The Rove nonindictment

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For more than two years, mainstream media reporters have been looking forward to an indictment of Karl Rove. They didn't get it today. Reportedly, Rove is still under investigation and not out of jeopardy. He will presumably be expected to cooperate in the Libby prosecution. No one can say with confidence how this will play out.

Even so, the nonindictment of Rove is a victory for the Bush administration. Rove has played a role in this White House that is unique in American history. He has been the president's chief policy adviser and his chief political lieutenant, with full authority to speak for the president on all domestic policy and all political matters. He is a serious student of history and an original thinker of the highest ability on both policy and politics. He is as close to being an indispensable and irreplaceable person in this administration as anyone except the president himself could be.

So the fact that Rove remains at the White House is immensely good news for the Bush administration. There remains the possibility that pending legal questions will distract him from his duties; it seems scarcely possible that he hasn't been distracted to some extent. We know that Rove was sidelined by minor surgery when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Bush administration seemed to respond tardily to that disaster.

According to news accounts, Rove was not heavily involved in the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, a nomination that of course did not turn out well. Katrina and Miers thus give us some sense of how a Roveless White House operates: not as well as one in which Rove is fully engaged. The question now is how much Rove will be distracted by the apparent continuing pendency of the investigation.