No Comment — June 25, 2007, 6:19 pm

Rove Whistles Dixie

Our friends at Talking Points Memo have been keeping a watch on the Siegelman affair. Since a Republican lawyer went forward with a sworn affidavit concerning the GOP plot to frame former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman–a plot involving Karl Rove, his Bama buddy William Canary, and U.S. Attorney Leura Canary (yes, they’re husband and wife)–few things have been as telling of the White House press corps(e) as their failure to ask a question about the affair.

Then last week, Bush and Rove went on the road . . . to the Heart of Dixie. And on Thursday, a reporter for the Huntsville Times popped the question to Rove directly. So how did Rove respond?

Rove was in Alabama on Thursday with President Bush as he toured the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Athens. When asked about Siegelman’s allegations that he was pulling the puppet strings behind the ex-governor’s prosecution, Rove smiled and denied it. “I know nothing about any phone call,” Rove said.

Then a White House press aide stepped up and said, “What he meant to say was that he has no comment.”

Note Rove’s masterful non-denial denial. No one has ever suggested that Rove was in the phone call. To the contrary, it was a phone call among others about Rove. So his statement was not, in fact, a denial of anything. And note that immediate interpretive rebound by the unidentified press aide: “No comment.” How should that be construed? As England’s greatest lawyer, Thomas More, put it, Qui tacet consentit. He who fails to answer, states his consent.

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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