I’m not the least bit surprised by the revelations/accusations, but I am pretty surprised by the source:
Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence.
Among the most explosive revelations in the 341-page book, titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” (Public Affairs, $27.95):
• McClellan charges that Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war.
• He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.
• He admits that some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be “badly misguided.”
• The longtime Bush loyalist also suggests that two top aides held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them — and McClellan was continuing to defend them despite mounting evidence they had not given him all the facts.
• McClellan asserts that the aides — Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff — “had at best misled” him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.
The eagerly awaited book, while recounting many fond memories of Bush and describing him as “authentic” and “sincere,” is harsher than reporters and White House officials had expected.
McClellan was one of the president’s earliest and most loyal political aides, and most of his friends had expected him to take a few swipes at his former colleague in order to sell books but also to paint a largely affectionate portrait.
Instead, McClellan’s tone is often harsh. He writes, for example, that after Hurricane Katrina, the White House “spent most of the first week in a state of denial,” and he blames Rove for suggesting the photo of the president comfortably observing the disaster during an Air Force One flyover. McClellan says he and counselor to the president Dan Bartlett had opposed the idea and thought it had been scrapped.
But he writes that he later was told that “Karl was convinced we needed to do it — and the president agreed.”
“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term,” he writes. “And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath.”
“I still like and admire President Bush,” McClellan writes. “But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. … In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security.”
McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush’s liberal critics and even charges: “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.
“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”
Wow. History’s judgment continues to trickle out, doesn’t it. My only complaint is that Scottie is a little too willing to let Dubya personally off the hook and blame everything on his advisers. Who hired the advisers? Who made the decision to listen to them even when their advice was obviously flawed at best, insane and evil at worst? Bush is either a monster or a chump, and history will not be kind either way.
When President Bush erased the prison term of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, he reinforced some Americans’ perception that status can affect justice, according to the judge who sentenced Libby.
Walton, whom Bush nominated to the District of Columbia bench, acknowledged Tuesday that Bush’s decision was part of the system, but he also said it fed some people’s notion that justice isn’t equal.
“The downside is there are a lot of people in America who think that justice is determined to a large degree by who you are and that what you have plays a large role in what kind of justice you receive. . . . It is crucial that the American public respect the rule of law, or people won’t follow it.”
That was not the message Dubya sent at all (besides, it’s not like anyone needed him to spell it out for them). No, his message was that if you break the law on his behalf, he’ll see to it that you’re untouchable.
If it’s not a pardon, it’s the all-purpose handy-dandy shield of Executive Privilege, or State Secrets. Even if they’re completely groundless, they can be used to drag the congressional investigation process out until the Democrats give up and the public forgets, or until the next president takes office. (Yes, I’m assuming that that will be Congress’s cue to drop all pending investigations – you got a problem with that?)
So if he ever asks you to break the law for him, you should totally do it ‘cuz he’s got your back. Too bad he’s having trouble getting Congress to help out his telecom buddies…
3 commentsApril 30th, 2008 at 11:10pmPosted by Eli
By now, I assume you’ve all heard that the Bush administration has grudgingly admitted, one minute before the due date on a court order, that they were recycling (also known as deleting and overwriting) their e-mail backup tapes until October 2003. This is in clear violation of federal document retention law, but that’s okay, because they were following industry best practices:
Prior to October 2003 and continuing through 2005 and to the present, this office has regularly created back-up tapes for the EOP Network, which includes the system’s email servers. Consistent with industry best practices relating to tape media management for disaster recovery back-up systems, these tapes were recycled prior to October 2003. In October 2003, this office began preserving and storing all back-up tapes and continues to do so.
Awesome. I’m sure that explanation would totally hold up in court… if anyone ever bothered to take them there.
The law is : A doctrine called “spoliation” which says that if you destroy evidence that you had an obligation to preserve, if you knew or reasonably should have known that the evidence in question related to a possible claim against you, then your opponent is entitle to a “negative inference” against you.
More simply, with less jargon. The court will instruct the jury that your opponenet is entitled to an inference that the destroyed evidence would either support their case or damage the theory of your case.
This was the problem when Arthur ANderson had it’s shredding party after the Enron collapse. It didn’t matter whether or not they had a regular practice of shredding stuff once it got old. Once htey Knew or should have known that any of that paper might have been relevant to the Enron investigation, they had an obligation to preserve it.
