Above the Law

Karl Rove played fast and loose with the law when he oh-so-casually dropped information about CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson on Time reporter Matthew Cooper but that screw up won’t cost him his job. People who control figureheads like Presidents don’t get fired.

Anyone whose brain functions at least a 10 percent level knows Rove controls George W. Bush. He’s been called “Bush’s brain” or the White House puppet master. Whatever you call him doesn’t matter. He’s the guy who runs things at 1600 Pennsylvania and guys like that don’t have to pay attention to silly things like the law of the land.

Some may question whether or not Rove put Bush into office for his first term but Dubya and the boys wouldn’t have made it to term two without Rove’s ability to play gutter-level politics, be it the behind-the-scenes manipulation of the Swift Boat Veterans propaganda machine that destroyed John Kerry’s Vietnam war record or the Ohio strategy that may have stolen the election.

Rove is not the first political mastermind to control the election process and President – just the latest. Wily Cajun strategist James Carville put Bill Clinton into office and kept him there for two terms. Carville then took his show on the road and became more television personality than political mastermind but he remains, throughout, the ultimate opportunist.

George H.W. Bush, Dubya’s daddy, needed Lee Atwater to get the key to the White House and needed him even more to try and stay for a second term. Unfortunately, a brain tumor brought Atwater down during Bush’s fist term and without Atwater’s South Carolina-brand of scorched earth politics, Bush floundered on domestic issues, flip-flopped on taxes and went home after four years.

Atwater left a prodigy who would come back to haunt us. Rove understudied him until daddy Bush fired the upstart for leaking campaign info to a reporter, an act of political sedition that has a familiar ring to it.

Rove rose from the ashes of political humiliation and went to work for the younger Bush, putting him into the governor’s mansion in Texas and getting him re-elected with the until then-unheard of support of state Hispanics. Next stop: Pennsylvania Avenue.

In Karl Rove’s world, laws are simply nuisances to be ignored, avoided or circumvented. Honesty is a commodity you sell but never practice. Morality is for fools. Honest, moral people who obey the law don’t get elected or stay in office.

There was a time, perhaps, when we could depend on the law and the Constitution to step in and save us from political despots and those who abuse power from the highest office in the land. The law, and the Constitution, triumphed over Richard Nixon and his efforts to subvert Democracy, morality and decency. He political masterminds went to jail. Then they got out, wrote books and became celebrities.

Some point to Watergate as the beginning of the end of responsible government or the ability of the law to control those we elected to office. Perhaps, but the trouble began long before Nixon, wiretaps and Watergate. It started, as most problems do, with conception. The law cannot claim domain over politicians because the politicians control the law. They approve the legislation that defines the law, appoint and approve the judges who interpret the law and change the rules when the court has the audacity to suggest the law should prevail over political agendas and extremist philosophies.

The Founding Fathers conceived the three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – as a three-way checks and balance on governmental excess and abuse of power. Our first President, George Washington, left office with a warning that politics could destroy everything he and others fought so hard to create.

Others disagreed with Washington. Wise as they may have been, our founders did not foresee the day when politics would become the commandeering bridge to all three and an all-powerful force that, in the end, controlled it all.