Before President Bush's Supreme Court nomination of Judge John Roberts completely overshadows the misidentified Karl Rove scandal, I think we better take a second look at the twisted direction this sad story has taken.
As far as Karl Rove's conduct in the Plame/Wilson affair, there is no scandal. He didn't come close to committing a crime, nor even an ethical infraction.
He didn't set out to expose a CIA operative, much less an undercover one. He was the recipient of a phone call in which he cautioned Time's Matt Cooper not to be taken in by the politically driven Joe Wilson, whose operative wife, Valerie Plame, had played a great role in securing Wilson's "fact-finding" trip to Niger.
Rove, who didn't even mention Plame's name, couldn't have known she was an undercover CIA agent -- because she wasn't. He manifestly wasn't motivated to expose her for the purpose of punishing Wilson -- because "exposing" her non-covert status couldn't possibly have damaged her.
But Rove did have a motive to share his information with Cooper: to warn him of the nepotistic connection between Plame and Wilson and to thus take Wilson's claims with a grain of salt.
Rove did nothing wrong. Indeed, he had an obligation to alert Cooper to Wilson's chicanery because, among other reasons, questions of our national security were involved. As the president's right-hand man, shouldn't we expect Rove to do his part to correct the record about a matter so serious: whether Saddam was trying to or did acquire uranium from Niger?
The media and Democrats seem to be saying that we can't let Rove off the hook just because he might not have technically violated the law. He must be fired or at the very least lose his security clearance because of his indiscretion.
But there was no indiscretion. Plame was not undercover and hadn't been. She had no secret status to protect. Neither she nor her husband -- it appears -- even treated her status as clandestine. Rove isn't getting off on a technicality. He did nothing wrong. The fact that the allegations against Rove are so serious doesn't change that -- and in no way taints his credibility -- because the allegations are false.
"But there was a leak," cry the Democrats and the press. "President Bush has always said he had a zero-tolerance policy for leaks out of his administration. He must fire the evil Karl Rove."
Even conservative pundits seem to be falling for this ploy. But if there was nothing secret about Plame's status, if there was nothing to protect, there could have been no leak.