It is with some trepidation that I revive an old Chatterbox feature, the “death watch.”Caveat emptor: My previous two death watches (by which I meant “resignation or firing” watches) were wildly off the mark. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill racked up seven death-watch columns before I gave up in Jan. 2002. His departure didn’t come until nearly a year later. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, I blush to admit, is still defense secretary nearly four years after I filed the last of three death-watch columns. I remain convinced that 9/11 saved Rumsfeld’s job. (Why Rumsfeld remains in office today, when even the hawkish Weekly Standard wants him gone, is an enduring mystery.)
Obviously it’s much harder than I thought to get President George W. Bush to fire you. Nevertheless, I am convinced not only that Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, ought to lose his job, but that the logic of political scandal dictates that he will lose his job. I therefore inaugurate the Karl Rove Death Watch.
In today’s installment, we have Sens. John Kerry, D.-Mass., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y, calling for Rove’s resignation. What we need, though, is for some prominent Republican to break ranks. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
President Bush refused to answer today when asked if Rove should go. White House press secretary Scott McClellan, however, offered these words:
Some of you asked a couple of questions about does the President still have confidence in particular individuals, specifically Karl Rove. I don’t want to get into commenting on things in the context of an ongoing investigation. So let me step back and point out that any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the President. They wouldn’t be working here at the White House if they didn’t have the President’s confidence.
As I explained yesterday, when a president or his spokesman expresses full confidence in a controversial aide, that’s usually a sign that the aide is about to get canned. Yesterday, McClellan wouldn’t comment at all about Rove, which suggested to me that Rove’s resignation was not imminent. Today, McClellan says the man Bush nicknamed Turd Blossom still has “the confidence of the president,” but only to the same extent that anybody else who works at the White House enjoys that confidence. It’s a syllogism:
1) Everybody who works at the White House enjoys the president’s confidence;
2) Karl Rove works at the White House;
3) Karl Rove enjoys the president’s confidence.
Paradoxically, the lukewarm nature of this endorsement probably indicates that Rove is still safe for at least a day or two more. When McClellan says, “The president is behind Karl Rove 100 percent,” start looking for the ax to fall.