‘Moving the stadium’

Did you notice that President Bush, in response to the heat building up around Karl Rove, his long-time master political strategist, has shifted his position rather dramatically?

It’s now known that Rove outed a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame, to a Time magazine reporter, a serious and possibly criminal breach of security that could have placed her and her contacts in danger. He did so to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who famously had debunked the president’s pre-Iraq-invasion claim that Saddam Hussein had sought weapons-grade uranium in the African country of Niger.

Last year, the president promised to fire anyone who’d leaked such information. Earlier this week, he promised to fire anyone found to have committed a crime. As one pundit, MSNBC’s Howard Fineman, put it, the president is not just moving the goalposts, “he’s moving the whole stadium.”

So now we know: The standard for working in the White House is that you haven’t been convicted of a crime. Richard Nixon would have been proud.

Obviously, Bush is doing everything he can to hang onto Rove, who’s sometimes described as “the president’s brain” but is just as accurately dubbed his “hatchet man.” He needs Rove to help him navigate the remainder of what is turning into a difficult second term. And, if past performance is any indication, he feels no need to hold his aide accountable.

This is the administration, after all, that gave medals to George Tenet, the CIA chief who botched the Iraq WMD intelligence, and Paul Bremer, the genius who foolishly disbanded the Iraqi army, and promoted the man who built the legal foundation for the abuses at Abu Ghraib to attorney general on his way, perhaps, to the Supreme Court.