The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Keep the Spotlight on Cheney

If you didn't see it, find someone who had the foresight to record it because it was a tour de force of hard-nosed prosecutorial straight talk. The guy is completely untouchable by the Republicans and they will make fools of themselves if they try any of the arguments that they have been floating in this their most desperate week in the past five years, like "it's a technicality" or "the charges are partisan." The Bush-Cheney cabal has been fooling people about their fundamentally corrupt nature for so long that when someone like this (a doorman's son from Brooklyn no less!) comes along and says basically "the VP's chief of staff lied repeatedly to FBI investigators and the grand jury in the course of a national security investigation about the disclosure of the identity of a CIA officer" it totally punctures their balloon.

Rove may yet escape (although he will continue to twist in the wind) but unless Bush can find it within himself to do what he seems incapable of doing - namely clean house from top to bottom and make it clear that Dick Cheney is not the president - he may as well just go back to Crawford now and start planning for McCain's inauguration in January 2009. (Sorry Hillary.)

It's interesting to see the various reactions in the 48 hours since the indictments were announced. I saw a segment on CNN with an editor from the Nation and an editor from the WSJ. Both were incredibly lame. The editor from the Nation couldn't help overreaching: this indictment is all about the war, etc., which it might me eventually but as Fitzgerald himself said, correctly, it's not now.

One thing his press conference should have shown both sides is that in these matters precision in language is very important. What is clear from the indictment itself is that Libby learned about Wilson's status as a CIA employee from a number of sources inside the government, including the sitting VP.

This fact, in itself, raises very serious issues that the Democrats need to focus on like a laser. The fact that Cheney learned of Wilson from Tenet and then passed that information on to Libby is the thread around which whatever else comes will be woven. Every single Democratic elected official should be asking one question, and one question only, right now, and they should be asking it every time a television camera or microphone is close by: What exactly was said among Tenet, Cheney, and Libby when they talked about Valerie Wilson? That's what the public has a right to know and if Dick Cheney is not willing to talk about it (Scooter's reticence is understandable since he is under indictment) then he should resign.

Of course, the WSJ editor was beyond absurd. His argument was two-fold: First, Joe Wilson wasn't truthful either, a charge that keeps being repeated by the right, although I couldn't tell you what the nature of his untruthfulness was, and it clearly wasn't in the context of a criminal investigation. Moreover, so what? You mean someone being untruthful places them and their family at risk of fragging by the forces of the administration? The second argument, which has been adopted, sadly, by the supposedly reasonable right-wingers at the Times, Tierney and Brooks, is that the indictment shows that there was no underlying crime (Tierney) and no underlying conspiracy (Brooks).

These guys either weren't paying attention to Fitzgerald or are simply falling in line with the White House spin machine. Both conclusions are false. As Fitzgerald made clear, he didn't charge under the 1982 Espionage Act because he couldn't figure out the facts because Scooter Libby lied about what happened. That's why the penalties for perjury and obstruction are the same as for the underlying crime; because those crimes prevent the investigators from discovering the truth and confirming whether or not a crime was committed.

Regarding the conspiracy theories, I agree that the usual cast of characters on the left are already overplaying their hands, but again even the facts we know from the indictment show that a number of government officials, including the VP himself, were making it their business to know about Valerie Wilson and the net result of their doing so was that she was outed. This does not reflect well on anyone involved and whether or not a crime was committed we as Americans have the right to expect that the people on our team like Valerie Wilson will not be attacked by other people who are supposedly on our team, especially not by people at the very top like the VP.

From the political rather than criminal perspective, of course, we also have the right to ask whether this kind of behavior was limited to this instance and whether it continues to this day. My guess is that the answers to those questions are no and yes. How far it goes we may never know until someone (including but not limited to Scooter) talks. My intuition is that if we could know what happened we would see a distinct difference between the Bush team and the Cheney team. Bush defers completely to Rove, who appears to relish walking up to and then dancing just on the line between nasty, amoral, hardball politics and criminal activity. Cheney thinks he gets to draw the line itself, and when it comes to his own actions the chalk stays in his pocket.



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