So if someone takes the Bushies to court and demands to see e-mails from the March 2003 (when the WH started deleting e-mails) to October 2003 timeframe, then they have screwed themselves. Ironically, they could conceivably even get convicted for something they were actually innocent of (if such a thing exists), because they wouldn’t be able to produce e-mails to prove otherwise.
Of course, in the real world, no-one actually has the balls to take the Bushies to court, and even if they did, the administration would argue (as they have all along) that the nonexistent e-mails are covered by the magic cloak of Executive Privilege, so they have no obligation to produce them anyway.
Two other caveats:
1) Payton claims, seemingly nonsensically, that “emails sent or received in the 2003-2005 time period should be contained on existing back-up tapes.” If – I repeat, if – the data files being backed up extended beyond 7 months, and the backups were full rather than incremental, then the first non-“recycled” backup tape from October 2003 should contain all of the e-mails from March onward. Or, alternatively:
2) Several commenters in that same thread make a distinction between backups for purposes of disaster recovery, where the emphasis is on restoring the work environment, vs. backups for purposes of archival storage. However, it seems odd that the WH would not make such a distinction to explain their claim that all the 2003 e-mails were still intact.
It’s a bit reminiscent of Saddam’s WMD dance, where he wanted to simultaneously claim that he didn’t have any so that the US wouldn’t invade, yet also suggest that maybe he did, so that he could still pretend to be a scary badass. I’m thinking that the administration doesn’t want to come out and admit that they’ve broken the law, yet at the same time doesn’t want to suggest that those e-mails are available either. It’s a very strange two-step, and I sure hope someone calls them on it some day.
Jeralyn’s initial reaction to Conyers’ witness list for his Libby commutation hearings was understandable disappointment, in that none of the witnesses was in any way privy to the actual commutation deliberations. If indeed there were any – my guess is that Dubya asked if there was any way they could “get to” Scooter in prison if it looked like he might talk…
My thought on that list was that Conyers was basically taking the opacity of the Bush administration as a given, and instead looking to spotlight the appearance of impropriety by drawing a contrast between a proper, orderly pardon or commutation process vs. Dubya’s quickie commutation – plus Joe Wilson to remind everyone that Libby’s was neither a trivial nor a victimless crime.
But now Jeralyn has added an update, saying that Conyers sent Bush a letter asking him to waive executive privilege and let his commutation advisors testify before the committee. This is certainly the right thing to do, but I don’t see how it will lead to any useful revelations. Bush will either deny the request, or else let his minions go in there and just lie their asses off about the solemn and sober deliberation process. My money would be on the former, since Dubya never passes up any opportunity to remind Congress that he’s still the King Of Everybody.
There’s no chance in hell that Conyers will be able to get enough to trigger an impeachment, but hopefully he will at least be able to weave a compelling Improper Commutation Protocol + Executive Stonewalling = The Kind Of Smoke Where There’s Usually Fire narrative.
THERE was never any question that President Bush would grant amnesty to Scooter Libby, the man who knows too much about the lies told to sell the war in Iraq. The only questions were when, and how, Mr. Bush would buy Mr. Libby’s silence. Now we have the answers, and they’re at least as incriminating as the act itself. They reveal the continued ferocity of a White House cover-up and expose the true character of a commander in chief whose tough-guy shtick can no longer camouflage his fundamental cowardice.
The only people clamoring for Mr. Libby’s freedom were the pundits who still believe that Saddam secured uranium in Africa and who still hope that any exoneration of Mr. Libby might make them look less like dupes for aiding and abetting the hyped case for war. That select group is not the Republican base so much as a roster of the past, present and future holders of quasi-academic titles at neocon think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute.
What this crowd never understood is that Mr. Bush’s highest priority is always to protect himself. So he stiffed them too. Had the president wanted to placate the Weekly Standard crowd, he would have given Mr. Libby a full pardon. That he served up a commutation instead is revealing of just how worried the president is about the beans Mr. Libby could spill about his and Dick Cheney’s use of prewar intelligence.
Valerie Wilson still has a civil suit pending. The Democratic inquisitor in the House, Henry Waxman, still has the uranium hoax underlying this case at the top of his agenda as an active investigation. A commutation puts up more roadblocks by keeping Mr. Libby’s appeal of his conviction alive and his Fifth Amendment rights intact. He can’t testify without risking self-incrimination. Meanwhile, we are asked to believe that he has paid his remaining $250,000 debt to society independently of his private $5 million “legal defense fund.”
