Rove’s Inadvertent Admission: Bush Wasn’t Angry About Rove’s Lie

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Yesterday, I noted that a key point of Karl Rove’s new book—Bush didn’t “lie us” into the Iraq war—is undermined by the historical record, and I provided a list of brazen and blatant misstatements and distortions made by the Bush crew during the run-up to the invasion that showed the Bush administration had indeed engaged in a willful campaign of misrepresentation. (I also discussed this on Hardball.) But there’s more: the book also demonstrates how the Bush White House got away with lying about the CIA leak case.

Those of you who followed that episode—I co-wrote a book on the matter, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War— will remember that the White House cleared Rove of any involvement in the leak that outed undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Yet Rove had been one of the two administration sources for the leak, which appeared in a Robert Novak column. As I point out in my PoliticsDaily.com column,

So the White House had peddled false information. As [White House press secretary Scott] McClellan noted in his memoir, that was because Rove had lied to him. And Rove stood by silently when McClellan subsequently told the world that Rove hadn’t played any part in this caper.

But what happened when Bush found out about all this lying? Not much, according to Rove’s book, which is due out on Tuesday. In the book, Rove recounts that at some point he told the president he had been one of Novak’s sources for the Plame leak. How did Bush react? According to Rove, “Bush sounded a little annoyed.” And that was it.

The president was not angry that Rove had lied to McClellan, that McClellan had passed that lie to the public, or that he (Bush) had publicly confirmed the lie. Moreover, Bush did not take any action against Rove, as he had promised to do with whoever had been behind the CIA leak. Nor did he do anything to correct the false information McClellan had placed on the public record. Bush allowed Rove’s lie to stand….

What’s the moral of this tale? A top White House official can lie about a national security investigation with impunity and then go on to make money writing a book showing that the president didn’t care about this lie. Don’t share this lesson with your children.

Book reviewers ought to take note of this telling anecdote—and interviewers should ask Rove about it.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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