WASHINGTON – Tuesday’s news that presidential adviser Karl Rove won’t face prosecution lifted a cloud over the White House and gave President Bush another reason to hope that his worst days are behind him.
As Bush basked in cheers from U.S. troops during a secret visit to Baghdad, his closest adviser was back at work in the White House, free from worry about a possible indictment in the CIA leak case. All in all, it was another good day for the president, who finally has a few reasons to celebrate after a long string of setbacks that battered his popularity.
The developments added to the optimism that swept through the White House after last week’s slaying of terrorist chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and the completion of a new Iraqi government.
In addition, a Republican won the June 6 special election to fill the San Diego congressional seat left vacant by former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s bribery conviction, reviving hope among Republicans that congressional elections in November may not doom them.
“All of a sudden the clouds broke and the sun started to shine,” said Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman. “After six months of thunderstorms and rain it feels pretty good.”
How long the good days will last for the president is another question.
“He’s had a spate of good news,” said Paul Light, a public policy professor at New York University. “But there has to be the recognition that time is running out. That’s the nature of the political clock.”
Democrats scoffed at suggestions that Bush was rebounding.
“These few developments – and for instance, the Zarqawi one is one I welcome – don’t remove the cloud of incompetence that is over the administration’s head,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The resolution of Rove’s legal troubles means that the president’s top political operative is now free to focus on retaining Republican control of Congress in November’s elections. Rove, the architect of Bush’s rise from baseball executive to governor of Texas to president, has broad influence over the Republican Party and serves as its chief strategist.
Rumors of his possible indictment swirled for months after he testified five times before a federal grand jury that’s investigating the leak of a CIA officer’s name to the news media. On Tuesday, Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had “formally advised” him that the prosecutor “does not anticipate seeking charges” against the White House aide.