OK, so according to the Los Angeles Times, “legal analysts” are saying Karl Rove is off the hook in the Valerie Plame case because he didn’t actually name her, but referred to her as “[Joseph] Wilson’s wife.”

Let’s think about this for a second. If I say, “The First Lady is going to be speaking at such-and-such an event,” I’ve identified her. I didn’t actually name Laura Bush, but it’s obvious who I’m talking about. Since marriage is a one-to-one correspondence (at a given time, anyway) and a matter of public record, identifying “Joseph Wilson’s wife” or “Hillary Clinton’s husband” is as good as identifying the person by name to anyone interested enough to look it up.

It seems to me that the legal issues for Rove should be whether the outing was intentional and whether he knew she was covert—not what your definition of “identify” is.

Not that I have any illusions that Rove will suffer any significant consequences. When a highly successful political strategist says, “go ahead, name me as your source,” you know he’s confident about his defense.