Republicans in a Pickle
Last November, you may recall that I reported on the fact that Republicans in the Senate had raided the computer files of Democrats; at least a few of those stolen documents were then passed on to conservative reporters and pundits, among them Sean Hannity, who made political hay out of them. Senate Democrats were not amused, and asked for an investigation to take place. The man they asked was Senate Sergeant at Arms Bill Pickle, who then started the investigation. And somewhere in the fracas, GOP leadership aide Manuel Miranda admitted to reading the leaked files. One GOP staffer quit soon after the matter became public, and another was suspended.
For some time now, the matter has been under everybody’s radar. that will not last for long. On March 5th, it is expected that Sergeant at Arms Pickle will come out with the results of the internal investigation–and it does not bode well for the GOP. First of all, the theft of files from Democrats’ computers was not minor: about 5,000 files were stolen over a period of about 18 months. That this was accomplished by computer means no less than if GOP staffers were to break into the offices of Senate Democrats, rifle through their file cabinets, and photocopy thousands of their documents–repeatedly, over a year and a half. That’s a serious offense.
And that’s what Pickle is expected to report in a few weeks. And criminal referrals are expected. Which means the Justice Department will be called upon, and a special prosecutor will very likely be appointed. Not something you really want to have happen in an election year if you are a Senate Republican. or a Republican period. So, naturally, conservatives are extremely ticked off that this all has happened. They are mad at Orrin Hatch for cooperating with authorities and not hobbling the investigation, and they are mad that people are paying attention to the theft of the files when we should all be paying attention to the dirt the thieves uncovered when they stole the files.
So far, things are not shaping up well for conservatives this election year–another investigation aimed at conservatives is close to breaking out soon as well. Remember the Niger uranium lie Bush told? Remember how Ambassador Wilson revealed that Bush was lying? Remember how someone in the White House, as retribution, named Wilson’s wife and blew her cover as a CIA operative, endangering her life and the lives of those she had dealings with? That investigation is due to break soon as well, and word is that the FBI is now focusing on members of Vice President Cheney’s staff, and criminal charges may be forthcoming there as well. Specifically, John Hannah, Cheney’s top Mideast staffer, and I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s Chief of Staff. And the reporters who got the leak may by law be forced to reveal their sources. Considering that the penalty for disclosing Plame’s identity is up to ten years in federal prison, someone may be prepared to cut a deal.
Cheney’s popularity is already at a low, low 20%, and Bush’s just dropped to 48% even in a Fox News poll. If both of these investigations erupt in the press over the next few months, there could be significant trouble in the Republican Party.
Quite a pickle, indeed.