Its slightly sugar-coated. But


It’s slightly sugar-coated. But the New York Daily News has the scoop of the day on Plame/Fitzgerald: the president knew what Karl Rove had done from the very beginning. So all that mumbojumbo about wanting to get to the bottom of it and fire the bad actors was, to revert to the King’s English, crap.

He knew all along, as was certainly clear all along.

Now, the lede gives some sense of distancing …

An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.

“He made his displeasure known to Karl,” a presidential counselor told The News. “He made his life miserable about this.”

Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President’s rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world.

But when you read further down into the piece you see that what got the president angry wasn’t the leak; it was that they got caught.

Bush has always known that Rove often talks with reporters anonymously and he generally approved of such contacts, one source said.

But the President felt Rove and other members of the White House damage-control team did a clumsy job in their campaign to discredit Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, the ex-diplomat who criticized Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussen tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger.

A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.

“Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way,” the source said.

Now, one other detail about this piece. It runs a few hundred words. But the most important two are probably these: Thomas DeFrank.

DeFrank’s the byline and he’s the Daily News DC Bureau Chief. DeFrank has a unique relationship to the Bush world, particularly to the older generation. He cowrote James Baker’s diplomatic autobiography The Politics of Diplomacy, for instance. And back in the summer of 2001, The Weekly Standard suggested he’d actually been in the running to be chief Pentagon spokesman, before the job went to Tori Clarke.

I’m not including this background information to suggest that DeFrank is in the tank for the Bush crowd. Indeed, I have the sense that the relationship has become more strained or perhaps attenuated over the last few years. I add these details because the nature of DeFrank’s access is unique in Washington. And this article carries more weight than it would with another byline.