The president’s presentation of the commutation is more revealing still. Had Mr. Bush really believed he was doing the right and honorable thing, he would not have commuted Mr. Libby’s jail sentence by press release just before the July Fourth holiday without consulting Justice Department lawyers. That’s the behavior of an accountant cooking the books in the dead of night, not the proud act of a patriot standing on principle.
When the furor followed Mr. Bush from Kennebunkport to Washington despite his efforts to duck it, he further underlined his embarrassment by taking his only few questions on the subject during a photo op at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. You know this president is up to no good whenever he hides behind the troops. This instance was particularly shameful, since Mr. Bush also used the occasion to trivialize the scandalous maltreatment of Walter Reed patients on his watch as merely “some bureaucratic red-tape issues.”
Asked last week to explain the president’s poll numbers, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center told NBC News that “when we ask people to summon up one word that comes to mind” to describe Mr. Bush, it’s “incompetence.” But cowardice, the character trait so evident in his furtive handling of the Libby commutation, is as important to understanding Mr. Bush’s cratered presidency as incompetence, cronyism and hubris.
Even The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, a consistent Bush and Libby defender, had to take notice. Furious that the president had not given Mr. Libby a full pardon (at least not yet), The Journal called the Bush commutation statement a “profile in non-courage.”
Wow, even the WSJ thinks Dubya’s chickenshit. Murdoch’s not the boss of them yet!
…Mr. Bush’s failure to have the courage of his own convictions was apparent early in his history, when he professed support for the Vietnam War yet kept himself out of harm’s way when he had the chance to serve in it. In the White House, he has often repeated the feckless pattern that he set back then and reaffirmed last week in his hide-and-seek bestowing of the Libby commutation. The first fight he conspicuously ran away from as president was in August 2001. Aspiring to halt federal underwriting of embryonic stem-cell research, he didn’t stand up and say so but instead unveiled a bogus “compromise” that promised continued federal research on 60 existing stem-cell lines. Only later would we learn that all but 11 of them did not exist….
Nowhere is this president’s non-courage more evident than in the “signing statements” The Boston Globe exposed last year. As Charlie Savage reported, Mr. Bush “quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office.” Rather than veto them in public view, he signed them, waited until after the press and lawmakers left the White House, and then filed statements in the Federal Register asserting that he would ignore laws he (not the courts) judged unconstitutional. This was the extralegal trick Mr. Bush used to bypass the ban on torture. It allowed him to make a coward’s escape from the moral (and legal) responsibility of arguing for so radical a break with American practice.
In the end, it was also this president’s profile in non-courage that greased the skids for the Iraq fiasco. If Mr. Bush had had the guts to put America on a true wartime footing by appealing to his fellow citizens for sacrifice, possibly even a draft if required, then he might have had at least a chance of amassing the resources needed to secure Iraq after we invaded it.
But he never backed up the rhetoric of war with the stand-up action needed to prosecute the war. Instead he relied on fomenting fear, as typified by the false uranium claims whose genesis has been covered up by Mr. Libby’s obstructions of justice. Mr. Bush’s cowardly abdication of the tough responsibilities of wartime leadership ratified Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to go into Iraq with the army he had, ensuring our defeat.
No one can stop Mr. Bush from freeing a pathetic little fall guy like Scooter Libby. But only those who paid the ultimate price for the avoidable bungling of Iraq have the moral authority to pardon Mr. Bush.
All in all, it’s been a pretty good day for reading New York newspapers.
Only now does the NYT notice that Dubya’s record on commutations and pardons completely contradicts his commutation of Libby’s sentence:
As governor of Texas… Mr. Bush discussed and applied a consistent and narrow standard when deciding whether to issue pardons and commutations. And that standard appears to be at odds with his decision in the Libby case.
Mr. Bush explained his clemency philosophy in Texas in his 1999 memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”
“In every case,” he wrote, “I would ask: Is there any doubt about this individual’s guilt or innocence? And, have the courts had ample opportunity to review all the legal issues in this case?”
(Note: I do not believe Bush even did that.)
“As governor, Bush essentially viewed the clemency power as limited to cases of demonstrable actual innocence,” said Jordan M. Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas who has represented death-row inmates.
“The exercise of the commutation power in Libby,” Professor Steiker continued, “represents a dramatic shift from his attitude toward clemency in Texas, and it is entirely inconsistent with his longstanding, very limited approach.”
