospective Supreme Court nominees.
“We’re using the same network of folks we were using for the appeals court nominations last year, and earlier this year,” says a Democratic Senate staffer. “The filibustering of the appeals court nominations and those hearings were great dry runs for the big battles to come. We’re going to be ready, and so are our supporters.”