- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

White House Special Adviser Karl Rove is in need of an exorcist. Perhaps a witch doctor will suffice. Whatever choice is made, I advise that the president get a master of the occult over to Mr. Rove’s White House office immediately, and before another day of CNN broadcasts alarm the nation.

Anyone listening to CNN or reading the liberal press knows something diabolical has happened to Mr. Rove. Thanks to columnist Robert Novak, a former American diplomat who goes by the swank name of Joseph C. Wilson IV, and the extreme left-wing Nation magazine, Mr. Rove is being victimized by another of Washington’s Black Cat News Story. A Black Cat News Story is a bizarre phenomenon known only to national news reporting, usually in Washington. It is an ominous, catastrophic story that, like a black cat, leaps across a public figure’s path; and, of a sudden, that public figure’s luck turns sour.

He is abandoned by friends. On his way to a photo-op with Kofi Annan, the zipper on his pants breaks. During a reception in the White House Rose Garden, an overhead bird evacuates on his new tie. The phone rings, and it is Arianna Huffington announcing she will be his weekend houseguest; and she is bringing her new boyfriend, the one with the ponytail who wears sandals

You think I am kidding? These Black Cat News Stories can do a lot of damage. There was one years back that Vice President Dan Quayle had a girlfriend, a girlfriend in common with half the Republicans on Capitol Hill. There was another one that President George Bush I had a girlfriend. These Black Cat News Stories caused little damage in career terms but they did tarnish reputations hitherto unsullied. Most such stories lack substance and usually die after a terrific media pothering.

The administration of George Bush II has already suffered the Enron Black Cat News Story and the 16 Words Black Cat News Story. Yet sometimes the story really sends its victim into oblivion. There was the Black Cat News Story about former White House Chief of Staff John Sununu using government transportation to pursue his stamp collection. That was the end of Mr. Sununu. Is Mr. Rove headed for retirement and a weekend with Arianna?

The story supposedly hexing him is that in a July 14 column Mr. Novak wrote that “senior administrative officials” told him Mr. Wilson had been recommended to serve on a CIA mission to Niger to investigate uranium transfers to Iraqi agents, by his wife, Valerie Plame, whom Mr. Novak identified as a CIA “operative,” Precisely what the term “operative” meant remains a mystery. However, two days later Mr. Novak’s identification of Mrs. Plame roused indignation from an unlikely source, the left-wing Nation, an otherwise anti-CIA publication that had never minded this sort of outing in the past.

Soon Mrs. Plame’s husband jumped in. He had suffered the inspiration that Mr. Novak’s “two senior administration officials” were actually one official, the unsuspecting Mr. Rove. And he was even angrier than the Nation. Mr. Wilson announced he would like “to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.” Revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent is a crime. By the way, Mr. Wilson is a writer as well as a diplomat. In March, a very critical essay of the Bush foreign policy appeared under his name in the extreme left-wing Nation.

Mr. Wilson believes his criticism of the Bush administration motivated Mr. Rove to expose Mr. Wilson’s wife. Now Mr. Rove has been a brilliant political strategist for three decades, but the plot Mr. Wilson attributes to Mr. Rove is so fanciful I cannot imagine it ever even being adopted for a prime-time television melodrama.

The White House denies Mr. Rove was Mr. Novak’s source, and for his part Mr. Wilson seems to have backed off a bit on his accusation, saying he has no evidence Mr. Rove was involved. Thus my guess is that, if the White House hangs in there, this story too will die. Mr. Rove is too much the pro to have been involved in such a thing. The only matter that troubles me about the episode is that the CIA would employ a man as left-wing as Mr. Wilson to go to Niger unless they planned to leave him there. Unfortunately he has returned.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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