It's beginning to look as though a kind of exorcism may be in the offing.
Turn over a scandal in Washington these days and the chances are you’ll find Karl Rove.
The New York Times' lead editorial is devoted to the necessity of a full investigation of Karl Rove: for his role in the US attorneys' dismissal, for Plame... in short for everything immoral, un-American, biased, cruel, authoritarian, and corrupt coming out of the Bush administration.
This was, perhaps, the inevitable result of taking the chief operative of a presidential campaign, one famous for his scorched-earth style, and ensconcing him in the White House — not in a political role, but as a key player in the formation of policy. Mr. Rove never had to submit to Senate confirmation hearings. Yet, from the very start, photographs of cabinet meetings showed him in the background, keeping an enforcer’s eye on the proceedings. After his re-election in 2004, President Bush formally put Mr. Rove in charge of all domestic policy.
In that position, as David Kirkpatrick and Jim Rutenberg reported in The Times, Mr. Rove took a lead role in selecting federal judges and the hiring — and firing — of United States attorneys. Mr. Rove’s staff maneuvered to fire the prosecutor in Arkansas and replace him with a Rove protégé, and also seems to have been involved in the firing of a United States attorney in New Mexico who refused to file what he considered to be baseless charges of election fraud against Democrats.
Mr. Rove’s efforts to maintain one-party rule go deep into the government. Last week, we learned about a meeting set up by Mr. Rove’s staff with officials of the General Services Administration that was wildly inappropriate and perhaps illegal. The aim, as outlined by Mr. Rove’s deputy, Scott Jennings, seems to have been to take advantage of the billions of dollars in contracts put out by the agency every year to return Republicans to the majority in Congress in 2008. It included PowerPoint slides on vulnerable House and Senate seats.
This sort of behavior should not be all that surprising. It was not that long ago that the Bush White House embraced the priorities of the Republican governor of Mississippi and virtually ignored the far greater needs of Louisiana’s Democratic governor after Hurricane Katrina.
The next step Congress will be taking is to give Rove the scrutiny -- under oath and in full view -- that he should have had from the start, given the power he has been able to wield.
The investigation of the firings of the United States attorneys seems to be closing in on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who should have been fired weeks ago. But Congress should bring equal scrutiny to the more powerful Mr. Rove. If it does, especially by forcing him to testify in public, it will find that he has been at the vortex of many of the biggest issues they are now investigating.