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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Day of the Jiveass

It’s a old maxim that in Washington, when breaking news is anticipated, there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of actual information available and the breadth and intensity of rumors. So it goes with the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation of the Valerie Plame leak.Best I can tell, Fitzgerald’s investigation itself is pretty damn close to leak-proof. Hence, the speculation about its impending fruits is reaching levels of near-hysteria in Washington. Will Cheney be implicated? If so, does his implication implicate Bush himself? Did Rove roll over on Scooter Libby, not only exculpating himself but reinforcing his legend as the guy you don’t ever want to mess with? Will Fitzgerald wind up doing nothing, to the shock and disappointment of Democrats and the great relief of Republicans?Who knows? Nobody knows. The tiny trickle of actual news dribbling out today is tantalizing but inconclusive: reports of Fitzgerald paying a visit to Rove’s lawyer, and of FBI agents creepy-crawling the Wilson-Plame neighborhood to find out if it was common knowledge Plame was with The Company.There’s a general expectation that action will be taken tomorrow, but maybe not until Friday, and of course, Fitzgerald could actually hold over the Grand Jury for another week, raising the rumor noise to a high-pitched chattering whine.This is the perfect atmosphere for the Washington Insider Jiveass, who in the absence of real information, feeds the beast of speculation with wild claims backed by shadowy Sources. My colleague The Moose and I had a semi-serious conversation today about how easy it would be to set Washington on its ear by posting especially lurid speculation of our own: unconfirmed reports of beefed-up security in the office of John McCain, waiting in the wings to replace a disgraced Dick Cheney; Sources describing a stricken president weeping in the Rose Garden at the certain loss of his Pilot, Karl Rove; spot checks revealing a vast and coordinated wave of heavily tattooed bicycle messengers delivering multiple “target letters;” Grand Jurors with relatives in Red States suddenly stepping down. In today’s atmosphere, almost anything would get batted around Washington and beyond.I’ve always defined the Washington Insider Jiveass as someone who constantly seeks to know something unimportant fifteen minutes before anyone else. But when it comes to something important, the Washington Insider Jiveass seeks to convey exclusive knowledge of something unknowable close enough to real news events to get attention, yet far enough in advance to avoid looking stupid when it turns out very differently.That’s why this is the Day of the Jiveass in Washington; indeed, it’s a veritable Jiveass Jamboree.

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