It's been a long time since the president of the United States has been openly booed by crowds abroad. Thousands of protesters in neighboring, largely friendly Latin America called President George W. Bush a "fascist" Friday and, interestingly, a "terrorist." We have never before had the chief of staff of a sitting U.S. vice president indicted for lying to a grand jury.
These not unrelated, history-making events are but the latest ticks on the clock running down on the second Bush term.
Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. The president journeyed to Argentina on Friday to promote the Central America Free Trade Agreement with leaders from the 34 concerned nations in the region. Organized protesters who opposed Bush's push for an expanded U.S. role in Latin America marched in the streets of Argentina's key resort city hosting the fourth such summit of the Americas.
This session was played against a growing bitterness between Bush and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who has been accused of forging a bloc with Cuba and others against U.S. interests.
Unable to avoid the heckling, Bush faced it head-on with a customary aside to host President Nestor Kirchner: "It's not easy to host all these countries - particularly not easy to host, perhaps, me. But thank you for doing it."
Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Entreaties to "Go Home, America!" have not been heard in modern times in a somewhat pacified Latin America since the ending of the Cold War. Yet, the Bush administration appears to be squandering the nation's reputation, if not its capital, in this largely Christian region with burgeoning democracies. Amid the cries against U.S. expansionism were heard shouts against the Bush war in Iraq.
Chavez, no friend of the White House, led the protesters in rallying against Bush and his war and economic policies. "Peoples of the Americas are rising once again, saying no to imperialism, saying no to fascism, saying no to intervention - and saying no to death." CNN reported that Chavez tweaked "Washington's nose by embracing Cuban President Fidel Castro, who was not invited to the summit because he is not democratically elected." The U.S. State Department downplayed Chavez's role
Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. The fiasco in Argentina is but another indication of the heavy weather the Bush administration is encountering in the wake of the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald charged Cheney's key aide and confidant with lying to the grand jury investigating the disclosure of the name of an undercover CIA agent.
Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. The Valerie Plame case has involved not only news reporters and columnists, but key White House officials suspected of leaking the agent's name to punish her ambassador husband, Joe Wilson. In addition to Libby, who before his resignation was the right-hand man to the most powerful vice president in U.S. history, the prosecutor has centered his investigation on Rove, the senior White House adviser to Bush.
These two are perhaps the most influential White House aides since John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman served President Richard Nixon as the "Berlin Wall" during the days of the Watergate scandal. After lengthy delays and trials, both presidential aides were convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, and each served 18 months of prison time.
Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Karl Rove. Little about the Watergate coverup case, some charge, matched the unfolding Valerie Plame leak case. The former involved a White House-authorized burglary that threatened the rights of the major opposition party in a supposed democracy. The Plame case, at bottom, involves the possibility that the White House fabricated evidence to deceive the American public and its representatives into taking the nation into war in Iraq under false pretenses.
Rove, the president's master of false appearances, is still under the prosecutor's glass but remains free to manipulate White House reality. His are the strings that doubtlessly have the president whirling like a dervish to divert attention away from the CIA leak probe. Last week, among other staged events, Bush attempted to scare the pants off the public by calling for the United States to patrol the streets in case of a bird flu pandemic in America.
Karl Rove did not make the trip to Argentina. This is a good thing.
© 2005 Newsday Inc.