Barring disclosure that he is a closet transvestite with a penchant for setting fire to nursing homes, John Roberts appears certain to be confirmed as an associate justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. But even if he should fail, he will still have performed yeoman service for the Cheney/Bush administration.
By agreeing to have his name put forward to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the high court, Roberts enabled the embattled Karl Rove to escape from our television news programs and the front pages -- and inside pages for that matter -- of our daily newspapers.
If you think the timing of the announcement of Roberts' selection wasn't a carefully planned distraction, try to recall the last time a president demanded and got prime television time to make an announcement that ordinarily would have been a 10-minute turn in the Rose Garden, weather permitting.
Six administrations ago, condescending Democrats used to joke that Gerald Ford couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. Someone in this White House, perhaps Rove himself, knew the same was true of the White House press corps: It is incapable of dealing with more than one major story at a time.
Within 24 hours of Roberts' introduction, Rove had become as distant as the Martian Rover and remained so for another 24. And not a moment too soon. The Gerbil, required to dissemble -- or disassemble if you prefer his nominal boss's brand of pidgin English -- as a condition of employment, had been taking such a relentless pounding by the media jackals that it led Jon Stewart to speculate that the White House press corps had been replaced by real reporters.
And Bush himself, a man of his word, we're repeatedly told, was forced to come up with a new dodge. Whereas he'd said earlier that he'd fire anyone in his employ found to have leaked information about Joseph Wilson's wife to the media, his new line was that he'd fire anyone convicted of illegally leaking information.
In some quarters, that would be called flip-flopping, a term we heard used repeatedly last year to describe John Kerry. When Bush does it it's called clarification.
Call it what you will, it's all empty rhetoric. Bush could no more fire the loathsome Rove than a blind man could fire his seeing eye dog. Besides, if Rove goes, it will be Cheney's call, not Bush's. And now it appears Cheney may have two rears to cover. Recent disclosures suggest that I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's capo de regime, may have been involved at least tangentially with Rove's efforts to smear Wilson in the news media.
The likelihood of either one being forced to walk the plank is remote, of course, because to do so would be a tacit admission that this administration had done something wrong, which we know is not going to happen.
Last Friday, The New York Times, which has addressed this issue with all the enthusiasm of a man attempting to defuse a bomb, returned to its coverage, which has consisted mainly of rambling interviews with anonymous sources bent on portraying Rove and his accomplices as sympathetically as possible.
The Times' reporters appear to have access to several leakers of grand jury information, all of them, not surprisingly, eager to portray Rove as favorably as possible. And in what may be a late addition to The Times' stylebook, any sentence that contains a reference to Wilson, his wife and Rove must contain the notation that Rove didn't mention Wilson's wife by name in outing her.
Of course, Wilson had only one wife working at the CIA as far as we know, but every little bit helps when you're trying to stay on the good side of this administration, as The Times has labored mightily, not to mention slavishly, to do.
© 2005 Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin