The Corner

What Next?

From a reader:

As a conservative, who voted for Bush, and supports Bush, I still:

1) Think Cheney should have a press conference, take questions, or in some way tell the people — his supporters, not his detractors — exactly what his role was in that for which his top aide had to resign. I think it is irresponsible and arrogant not to. And I do think it adds to a perception that he’s hiding something.

2) Think that Rove should resign or be fired. If Libby was required to resign because he was indicted, does it make sense that Rove stays when he only managed to evade similar indictment at the 59th minute of the 11th hour? Either Libby going or Rove staying seems absurdly arbitary.

I think Cheney’s silence and Rove’s presence will hurt Bush politically; Cheney clearing the air and Rove going away would be a benefit to Bush. I suppose it’s counter-intuitive to believe either step would be a benefit, but still I do.

I wonder if I’m the only conservative who thinks so. Publicly, liberals attack Bush on this issue and conservatives defend him. But what do conservatives really think?

Nobody would have balked at Rove being fired if he’d been indicted; but shouldn’t somebody on our side be balking that he isn’t being fired when he came so close.

His continued presence is a liability.

I wonder if the Corner contributors and readers, yourself foremost, think this is worth tossing around publicly.

If you post this in whole or in part, I’d rather you didn’t use my last name.

Me: I agree more or less with point one. Whether it’s arrogant or not, I think Cheney should try to clear the air somehow. Either a press conference or an interview with a Russert or someone like him make sense. He’d have to really butter it (a la Gore’s “no controlling legal authority) to make things worse for himself.

As for point two. No. I’m not sold. I’ve never been a huge Karl Rove supporter, but it seems to me that the reader is looking at this the wrong way. Coming close to being indicted is very different than being indicted. For all we know, Rove’s clarification to the grand jury was enough to fully exonerate him. The fact that it came late in the process shouldn’t be weighed against him. As for Rove being a political liability, I doubt it. The people who hold Rove against Bush are pretty set in their ways when it comes to anti-Bush feelings. Cutting him loose earns no points and would probably be unfair. Moreover, if many observers are to be believed he’s central to the efficient running of the White House.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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