No shit. Most of the rest of the story is statistics and examples backing up the central thesis that Dubya is one of the least merciful governors and presidents ever, which is all well and good. But presenting this last bit without comment pushes the story over into borderline wankery:
In his memoir, Mr. Bush wrote about agonizing over the case of Karla Faye Tucker, who in 1998 became the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Ms. Tucker, who was convicted in the ax murders of two people during a robbery in 1983, had become a born-again Christian while in prison, and her case drew support from across the political spectrum. Mr. Bush described feeling “like a huge piece of concrete was crushing me” as he waited with aides for Ms. Tucker’s execution. It was, he said, “the longest 20 minutes of my tenure as governor.”
In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker’s] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. “Did you meet with any of them?” I ask.
Bush whips around and stares at me. “No, I didn’t meet with any of them,” he snaps, as though I’ve just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. “I didn’t meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like ‘What would you say to Governor Bush?’ ”
“What was her answer?” I wonder.
“Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.”
Okay, this time I know that I have more than one wanker today, but I should probably just start assuming that that will always be the case…
Anyway, Wanker #1 is the esteemed Mr. Michael Kinsley, who I’m pretty sure actually used to be a liberal at some point. He basically argues that poor Scooter Libby was caught in an unfair perjury trap, JUST LIKE BILL CLINTON OMG.
Yes, he concedes that Clinton didn’t actually lie to cover up a criminal act, but since Scooter lied about something that might not have been a criminal act (and no-one knows for sure because Scooter lied about it), their perjuries are equivalent. (I would say that the very existence of Scooter’s smokescreen rather strongly suggests that he and his cronies either knew or suspected that they had done something criminal)
He also goes on to make some bizarre and nigh-incomprehensible argument that Scooter shouldn’t have been prosecuted for perjury because the reporters he and his co-conspirators leaked to didn’t have to testify. Umm… What? I could have sworn that Judy, Cooper, and Russert all ended up testifying – did I miss something?
In any case, even if Kinsley hadn’t slept through the entire Libby investigation and trial, I still don’t see how reporters testifying or not testifying has any bearing on Libby’s obligation to do so, and to do so truthfully.
I cheerfully agree that Libby had an unpleasant choice of either lying to a grand jury, or spilling the beans on a possible (I would say probable) crime that he was a party to. But the thing is, he was in that unpleasant situation because he willingly participated in the conspiracy and made no effort to stop it, or even to opt out of it.
In essence, Scooter’s position was little different from that of any other criminal under interrogation: He had a choice to either come clean about the potential crime being investigated, or commit the new (and lesser) crime of lying about it, and hope that the truth didn’t find its way out anyway.
Scooter trapped himself the moment he jumped on the Let’s-Out-Valerie bandwagon.
So there you have it. Bush shrugs and smirks and then commutes the easy soft-focus sit-on-your-ass-all-day-and-knit white-collar prison sentence of a hollow political lackey who, in turn, took a bullet for his sneering mafia thug of a boss, Dick Cheney, who in turn was complicit (along with lead flying monkey Karl Rove) in the appallingly illegal outing of a CIA operative, which itself was a tiny but particularly nasty link in the giant chain of lies and deceptions undertaken to lead our wary and tattered nation into an unwinnable impossible costly brutally violent war that will now last, if current estimates are correct, until the goddamn sun explodes.
You have to laugh. You have to laugh because if you do not laugh you will likely be overcome by a mad desire to stab yourself in the eye with a sharp feral cat and/or shoot yourself in the toe with a high-powered staple gun, over and over again, all while tearing out pages of the United States Constitution and crumpling them into tiny little balls and hurling them into the smoldering firepit of who-the-hell-cares as you shiver in the corner and swig from a bottle of Knob Creek and wail at the moon. Or maybe that’s just me.
All in all, you could say it’s much like a very bad episode of “The Sopranos,” all thick-minded thugs and boorish mafia tactics and the childish calling in of violent favors, all about ruthless loyalty at the expense of, well, everything else: humanity, integrity, decency, the will of the people. And there is Bush, the hollow figurehead, the smirking decider, with Cheney as the henchman, the hangman, the guy at the door with the black gloves and the baseball bat and the black van waiting outside.
Except wait a minute; in this endless episode, there’s no deeper sense of existential angst, no smart-tongued therapy sessions full of humor and revelation, no hint of greatness, no darkly heroic Tony Soprano character who transcends it all and suspects there is more to life than this world of blood and violence and war and even craves, somewhere in his soul, to find it.
