Rove’s Inadvertent Admission: Bush Wasn’t Angry About Rove’s Lie

Yesterday, I noted that a key point of Karl Rove’s new book—Bush didn’t “lie us” into the Iraq war—is undermined by the historical record, and I provided a list of brazen and blatant misstatements and distortions made by the Bush crew during the run-up to the invasion that showed the Bush administration had indeed engaged in a willful campaign of misrepresentation. (I also discussed this on Hardball.) But there’s more: the book also demonstrates how the Bush White House got away with lying about the CIA leak case.

Those of you who followed that episode—I co-wrote a book on the matter, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War— will remember that the White House cleared Rove of any involvement in the leak that outed undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Yet Rove had been one of the two administration sources for the leak, which appeared in a Robert Novak column. As I point out in my column,

So the White House had peddled false information. As [White House press secretary Scott] McClellan noted in his memoir, that was because Rove had lied to him. And Rove stood by silently when McClellan subsequently told the world that Rove hadn’t played any part in this caper.

But what happened when Bush found out about all this lying? Not much, according to Rove’s book, which is due out on Tuesday. In the book, Rove recounts that at some point he told the president he had been one of Novak’s sources for the Plame leak. How did Bush react? According to Rove, “Bush sounded a little annoyed.” And that was it.

The president was not angry that Rove had lied to McClellan, that McClellan had passed that lie to the public, or that he (Bush) had publicly confirmed the lie. Moreover, Bush did not take any action against Rove, as he had promised to do with whoever had been behind the CIA leak. Nor did he do anything to correct the false information McClellan had placed on the public record. Bush allowed Rove’s lie to stand….

What’s the moral of this tale? A top White House official can lie about a national security investigation with impunity and then go on to make money writing a book showing that the president didn’t care about this lie. Don’t share this lesson with your children.

Book reviewers ought to take note of this telling anecdote—and interviewers should ask Rove about it.


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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.