Wednesday, July 13, 2005

NYT: "Rove Case May Test Bush's Loyalty to His Closest Aides" (David E. Sanger)

It is too early to know whether that is where this is headed, but on Tuesday the Republican National Committee put in motion the political machine Mr. Rove has built up over the last four and a half years to rally to his defense. It offered detailed rebuttals to any suggestion that Mr. Rove had done anything wrong, and that there was an organized White House effort to leak Ms. Wilson's identity in retaliation for criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV.
"He wasn't talking at all about her identity," said Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the committee and a protege of Mr. Rove's, accusing Democrats of playing an unseemly game in criticizing the chief strategist of Mr. Bush's victory last year.
Speaking of Mr. Rove's conversations on July 11, 2003, with Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine correspondent who wrote about the case, he added: "He was saying, this is a bum story, you shouldn't write this story. He didn't use her name because he didn't know her name."

[. . .]
But until this week, it was Mr. Wilson's word against the White House's insistence that Mr. Rove was not involved. That is what has changed. An e-mail message that Time magazine turned over to the prosecutor investigating the naming of Ms. Wilson asserts that Mr. Rove discussed Ms. Wilson's role, though apparently without naming her or suggesting she was a covert officer. If that version is correct, it is not clear that anything Mr. Rove said could be considered a crime.

Blah, blah, blah. The above is from David E. Sanger's "Rove Case May Test Bush's Loyalty to His Closest Aides" in this morning's New York Times. It's labeld "White House Memo." We avoid the "White House Letter" because it's a floating op-ed. I'm not sure what the "White House Memo" is supposed to be.

But here's what David E. Sanger isn't, a legal expert. The Times has now, for the second day in a row, weighed in on legalities and they've offered no indication that the reporters involved (Sanger today, Richard W. Stevenson yesterday) have sought a legal opinion on the law from anyone either than op-ed writers (one of which, ToeJam, has a personal friendship with Robert Novak which hardly makes her qualified to speak frankly).

Where's the legal opinion? The Times keeps debating whether a crime was committed. Where's the legal opinion? Would that end speculation? No. Because no one but Patrick Fitzgerald and his team know the case they're arguing. But it would give readers a better take on the issues involved.

We have a legal opinion that will be going up shortly. Attorney X appears to know the law. His points seem strong. If they aren't, the Times needs to get a legal opinion. This isn't a he-said/she-said issue. This is a law. They should be able to get an opinion on it. If Attorney X is correct, Ken Mehlman's personal opinions really don't matter much nor did what passed for "fact" in Stevenson's article yesterday.

Quit debating whether it was a crime or not based on what this pro-Rover says and this anti-Rover says and get a legal opinion to provide to the readers. This is nonsense that at this late date (over two years after Robert Novak's column ran) the Times still can't inform the readers of the basic legal issues involved in a manner that doesn't depend on this partisan's take or that partisan's take. This is bad journalism.

It's bad for Sanger, it's bad for Stevenson. But they're just two covering the issue this week.

What does the 1982 act say? Not what does ToeJam say it says. Give readers a legal reading on the act itself.

Were someone shot and killed, readers would have a concept of manslaughter or murder. There would be a framework while they were reading the article. As the Times has pointed out, apparently only one person has been prosecuted under the act. Readers don't have information.
It's past time for the paper to get a legal reading on the act itself and to provide that information to the readers in a clear manner.

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