OK, check that. It’s not “The Sopranos” at all. It’s more like a particularly noxious episode of “Mama’s Family,” all Neanderthal redneck inbred imbeciles doing bad accents and idiotic pratfalls and slapping each other in the face to the tune of an insufferable, forced laugh track, all centered around a laughably dreadful character who blurts out sarcastic one-liners so stupid and inept they make your skin crawl.
Except no one’s laughing. And tens of thousands of people are dying. And the country is rotting at its core. And the world, oh the world, the world knows this degrading, deeply humiliating show cannot be cancelled fast enough.
I really do need to start waiting longer before handing out Wanker of The Day honors. ‘cuz, no offense to Billy Kristol, who is a most excellent wanker, but David Brooks just blows him away today. It’s not even close.
In retrospect, Plamegate was a farce in five acts. The first four were scabrous, disgraceful and absurd. Justice only reared its head at the end.
Ugh. I’m gagging already.
The drama opened, as these dark comedies are wont to do, with a strutting little peacock who went by the unimaginative name of Joe Wilson.
WTF is this even supposed to mean? Not only is Joseph Wilson a bad guy, but he has a BORING NAME! What a loser!
Mr. Wilson claimed that his wife had nothing to do with his trip to investigate Iraqi purchases in Niger, though that seems not to have been the case. He claimed his trip proved Iraq had made no such attempts, though his own report said nothing of the kind.
Nice sleight-of-hand there, Brooksie. The question is not whether Valerie “had nothing to do with” it, but whether she was the force behind it. She “had something to do with it” only insofar as she was the go-between between her husband and the CIA people who actually made the decision. Big whoop. As for what Wilson’s report “proved,” I’m sure it didn’t prove that Saddam never ever sought uranium, but that was never Wikson’s mission. He was sent solely to confirm the validity of the document that purported to show that Saddam attempted to purchase yellowcake from Niger, and he debunked it pretty conclusively as a total fraud. See how David Brooks demolishes the mighty straw army!
Act Two opened with a cast of thousands crowding the stage, filling the air with fevered vapors and gleeful rage. Perhaps you can remember those days, when the Plame story pretended to be about the outing of an undercover C.I.A. agent.
Umm… What? The Plame story is about the outing of a covert CIA agent, and your team is pretending it isn’t. Let me ask you a simple yes-or-no question: Did someone in (and by “someone in,” I mean “half of”) the Bush administration out an undercover CIA agent, and, oh by the way, out every single other undercover CIA agent at Brewster Jennings by association, as well as any informants and contacts they had cultivated? Does that really fall under the umbrella of good old-fashioned hardball politics?
By the start of Act Three, nobody cared about the outing of a C.I.A. agent.
Speak for yourself, you insufferably unctuous asshat.
Act Three was the perjury act, and attention shifted to the unlikely figure of Scooter Libby. As Joe Wilson was an absurd man with a plain name, Scooter Libby was a plain man with an absurd name.
Wow, I guess that was the payoff for that moronic swipe in the introduction. Masterfully done. I bow.
And the odder thing was that Libby was the only normal person in the asylum. People who knew him thought him discreet, honest and admirable. And yet the charges were brought and the storm clouds of idiocy gathered once more.
Well, first of all, lots of the people who know Scooter are criminals themselves. Second of all, his much-valued discretion is very, shall we say, selective. If you’re a loyal Bushie (or Bushie himself), Scooter’ll willingly perjure himself to cover up for you – but if you’re, say, an undercover CIA agent, you might as well be Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. And thirdly, by Brooks’s standard, I guess there’s no point in ever prosecuting serial killers who “seemed like such a nice young man,” right?
Republicans who’d worked themselves up into a spittle-spewing rage because Bill Clinton lied under oath were appalled that anybody would bother with poor Libby over lying under oath. Democrats who were outraged that Bill Clinton was hounded for something as trivial as perjury were furious that Scooter Libby might not be ruined for a crime as heinous as perjury. It was an orgy of shamelessness. The God of Self-Respect took sabbatical.
Ah, and here we reach the mandatory part of the program where Brooks burnishes his credentials as some sort of Reasonable Moderate. Both sides are equally in the wrong, you see. Because lying about a blow job and lying about outing a covert agent are EXACTLY THE SAME. Gotcha.
The trial and sentencing, Act Four, was, to be honest, somewhat anticlimactic. Fitzgerald, having lost all perspective, demanded Libby get a harsh sentence as punishment for crimes he had not been convicted of.
