07/15/2005 03:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Marching to Fire Rove Now? Whose Credibility Is Damaged?

If Karl Rove outed an American undercover operative -- and did it intentionally and for political reasons -- he committed a serious crime that put our national security, and many lives, at risk. And the Dems want him…fired?

First of all, I can’t help but think: This is the Democratic call to arms? It sounds so hollow. Bush won’t fire Rove voluntarily. But we’re marching for the dreaded get-kicked-out-of-government-to-make-a-fortune-in-the-private-sector punishment? Certainly not a fitting punishment for the alleged serious crime.

Secondly, Karl Rove has not been found guilty yet. I’m against lynchings of any kind under any circumstances, even a formidable political foe like Rove. Don’t get me wrong, I for one would be pleased if he retired out of politics, and if he’s found guilty, darn right he should be fired, then probably go to jail. But calling for it now sounds like we’re missing the point a little. It sounds like we’re focusing on the politics of governance, rather than governance itself.

Where is the call for swift, thorough investigation and judicial process? I’ve been on vacation, did I miss it? Scott McClellan reminds us there’s an “ongoing investigation”. The marching and outrage is great, it was an outrageous crime, I just wish the signs read “prove who did it!”

Yes, I know it’s an exercise in political tactics, to call Bush’s bluff and hurt his credibility, and maybe that’s working. Also a symbolic political stand against (alleged) corruption is important, to remind people where the ethical line should be drawn. Both are better than doing nothing ... but not at the expense of the primary focus: national security and justice.

My point is, doesn’t Democratic credibility suffer too? Shifting the focus from a serious national security issue to political symbolism now, is this a stand that will allow a majority of Americans to trust Democrats with the national security agenda? Isn’t there’s powerful symbolism in standing for national security and judicial process. and if Rove is found guilty, serious damage to the Bush administration’s credibility.

Some Americans might already expect less-than-candor from the Bush administration, but they shouldn’t expect inauthenticity from the Democrats. Pushing for Rove to be fired before he’s found guilty sounds like taking a Democratic vendetta to the people, wrapped up in righteousness, and it strikes a sour note.

It’s great to hear the Democratic call to arms have a little more red meat. Be concrete, be real, fight for the law of the land... no sweetheart deals. If Karl Rove perpetrated the crime, he must pay the price. And if he didn’t, let’s keep the pressure up to find out who did.

(For more on these issues from Lawrence O'Donnell, Robert Scheer, Tony Blankley, listen to today's Left, Right and Center.)