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August 29, 2006
Who Won From The Plame Flameout?

It's easy to add up all of the people who lost in the collapse of Valerie Plame leak case after Michael Isikoff and David Corn revealed that Richard Armitage originally gave the information to Robert Novak. Joe Wilson watched his carefully-constructed and mostly false version of events come apart at the seams. Novak lost his job at CNN (later catching on with Fox) and came under tremendous criticism for his refusal to act to free other journalists from legal action. Patrick Fitzgerald put a lot of tarnish on his previously sterling reputation for extending a criminal investigation for years after the culprit confessed five days into the Department of Justice probe. Judith Miller lost the respect of her peers because of a belief that she protected Bush administration officials and acted as a mouthpiece for them, an assessment that none of her colleagues bothered to revisit after the Isikoff/Corn story came out on Sunday.

The only man who appears to have emerged from the spectacle relatively unharmed and perhaps enhanced is Karl Rove. Nedra Pickler takes a look at Rove unbound in the wake of the botched investigation:

Karl Rove was not "frog-marched" out of the White House in handcuffs as his detractors had hoped, but the past year was certainly a low point for President Bush's close friend and chief political strategist.

A criminal investigation put Rove under scrutiny for months, then he was forced to surrender a key policy role in a move that raised questions about his authority in the White House.

The loss of the "key policy role" did not keep him from influencing policy, although his understandable preoccupation with the Fitzgerald witch hunt may have allowed the disastrous Harriet Miers nomination and the poor response to the initial outrage over the Dubai ports deal. In fact, the reduced responsibilities allowed Rove to focus more clearly on politics, the arena in which Rove shines brightest, and put him in a good position to quarterback the GOP's efforts for the midterms:

The slimmed-down portfolio leaves Rove freer to focus on politics, look at the big picture and provide a gut-check in a White House that has struggled with missteps that may leave Republicans vulnerable in the midterm congressional elections. ...

The Republican base never flinched at suggestions that Rove tried to smear administration critic Joe Wilson by revealing his wife's role as a CIA operative.

Publicity surrounding the case may have increased Rove's stature among Republicans and contributed to an almost mystical view of the longtime Bush strategist among the party faithful because he came out on top.

At a recent presidential fundraiser near Bush's Texas ranch, a line that formed for photos with Rove was nearly as long as the line waiting to see the president.

Rove is an impressive fundraiser himself, bringing in $10.4 million in 75 events this cycle, more than any other Republican official besides the president, first lady and vice president.

In recent months, Rove has rediscovered his groove. He has aimed sharp rhetorical barbs at John Kerry and Jack Murtha, and also castigated the New York Times for its penchant for blowing national-security programs. He has fully engaged just when the Republicans needed him most, and he appears to be enjoying himself immensely.

No one touched by the Plame scandal came out unburdened in some way, if in nothing else but public reputation. Rove may be the only one whose reputation has been enhanced by the collapse of the Plame meme.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 29, 2006 6:57 AM

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