Again, more lies. Scooter was indeed sentenced for the crime he was convicted of, which was that of covering up the more serious underlying crime. That is why no-one was ever charged with it.
And finally, yesterday, came Act Five, and a paradox. Scooter Libby emerged as the least absurd character in the entire drama, and yet he was the one who committed a crime. President Bush entered the stage like a character from another world, a world in which things make sense.
Boy howdy, if ever you needed proof of just how out of touch with reality Brooks is, that last sentence should seal the deal. Hell, it might even be grounds for involuntary committal. And as for his paradox, well, I just don’t get it. Fortunately for Brooks, simply being absurd is not actually a crime, nor does lack of absurdity somehow preclude criminality. I guess Brooksie is unfamiliar with that whole “banality of evil” concept…
His decision to commute Libby’s sentence but not erase his conviction was exactly right. It punishes him for his perjury, but not for the phantasmagorical political farce that grew to surround him. It takes away his career, but not his family.
Oh, please. Scooter is not being punished at all, and he will go on to have a very lucrative career as a lobbyist or conservative think tank fellow.
Of course, the howlers howl. That is their assigned posture in this drama. They entered howling, they will leave howling and the only thing you can count on is their anger has been cynically manufactured from start to finish.
Methinks the David doth project too much. Having been firmly embedded in the liberal blogosphere for the entire Libby trial, I can assure you that absolutely none of our outrage is manufactured. That’s a Republican industry.
The farce is over. It has no significance. Nobody but Libby’s family will remember it in a few weeks time. Everyone else will have moved on to other fiascos, other poses, fresher manias.
I’m sure you and the rest of the Republican-media complex will do your best. And if there’s one area in which the Bush administration has proven itself highly skilled, it’s in generating new fiascoes to distract from old ones. So it’s entirely possible that we might forget all about Scooter Libby. But you’ll probably wish we hadn’t.
“It became an issue of character and courage, really,” said William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, who had argued in his magazine that if Mr. Bush was not going to pardon Mr. Libby, at least he should commute his sentence. “I certainly think Bush did the right thing and I think he did something important for his presidency. I think conservatives would have lost respect for Bush if he had not commuted Libby’s sentence.”
Well, I guess if sending other people’s kids into a pointless neverending war is a hallmark of character and courage, I don’t see why pardoning commuting someone who broke the law on your behalf should be any different. I wonder how much energy I could save this summer by using the Republican moral compass as a fan…
Side note from the same story: The Bush Administration is no stranger to commuting where Scooter is concerned:
Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney are extremely close – they often rode to work together before Mr. Libby’s indictment forced him to resign as Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff in October 2005….
What it boils down to, is that BushCo’s Ultimate Secret Weapon is… a complete lack of any shame whatsoever. Instead of slinking away in disgrace when exposed as incompetents and corrupt serial lawbreakers, they stick out their chests and chins and say, “Whaddaya gonna do about it, punks?”
And the Democrats don’t really have an answer. They keep catching the car over and over again, but they can’t do anything with it.
The following is from a report written and released by the Judiciary Committee in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate crisis.
In the [Constitutional] convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to “pardon crimes which were advised by himself” or, before indictment or conviction, “to stop inquiry and prevent detection.” James Madison responded:
[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty…
Madison went on to [say] contrary to his position in the Philadelphia convention, that the President could be suspended when suspected, and his powers would devolve on the Vice President, who could likewise be suspended until impeached and convicted, if he were also suspected.
This is all well and good, but is it actually codified in the Constitution in any way? Do the Founders’ opinions have any legal weight here, or are we basically just stuck saying, “Gee, the Founders sure wouldn’t approve of this, but there’s really not much we can do…”?
President Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on Monday, sparing him from a 2 1/2-year prison term that Bush said was excessive.
Bush’s move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby’s allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
“I respect the jury’s verdict,” Bush said in a statement. “But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.”
But technically it’s not a pardon, so Dubya wasn’t really dishonest when he signaled that he wouldn’t pardon Scooter. But don’t worry, it’s not like Scooter gets off easy:
Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, and Bush said his action still “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby.”
“The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged,” Bush said. “His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.”
Brutal. Way to throw the book at him there, Dubya. You show those criminals who’s boss.
