Throwing down with Karl Rove

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(HOST) In the following story, commentator Philip Baruth claims that he attended the VPR Listener Picnic on Saturday, and then later got into an altercation with a national political operative on Burlington’s waterfront. The part about the picnic is true at least…
but the other parts?

(BARUTH) In hindsight, I should have gone straight home Saturday after the picnic. But it is American Beer Month, and the 13th an- nual Brewers Festival was in full swing down on the Burlington waterfront.

Now, if you’ve never been there before, the brewers serve their stock in these tiny plastic sipping cups, about the size of the cup you rinse with at the dentist. They only hold a few swallows, but my tolerance isn’t what it was before I got married and had kids. So the truth now is this: I get three or four of these sippy cups in me, and I’m loaded for bear, if you know what I’m saying.

And that’s just where I am when I look up and see this guy leaning against the next counter. This guy’s face is really familiar, but bad familiar, like the face of some kid who taunted you all through high school: receding hairline, gold rimless glasses, a well-fed look. He’s drinking a Belgian-style white beer, and he looks as pleased with himself as humanly possible. And then the penny drops: it’s Karl Rove.

I can’t believe it – this guy’s being looked at by a Special Prose- cutor investigating classified information leaked out of the White House. This guy should be cowering in his White House office. Yet here he is, Bush’s brain, living large on the Burlington water- front.

Part of me knows I shouldn’t, but I’m one sippy cup over the line, and I shoulder my way up to the counter beside him. And then I turn and look him dead in the eye and I whisper, “You know you leaked that agent’s name, Rove. And we finally got the goods on you, after all these years.”

He just smirks, and then he leans in to my ear. And what he whispers is something that no man can say to another man without a fight: “Nanny-nanny boo-boo – you can’t catch me.”

That tears it. I throw down my sippy cup, and Rove throws down his, and some of Rove’s buddies turn around from the bar and get set: Ken Mehlman, Scooter Libby, the heavy hitters. And that fight would have been epic, but suddenly a big guy in a suit comes fly- ing out of nowhere and gets me in a bearhug, holding me back. It’s Senator Pat Leahy.

“It’s not worth it, dude,” Leahy whispers fiercely in my ear.

I struggle in his grip. “You didn’t hear what he said.”

Leahy gives a dry chuckle. “Believe me, they’ve said worse to me. You gotta pick your battles, man.”

I know he’s right. So I nod, and Leahy lets go. But before I leave I turn to where Rove and the rest are yucking it up. “Laugh now, Rove,” I say, “but this isn’t over. You hear me? It’s not over!”

But Rove just gives me this look like I don’t get it, and he says, “Not only is it over, but soon no one will remember that it ever began.”

So here I sit today, with a please-kill-me hangover, those words ringing in my ears. I want to believe that Rove is wrong, and my head tells me that he’ll resign in disgrace. But my heart tells me that he’s going to skate like Michelle Kwan.

That’s the thing about the Brewers Festival: it’s fun, but there’s always the chance you leave wearing one wobbly boot, as the Australians say; and the older I get, the longer it takes for that to go away.

Philip Baruth is a novelist living in Burlington. He teaches at the University of Vermont.

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