Bush and Plame

On my recent trip to Denver to see my brother's graduation ceremony, my father and I talked a lot of politics, as we always do when we're together. My father is a lifelong Republican who has, to my knowledge, never voted for anyone but a Republican in any race above the local level. Nonetheless, he told me that he thinks the Bush administration is the single most corrupt administration in history (pretty incredible, given the last one!) and that he will be voting for anyone but Bush this fall.

Probably the biggest reason why he thinks that is the Valerie Plame/Joseph Wilson affair. Joseph Wilson is the former ambassador who served Bush's father as the last ambassador to Iraq before the initial Gulf war. He was asked by the CIA to go to Niger to investigate the infamous claim that Iraq had been trying to buy uranium from that country and concluded that the claim was false. Nevertheless, Bush used that claim in his state of the union speech. Wilson was surprised that they would send him to investigate, then claim the opposite of what he had reported to be true, and he wrote a NYT op-ed piece criticizing them for it. Shortly thereafter, the conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote in a column that two "senior administration officials" had told him that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent.

It is against federal law to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA agent, and Plame was most certainly undercover. Her closest friends were shocked to find out that she was not just a private energy company consultant, the job she had for all the world to see, she was a CIA agent specializing in counter-proliferation - you know, stopping the spread of those weapons of mass destruction we hear so much about. The CIA went rather ballistic about this outing, as it put not only Plame and her family at risk, but all of the contacts and deep cover agents that she had spent 20 years developing and positioning in her work. In fact, as it turns out, they had asked Novak not to publish that information when he called to ask them about it, and he did it anyway.

Anyway, after months of stalling the administration finally agreed to an investigation to find out who had leaked it, but not an independent one - it would be handled by the Justice Department. And true to partisan form, the same legislators who thought it was unthinkable that the Reno DOJ could run a real investigation of Clinton had no problem with the Ashcroft DOJ investigating Bush, and vice versa. That investigation has convened a grand jury to hear testimony and hand down indictments if necessary, and according to this report that grand jury has been told by several witnesses that Bush himself knew about the outing and let it happen:

Witnesses told a federal grand jury President George W. Bush knew about, and took no action to stop, the release of a covert CIA operative's name to a journalist in an attempt to discredit her husband, a critic of administration policy in Iraq.

Their damning testimony has prompted Bush to contact an outside lawyer for legal advice because evidence increasingly points to his involvement in the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

The move suggests the president anticipates being questioned by prosecutors. Sources say grand jury witnesses have implicated the President and his top advisor, Karl Rove.

Now, I don't know if this report is accurate. The webmag it appears in doesn't exactly look like an objective and dispassionate news source. But it certainly wouldn't surprise me if it is entirely true. And there are two primary reasons why I think Wilson is 100% correct when he says that this was intentionally leaked from the highest levels in an attempt to punish him for daring to speak the truth about their claim on Iraq and Niger.

First, because no one in a low level position would know that Plame was a CIA agent. That's not the sort of information that run of the mill aide would know, only those with National Security Council connections would know that. And of course, Novak specifically cites "senior administration officials", not career bureaucrats.

Second, because in addition to Novak there are 5 other news agencies who came forward and said that administration officials had given them the same information, but they had chosen not to use it, for all of the reasons that Novak should have chosen not to use it. Obviously this was a concerted effort to get that fact out before the public. This was not an incidental, someone said something in conversation they shouldn't have kind of situation - this was a very intentional, blunt effort to get that story into the press.

What this demonstrates, more than anything, is that for the majority of those on the right, their cries of patriotism are hypocritical and beholden to partisan interests. Outing a CIA agent is a felony for a very good reason, because it jeopardizes lives and can destroy years of painstaking intelligence work. The Republicans love to charge the Democrats with undermining the intelligence agencies. Where is the outrage from them over this? It barely exists. If this had happened in a Democratic administration, they would quite literally be calling for treason charges, and I believe they'd be right to do so. But they have no problem throwing those principles boldy overboard to protect an administration they support (and of course, the Democrats would have been protecting that administration while they call for investigations of this one). That is shameful and hypocritical, and yet another reason not to take the partisans seriously on virtually anything.

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Kudos to your father's courage Ed. Many former Bush voters like myself can't help but notice the current administration keeps finding itself in situations where the reasonable explanation is either incompetence, or worse.