In a startling new revelation, CREW has also learned through two confidential sources that the Executive Office of the President (EOP) has lost over five million emails generated between March 2003 and October 2005. The White House counsel’s office was advised of these problems in 2005 and CREW has been told that the White House was given a plan of action to recover these emails, but to date nothing has been done to rectify this significant loss of records.
When I spoke to CREW’s Naomi Seligman Steiner, she could only say that the missing emails were generated over a period of “hundreds of days within that two year period.” Furthermore, it’s not clear whose emails they are, or why those emails are missing as opposed to others. “We’re dealing with people who are only willing to tell us so much,” she said.
In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asked that the Justice Department retain all emails received or sent to a White House official’s RNC-issued email address.
…[T]here are some very tantalizing details concerning Karl Rove…
From the letter:
According to Mr. Kelner, the RNC had a policy, which the RNC called a “document retention” policy, that purged all e-mails from RNC e-mail accounts and the RNC server that were more than 30 days old. Mr. Kelner said that as a result of unspecified legal inquiries, a “hold” was placed on this e-mail destruction policy for the accounts of White House officials in August 2004. Mr. Kelner was uncertain whether the hold was consistently maintained from August 2004 to the present, but he asserted that for this period, the RNC does have a large volume of White House e-mails. According to Mr. Kelner, the hold would not have prevented individual White House officials from deleting their e-mail from the RNC server after August 2004.Mr. Kelner’s briefing raised particular concems about Karl Rove, who according to press reports used his RNC accountfor 95% of his communications. According to Mr. Kelner, although the hold started in August 2004, the RNC does not have any e-mails prior to 2005 for Mr. Rove. Mr. Kelner did not give any explanation for the e-mails missing from Mr. Rove’s account, but he did acknowledge that one possible explanation is that Mr. Rove personally deleted his e-mails from the RNC server.
Mr. Kelner also explained that starting in 2005, the RNC began to treat Mr. Rove’s emails in a special fashion. At some point in 2005, the RNC commenced an automatic archive policy for Mr. Rove, but not for any other White House officials. According to Mr. Kelner, this archive policy removed Mr. Rove’s ability to personally delete his e-mails from the RNC server. Mr. Kelner did not provide many details about why this special policy was adopted for Mr. Rove. But he did indicate that one factor was the presence of investigative or discovery requests or other legal concerns. It was unclear from Mr. Kelner’s briefing whether the special archiving policy for Mr. Rove was consistently in effect after 2005. [TPMmuck emphasis]
So, this gives us a timeframe from March 2003 to August 2004 where any incriminating e-mails of interest from White House staffers could easily be missing from both WH and RNC servers, with that “blackout” timeframe extended out to “some point in 2005” (October?) for Karl Rove. In fact, if all the WH staffers were industrious about deleting the most sensitive RNC-mails, this timeframe could effectively extend all the way to up to October 2005. Prior to this timeframe, it can be assumed that all WH e-mails should be available, and that all RNC-mails would be unavailable. After this timeframe, it can be assumed that all WH and Rove RNC-mails should be available, but there are absolutely no guarantees about the RNC-mails of any other staffers.
So, what does this timeframe cover? Just off the top of my head, it would cover the start of the Iraq war, the Plame leak and coverup, the 2004 election, most or all of the Abramoff and Cunningham investigations, and even Hurricane Katrina, if we assume that everyone was manually deleting their incriminating RNC-mails. On the positive side, this gap would not include any conversations about the Wilkes-Foggo investigation or the US Attorney firings – or any segue between them, i.e., any possible “We have to get rid of Lam before she takes down any more of our guys” e-mails, unless Rove stayed out of them.
Also on the positive side is the fact that there is absolutely no technical excuse not to produce any Rove e-mails from October 2005 on, so any directives or feedback he might have given about which USAs to fire and why should be available, whether he used WH or RNC e-mail systems. If the WH or RNC say they cannot produce them, then they are essentially admitting to a coverup.
On the other hand, if Rove was aware that his e-mails were being archived (it’s unclear whether he knew this, or if he was ineffectually deleting away, thinking he was untouchable – it’s hard to imagine the RNC wouldn’t warn him, though), there’s a good chance that he would save his most sensitive communications for the phone, or route them through a trusted aide (Jennings?) whose e-mails were not being archived.
My first thought was that Rove is so arrogant that he wouldn’t have taken such precautions until after the 2006 election proved “the math” wrong and ushered in The Age Of Oversight, but if that were the case he wouldn’t have been deleting all his e-mails in the first place. Bottom line: It’s entirely conceivable that there are simply no incriminating Rove e-mails available, and no way to bust him for circumventing even the off-the-books e-mail system… unless someone squeals.
