Democrats were saved from utter devastation last week by the indictment of Lewis Libby. At least they could console themselves that one high-ranking White House official was in danger of being jailed for a very long time (and their glee when contemplating the maximum possible sentence was undisguised).
Yet the let-down was palpable. One well-known cable host, who had been beating the drums for a Karl Rove indictment for months, anticipated privately that "Friday will be Christmas morning!" It turned out to be considerably less gratifying. Libby is a big fish, but Rove was the real prize. Liberals believe that Rove does the thinking for the president. Rove is the one whose disgrace would cut most deeply into the Bush administration's reputation. And Rove is the one whose removal would, they hope, paralyze the president for the remainder of his term.
Some Democrats, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have demanded Rove's resignation anyway. And most have over-interpreted the story to the point of incoherence. As The Weekly Standard has reported, liberals like Frank Rich in The New York Times have urged that the Plame leak investigation is really about whether the Bush administration lied to take the country into an unnecessary war. "What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq." Or, as Al Franken's website would have it: "Bush lied and our soldiers died."
The most florid version of the Plame story alleges that Rove purposely blew Plame's cover as a covert CIA agent in order to punish her husband, Joseph Wilson, for publishing an op-ed in The New York Times declaring that Iraq had not purchased yellowcake from Niger. But this overlooks one big fact. Wilson himself has been outed as a liar by no less an authority than the Senate Intelligence Committee.