08/13/2007 02:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reading The Pictures: Karl Looking Going Away


It's just vintage Karl, falling on his sword while simultaneously dodging the morning's news cycle. (Folding the tent early Monday -- in the doggiest days of August -- also makes his departure dusty old by the time newsmaker Sunday rolls around.)

In my first pass on Rove's extrication from the White House, I reprise my favorite shot of Bush's architect. It's not just for the photo, however, but the whole assemblage. This almost two-year-old goody appeared in the NYT at the front-end of the Libby imbroglio. It's hard not to view it without conjuring all those shots of Rove looking at us from behind Bush's back, realizing that what was quintessential about Rove was the misdirection, games with mirrors, looking going away.

With an eye to the specific visual, the interpretation at the time seems just as relevant to Karl last official day:

With all the merde raining down on Rove, there is the sense of the aide in the getaway car -- projecting that confidence of the last laugh.

There is the feeling of Rove -- always the puppet master (or the disembodied Oz) -- in full control of his (or any) image ... especially when there is a chummy White House visual corp to hand feed it to.

There is the impression that, with Karl, you always get two faces.

Also, there is the association: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." Although you can take this in many directions, it reflects how the Administration's characters (with optical assistance from the media) were able to capture the larger media space with a pin-pointed view, completely flood that space, and project themselves way out of scale with little things like job descriptions, history, the law.

Finally though, one must consider this image in its full gestalt. With the editorial thrust bearing down on Scooter Libby, what we have is a brilliant snapshot of Karl's true gift to the Administration, conveying the ability to escape most critical attention while remaining in full view. As Karl exits the stage as a key (if not, the key) silent player in the scandals of the moment, is the hint to us not to forget to notice as this media Houdini once again simply pulls away?

(Update: it wasn't until I finished this post that I discovered the NYT also featured this photo in their on-line story -- see left sidebar/lead off to slideshow. Quintessential, indeed!)

For more of the visual, visit

(image; Doug Mills/NYT.  October 28, 2005.  White House.  New York Times. p. A14.)