Finally, here’s the question that keeps nagging at me: Let’s suppose, just hypothetically, that the Bush White House and the RNC are completely unethical. I know, I know, but bear with me. Now suppose that they hand over most of their e-mails in response to the subpoena, and claim that they’ve complied fully – would the Democrats be able to tell? I know a lot of them are former prosecutors, and I bet a lot of their staffers are, too (to say nothing of the Blogger Street Irregulars) – and Fitz has demonstrated just how much a good prosecutor can find out, even in the face of a coverup. Maybe they can spot the contour of an empty space where an e-mail chain should be, or a reference to a missing e-mail in another e-mail, or in someone’s testimony, and then… what? Who gets busted? Will they have a fall guy like Libby again, maybe some Regents grad willing to take one for Team Jesus?
I really want to believe that the truth will come out, but I know the Bushies can afford to let it. At the very least, I’m hoping that, like Nixon’s missing 18 minutes, the evidence of criminal obstruction will be so obvious and unspinnable that it makes the Republican Party radioactive for the next thirty years. But I’m sure that’s what we were saying in 1974, too. (Well, I was probably saying something like, “Ooo, pwetty truck!”, but you know what I mean.)
UPDATE:Just noticed this over at FDL. These are the kinds of things that don’t register on you when you’re not a prosecutor, and kinda brain-dead to boot:
[M]ay I just say for the record that if Mr. Rove knew that his e-mails were to be preserved due to a pending criminal investigation and deleted them anyway in an effort to keep them from being viewed in discovery under a valid request from, say, a certain tall special prosecutor whose name might be Fitzgerald – well, that could be construed in a whole lot of places as obstruction of justice.
Mwahahaha… This would, of course, also apply to any of his minions who might be deleting their e-mails as well.
6 commentsApril 12th, 2007 at 11:07pmPosted by Eli
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had “not distinguished themselves” on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.
The ranking placed Fitzgerald below “strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty” to the administration but above “weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.,” according to Justice documents.
The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show.
Okay, I guess I can see the “loyalty” thing, but that really shouldn’t be at the top of a prosecutor’s priorities list…
Mary Jo White, who supervised Fitzgerald when she served as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and who has criticized the firings, said ranking him as a middling prosecutor “lacks total credibility across the board.”
“He is probably the best prosecutor in the nation — certainly one of them,” said White, who worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations. “It casts total doubt on the whole process. It’s kind of the icing on the cake.”
Mary Jo White is a pretty good attack dog in her own right – in a perfect world, she would be a great replacement for Gonzo.
But hey, maybe Fitz’s low ranking has nothing to do with the Plame case – maybe they let him handle the ame case because they believed their own ratings and thought he really was mediocre. I know, it’s just too perfect to hope for, but it’s as good an explanation as any for why someone as sharp and independent as Fitz got anywhere near that case.
Why was Knodell a witness in Friday’s hearing on the Plame leak and not his predecessor? I didn’t see the point of asking him why there was no investigation, or why he didn’t initiate one over a year after the fact.
Um, Waxman did know that Knodell wasn’t the one on the job when the leak occurred, right?
I’m watching Vicki “I-drafted-the-bill-so-everything-I-say-must-be-true” Toensing’s opening statement, and she’s demanding to know why:
1) Valerie Plame contributed $1,000 to Al Gore’s campaign and listed (gasp!) Bewster-Jennings as her employer.
2) Valerie Plame is listed in Who’s Who.
Um, WTF??? Should Valerie Plame have listed the CIA as her employer? Or just not contributed money to anybody? And wouldn’t it be kind of strange if an ambassador’s wife wasn’t listed in Who’s Who? It doesn’t make any sense – it’s like the wingnut argument that because everyone knew Joe Wilson had a wife, she was therefore not covert. Or maybe the argument that as long as no-one referred to her by name, she was never really outed. Maybe Valerie was supposed to keep her identity as Mrs. Wilson secret so that she would be safe if anyone happened to mention that “the wife” was CIA…
Argh, I hate these people.
3 commentsMarch 17th, 2007 at 07:08pmPosted by Eli
Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the committee, said that since Fitzgerald didn’t charge anyone with the leak, the hearings were unlikely to add any insight.
”No process can be adopted to protect classified information that no one knows is classified,” