Judy Miller's revenge  continues, as Wednesday's front page features a "White House Memo" from David Sanger, "Rove Case May Loom as Test of Loyalty for Bush," on who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame (and husband of anti-war hero Joseph Wilson) to the press. Karl Rove told Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper in July 2003 that Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, though apparently without revealing her name or that she was covert.
Nevertheless, Sanger continues the Karl Rove resignation watch: "Loyalty has long been the most hallowed virtue in the Bush White House, but rarely has it been tested the way it has this week. No one has been closer to the president longer, or bailed him out of more tight spots, than Karl Rove, his chief political adviser. Now the question is whether President Bush can protect Mr. Rove from a gathering political storm, no matter how furious it becomes.It is impossible to know whether any closed-door conversations have begun in the White House about whether to find a graceful way for Mr. Rove to exit partially, or as one former official said, to 'get the benefit of the brain without the proximity of the body.'"
Sanger then delivers a misleadingly truncated sketch of the Valerie Plame-Joseph Wilson-Iraq-uranium-Niger imbroglio (Wilson was sent by the CIA to Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein may have tried to acquire uranium there): "The entire contretemps at the White House this week centers on whether Mr. Rove tried to discredit Mr. Wilson by suggesting that his mission to Niger was the product of nepotism, and that Ms. Wilson had arranged for it. Why a mission to Niger would be such a plum assignment is still a mystery, but the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a report last year, quotes a State Department official as saying that Ms. Wilson had suggested sending her husband. She denies it."
Sanger is implying there's room for doubt. Yet the Washington Post went into greater detail  about the Senate report a year ago, making it clear Plame was intimately involved in getting Wilson the assignment, despite denials by Wilson in a book and in public statements: "The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame 'offered up' Wilson's name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations saying her husband 'has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.' The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said."
To read the rest of Sanger's memo, click here .
Centering Hillary for 2008
The front of Wednesday's Metro section features a huge close-up photo of a serious-looking Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Raymond Hernandez and Patrick Healy's "The Evolution of Hillary Clinton," is similarly respectful of the possible presidential candidate.
A photo caption reads: "The quest ended in defeat in 1994 and led to her reputation as a big-government liberal." Another photo caption reveals her "evolution": "As a Senator, A Proponent of a Strong Military - Appearing in Afghanistan in 2005 with Senator John McCain, center, and President Hamid Karzai."
As is usual in Hernandez's reporting  on Hillary Clinton, never does the story directly identify Clinton as a liberal (same with Sen. Ted Kennedy). Yet Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is "the conservative majority leader."
Hernandez and Healy write: "As she gears up her re-election campaign for the United States Senate, Hillary Rodham Clinton is presenting a side of herself that might have given some of her supporters great pause just a few years ago. Nothing captures this new face of Hillary Clinton better than the Web site her campaign started this week: It portrays her robust stand on national defense and her desire to reduce the number of abortions, among other positions.Over the last few weeks, she has found defenders among prominent conservative commentators who feel she was maligned in a new unauthorized biography. It is a striking departure from just five years ago when she was seen as a fierce Democratic partisan and a symbol of the liberal excesses of the Clinton years."
While the reporters reach back for that anecdote of conservatives defending Clinton, this long story on "centrist " Hillary strangely makes no mention of Clinton's speech this Sunday at the annual liberal gathering at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, in which she compared Bush to Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot of Mad Magazine: "I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Neuman is in charge in Washington."
The Times continues centering Hillary (for a presidential run?): "Although she has found allies on the Republican side of the aisle, her public statements and positioning on issues have aroused suspicions that she is setting the stage for a presidential run. Tellingly, some liberals, who make up the core of her political base, have complained that she has been ceding too much to the right, especially in her support for military action in Iraq. In fact, Mrs. Clinton has defied simple ideological labeling since joining the Senate, ending up in the political center on issues like health care, welfare, abortion, morality and values, and national defense, to name just a few."
The American Conservative Union rating system  doesn't quite see the Clinton record the same way, giving her a lifetime rating of 9, the same as liberal Sen. Tom Harkin.
Nonetheless the Times insists: "In many ways, her approach is reminiscent of what her husband once called 'the third way,' the path that exploited the political center. So the question is this: What are Mrs. Clinton's core beliefs and have they changed in the years since she took office?"
Then the paper goes thought Clinton's evolving stands on abortion, national defense, health care and immigration: "In May, Mrs. Clinton drew some fire from conservatives by opposing a Republican-backed bill that would make it illegal for anyone to help under-age girls go out of state for an abortion without their parents' consent."
On defense: "On Iraq, for example, she has stood by her vote authorizing the president to wage war and has argued for a greater troop presence there, to the chagrin of some liberals. People close to Mrs. Clinton say her stance on the military has inoculated her against any charge that she is soft on defense, even as she criticizes some aspects of the president's management of the war in Iraq, like his failure to get wider international support for it."
Even on health care, the Times avoids directly stating that Clinton's scheme of socialized medicine was liberal, merely that it may have somehow left that impression: "No other policy issue defined Mrs. Clinton in the 90's as starkly as health care. Not only did her effort to establish universal health insurance end in embarrassing defeat for her husband's administration, but it also emboldened Republicans and contributed to the notion that she was a big-government liberal."
Later the Timesagain avoids  calling her a liberal (though folks "in some quarters" may think so). Yet they don't hesitate to call Sen. Bill Frist conservative: "She has not completely discarded her 90's view that there is an urgent need to overhaul the way health care is delivered in the nation. In fact, she has not been shy about embracing proposals that might be seen as liberal in some quarters, like seeking to provide medical coverage to everyone living in poverty. But on the whole, Mrs. Clinton, who has served in a Republican-controlled Congress for most of her tenure, has assembled an agenda with practical-minded initiatives that appear to be aimed at the political center. Perhaps one of the most notable is one that drew support from unlikely quarters: Senator Bill Frist, the conservative majority leader from Tennessee, and Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who had a major role in defeating her health care plan in 1994."
For the full Hillary profile, click here .
More Fuel for Higher Tax Taxes
A front-page Business story from Jad Mouawad and Matthew Wald, "The Oil Uproar That Isn't - Prices Cause Concern, but Little Change in Behavior or Laws," finds the Times again touting higher gas taxes and other federal government interventions as a route to energy efficiency: "The earlier oil shocks produced remarkable changes, including the rise of the Japanese auto industry as Americans turned to smaller, more efficient cars out of choice and necessity. With carrots and sticks, the United States managed to cut, temporarily, energy use per person and to scale back the share of oil in its overall energy mix. The federal government established a strategic petroleum reserve as an insurance policy against global supply disruptions, set a national 55 m.p.h. speed limit and spent billions - much of it wasted, however, on alternatives like shale oil that proved far too costly, particularly after crude oil prices fell when economic recession tempered the demand for energy."
A subhead laments the blocking of big-government schemes: "Ambitious Proposals Stuck in the Beltway."
"As part of his deficit-reduction program, [President Bill] Clinton managed to push through an increase in the federal excise tax on gasoline to 18.4 cents a gallon, from 14.1 cents. But he had to abandon a much more ambitious proposal to raise energy taxes across the board as part of an effort to limit global warming and control pollution from fossil fuels."
Last October, Mouawad pushed  higher gas taxes in a story on energy efficiency that began: "The United States, land of gas-guzzling S.U.V.'s and air-conditioned McMansions, might do well to turn to the country some Americans love to hate for lessons on how to curb its reliance on imported oil: France."
On Tuesday he and Wald write: "Despite the retreat on energy taxes, the vote on the budget bill was still so close in the Senate that Vice President Al Gore had to cast the deciding vote. There was never any chance of achieving anything close to the taxes levied in Europe, where consumers pay up to $5 a gallon for gasoline, mostly due to taxes.But given political constraints, which block any serious effort at fuel efficiency or raising energy taxes, the government is stymied, according to Philip R. Sharp, a veteran of Washington's energy wars and an Indiana Democrat who served in Congress from 1975 to 1995."
For more from Mouawad and Wald on high oil prices (and government "solutions,") click here .