I just came across capitolhillblue.com a few days ago, when I was referred to this article:

http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_4636.shtml

(something I'm sure you'd be interested to read).

I've been trying to get a read on the relative credibility of CHB's journalism, but I haven't had much luck. At the least, the site evinces a thoroughly anti-Bush ethos. But that doesn't mean, of course, that the information contained in either story is false.

Even though none of the contentions therein should be terribly surprising, I have to be a bit skeptical, since I haven't found confirmation of the more juicy points anywhere in the more mainstream media sources.

I was wondering if you had any insight.

E

Eon-

Nope, I'm in the same situation and had much the same thoughts. I tend not to take seriously a site that has an obvious partisan bias, and that one does. That doesn't mean anything in it is false, of course, but combine that with anonymous sources and one must have a bit of skepticism. Still, I am inclined to believe it for the most part.

I don't think I'd be so quick to conclude that CHB has a partisan bias. I found an article by them with some blistering criticism of the Democratic histrionics at Paul Wellstone's funeral. It seems to me that they take shots at everyone and everything in American politics. Besides, even Republicans can be Bush-haters these days.

I did find one mea culpa-type article from the main guy at CHB, that provides at least some indication that he cares about accuracy:

http://www.capitolhillblue.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=19&num=2529

At the end of the day, though, a healthy dose of skepticism towards the news media and their sources seems to be prudent, no matter which particular outlet. The recent "admissions" of the NY Times should be a salient reminder, if we needed one.

I have a pretty simple-minded take on this affair: if the president was innocent of complicity and cared in the least about getting to the bottom of a treasonous act emanating from his White House, then he would have personally -- in a fit of outrage -- produced the culprit(s) the very first week the issue arose. I find it absurd that it should take so long to get to the bottom of this. I mean, did Bush ever call a meeting of possible villians and DEMAND a confession?

This connects to another thought I've wondered about: has Bush ever read the Constitution?...does he really respect its principles?...is he intellectually and spiritually capable of processing its essence?

Or does Bush consider the presidency merely a corporate-styled management position, thus bringing to the office no real concern about hallowed, democratic principles?

I have a pretty simple-minded take on this affair: if the president was innocent of complicity and cared in the least about getting to the bottom of a treasonous act emanating from his White House, then he would have personally -- in a fit of outrage -- produced the culprit(s) the very first week the issue arose. I find it absurd that it should take so long to get to the bottom of this. I mean, did Bush ever call a meeting of possible villians and DEMAND a confession?

I don't think any sane person really thinks that this was just a lower level person leaking something without permission. This was an intentional effort by those in the White House to get that information before the public for a reason. They went to a half a dozen news outlets with it. This is a White House that is notorious for controlling leaks. When information does leak out, you can be sure it's intentional.

This connects to another thought I've wondered about: has Bush ever read the Constitution?...does he really respect its principles?...is he intellectually and spiritually capable of processing its essence?

My take on Bush is that he's not terribly bright nor well educated. I don't think he's stupid, I just don't think his intellect is going to impress anyone who isn't. But as Christopher Hitchens has noted, Bush also recognizes that he isn't an intellectual and surrounds himself with very smart people and isn't intimidated by that. What bothers me more is how so many of his followers dismiss the notion that the President ought to be smart, which I regard as more evidence (as though it was needed) of rampant misology in America, especially on the right.

My take on Kerry is that he's a reasonably bright guy who long ago recognized that whatever principles he may once have had didn't serve him well politically. He has now become what Clinton was, someone entirely devoid of anything resembling a set of principles and ideas that he holds dearly and believes in passionately. The only thing he's absolutely certain of is his desire to be President. He is the quintessential politician, promising anything to anybody as long as it might get him a vote. The kind of man that Mencken spoke of when he said that if there was a sizable voting block of cannibals, he would promise them a steady supply of missionaries, fattened at public expense.

Ed,

You hit a bull's-eye with your take on Kerry.

As I glance out across the vast cultural spaces of the US, I become more and more persuaded that we deserve a Bush or Kerry. In a nutshell, Bush represents brain-knotted religiosity while Kerry mirrors the self-servingness and anti-democracy of the corporate milieu.

Religion and corporatism = the USA. The tombs of Jefferson and Madison are silently filling with post-carnal tears.