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Putting on a Show

October 1st, 2003

Well, it has been a busy few days in the Wilson-CIA scandal. The White House is trying to muddle the issue and attack both Democrats in Congress and Ambassador Wilson; a White House counsel who has made his career covering up after Bush scandals is acting like he’s interested in finding the culprit, which would make Bush look very bad; the conservative reporter who decided to shill for the administration attack and outed the illegal information is quoting sources that it wasn’t a crime, though his sources are notoriously shady and shaky; the Chief of the Justice Department is investigating a crime that was likely committed by a good friend of his, and Bush & co. are acting enraged that anyone would question his objectivity; and Ambassador Wilson himself pretty much has outed Karl Rove as the perpetrator of the federal crime, whom Bush Sr. indirectly called “the most insidious of traitors.”

First of all, the White House is trying to muddle the issue by not talking about Wilson specifically, but rather the far wider issue of leaks in general, which they have often blamed Congress for. Josh Marshall has good sources and examples of this obfuscation. Conservative spokespeople on the news shows are slipping in the comment whenever they can that the Bush White House doesn’t leak much; does anyone have the facts on that?

But quite frankly, I don’t trust the neo-cons when they cry about leaks coming from the other side. Remember Oliver North? Back in the days of Iran-Contra, North loudly and publicly accused the Congress of leaking information on how a plane with Achille Lauro hijackers bound for Tripoli was intercepted, claiming that the leaks compromised national security and condemning Congress for their disregard for the lives of our agents. Newsweek Magazine, which received the leaked information, later made public the fact that it was none other than Oliver North himself who leaked that information.

The Bush administration is also trying to make a big show with the “no stone unturned” act, by subpoenaing practically every piece of paper since Wilson went to Niger, including conversations with reporters not immediately connected with the story, and any and all documents that have their names (as if a White House staffer would be dumb enough to actually write down that they were leaking classified information). Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel leading the probe, seems intent on burying the investigation in worthless side-tracking.

Gonzales, by the way, has a history of covering up Bush scandals. In 1996, when Bush got the call for jury duty while governor in Texas, he made a big PR play of it, claiming that he was an ordinary guy and it would be “a feeble excuse” to say he’s too busy. Bush failed to fill out the section on “prior arrests” (a crime, but no one fussed), but was about to be pinned to the wall on his drunk driving rap when he got assigned to a DUI case–a case where lawyers were sure to ask Bush, under oath, if he’d been arrested for drunk driving before.

Alberto Gonzales to the rescue. He orchestrates a hasty exit for Bush, claiming (on rather lame legal grounds) that the governor should not serve on the jury of a defendant who might plead clemency with the governor later. I don’t know how many DUI’s ask for pardons from the governor, but I’d be willing to be the number is somewhere south of “one.”

Meanwhile, conservative pundits and politicians are using any variety of lame excuses–Wilson’s wife hasn’t been killed yet, it’s all a political gambit, what reason would there have been for the leak. None of it is relevant, of course, to the fact that a crime was committed, but the GOP will try their best to take everyone’s eyes off the ball over the next several days. Robert Novak, who was the only journalist who shilled for the Bushies in releasing the illegal information, claimed yet again that he has a reliable source in the CIA that says Mrs. Wilson was only an analyst, and not an operative. But then again, Novak also had it on reliable sources that major news of WMD found in Iraq would be released in mid-September, so there you go.

That already is shown up as political dissembling. A revised story is already making the rounds that Mrs. Wilson used to be an operative, but is now an analyst. Ambassador Wilson, appearing on Ted Koppel’s Nightline, spoke as candidly on the issue as security would allow, telling Ted Koppel to “check his sources” on that–suggesting that his wife was not at all an analyst, pointing to the fact that the CIA would not have made the referral to the Justice department had she been one.

His other revelation, and a much greater one, was that he was called by a reporter who told him that he’d just gotten off the phone with Karl Rove, who had told the reporter that Wilson’s wife was “fair game”–and Wilson said he’s be very willing to give the name of the reporter to investigators. He also pointed out that CIA information and political actions intersected at Rove’s office, and any investigation would naturally start there.

Which leads us to the Justice Department, headed by John Ashcroft, the man who lost an election to a dead man, couldn’t stand a bare-breasted statue of justice, and is campaigning to strip you of your civil rights in the name of security and under the cover of fear. Ashcroft is the head of the department which is poised to investigate Rove, and Rove has political ties to Ashcroft, having worked on his campaigns–and reportedly was instrumental in getting Ashcroft his job as Attorney General. How much more conflicted can you get without being directly related?

Only in the Bush White House could this cronyism and deep conflict of interest be not only withstood, but actively defended–a White House where a former CEO and present stockholder in Halliburton is vice-president, and his firm just “happens” to get awarded billions of taxpayer dollars in non-competitive contracts in Iraq, where Ken Lay, one of the most infamous criminals in recent business history not only was Bush’s financial mentor but was key in directing Bush’s energy policies, just happens to escape charges against him for the vast criminal acts he participated in.

The White House has already positively claimed that Rove did not make the calls, despite the fact that the investigation has hardly even started yet and that the president claims that he “wants to know” who did it. The White House also pooh-poohs claims of conflicts of interest, and says it is “appropriate” for Ashcroft to investigate his friend, client, and possibly the man who got him his job.

One would expect that the White House at least avoid the appearance of impropriety, but they’re not even close to that. Bush makes Clinton look like a boy scout, though a lecherous one; the only difference between the two is that Republicans forced investigations into Clinton’s peccadilloes, while the same Republicans are staunchly refusing to investigate massive fraud and corruption in an administration of their own party.

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