'Turd Blossom' in full flower: Traitor in the White House

By Bill Press

Nixon had Watergate. Reagan, Contragate. Clinton, Monicagate. Now George W. Bush has own scandal: Turdgate. Named after Karl Rove, the top White House aide whom Bush calls "Turd Blossom" ? a term of endearment unique to Texas.

It started in January 2003, when President Bush, using his State of the Union address to build a case for war in Iraq, accused Saddam Hussein of shopping for yellowcake uranium in Niger. Bush's dishonesty was revealed in July by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Writing in the New York Times, Wilson reported that he'd been sent to Africa by the CIA, before the speech, to investigate the yellowcake claim and came back and reported it was bogus. An embarrassed White House had to admit Bush was wrong.

That's when the Bush smear machine kicked in. Eight days later, citing sources at the White House, columnist Bob Novak charged that Wilson was not to be taken seriously because he'd actually been sent to Niger by his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame. The next week, Matt Cooper wrote a follow-up piece for Time magazine, also based on anonymous White House sources. Judith Miller researched, but did not publish, an article for the New York Times.

That might look like business as usual. Only one problem. In this case, the leak blew the cover of an undercover CIA agent working on weapons of mass destruction. That's a federal crime. A special prosecutor was named to investigate who in the Bush White House broke the law.

For two years, Turd Blossom himself denied any involvement in the case. He also instructed hapless White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to tell reporters: "I have spoken to Karl Rove. He was not involved in this." Now we know that is a big, fat lie. Rove's attorney admits he spoke with Cooper four days before Novak wrote his column. In an e-mail obtained and published by Newsweek, Cooper recounts having been warned by Rove to distrust Wilson because "it was Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on WMD issues, who authorized the trip."

And there you have it: Turd Blossom busted. On two counts. Rove is clearly guilty of a political dirty trick: attacking the credibility of Wilson, simply because he dared question Bush's phony arguments for the war in Iraq. This is a pattern for the Bush White House. They targeted similar, personal, attacks against Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill.

But Rove is also guilty of something far more serious. By revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent, he compromised our nation's security and put countless lives at risk. That's nothing short of an act of treason. Much worse than Nixon's goons breaking into Democratic Party headquarters. And much, much worse than Clinton's act of consensual oral sex.

But Republicans don't care. They've launched an orchestrated campaign to defend Turd Blossom. In official "talking points" distributed by the Republican National Committee, they insist, for example, that Rove did not call Cooper, but that Cooper called him. So what? What matters is not who placed the call, but what was said during the call.

The GOP cheat sheet also credits Rove with trying to do Cooper a favor, by warning him about Wilson. The Bush administration going out its way to help the liberal media? That, you must admit, is laugh-out-loud funny. Rove apologists also make a big deal out of the fact that Wilson endorsed John Kerry for president. Yes, he did ? but not until October 2003, three months after Rove had attacked him and blown his wife's cover. By then, can you blame him?

Weakest of all, Republicans argue that Turd Blossom didn't actually give Cooper the name of Wilson's wife. Give me a break. In July 2003, simply Googling Joe Wilson would tell you his wife was the "former Valerie Plame." What Google did not tell you was that she worked for the CIA. That's what Rove let out of the bag. That's where Rove committed treason.

The big question is: Now that we know, without a doubt, it was Karl Rove who spilled the beans, why does he still have a job at the White House? President Bush promised to fire anyone involved in the Valerie Plame leak. Why he hasn't fired Rove?

We know the answer. Bush can't fire Karl Rove. Without Turd Blossom, who would pull the puppet strings?

Bill Press is host of the nationally syndicated "Bill Press Show," also heard on Sirius Satellite Radio. His Web site is: www.billpress.com.