Just a quick thought about Rove stepping down from his "policy duties."
Contrary to what you might think, me being a Plame blogger and all, I actually think the NH phone-jamming and the Tom Noe coin giveaway might have a greater impact on the Republicans than the Plame scandal (Abramoff is another thing, but we can come back to that). The Plame Affair, bad as it is, involves the behavior of several individuals in the Administration--perhaps as much as a dozen, but all individuals. Furthermore, Bush is certain to pull the same stunt Poppy pulled, pardoning the key witness, if it gets much closer to him.
But both the NH and OH cases go right to the heart of Republican tactics. They are tied to the Republican party institutionally, rather than just personally. The GOP-funded defense of the NH phone jammers is so reminiscent of Watergate I'm sporting bell-bottoms from a sense of nostalgia. And if we assume the parallel holds, then the GOP is paying a lot of money in NH to keep some crooks quiet, some crooks who followed the orders of the leaders of the GOP party.
And now the phone-jamming case is bearing down on GOP Chair Ken Mehlman.
If the idea was to pay the phone-jammer legal fees to keep them quiet and insulate the White House and the party at large from implication in election-related crimes, then the strategy failed. The case has already reached the White House--or at least Mehlman's former phone line in the White House. Mehlman is going to be basically powerless to insulate the White House further; his involvement has already become apparent.
So I'm wondering whether Karl's lateral move from dirty politics to dirty politics today doesn't have more to do with saving the party than any attempt to rearrange the deck chairs (or even--except insofar as a Watergate-type scandal will undoubtedly be much costlier to Republicans in 2006 than it was to Republicans in 1972--to concentrate on the election).
Once the full story of them comes out, the Republican dirty tricks and illicit deals this time around are going to put Watergate to shame. And I've got to believe they're making a last ditch attempt to prevent a huge tide from pulling the entire party under. It's a full time job, too. And one that Ken Mehlman can no longer fill.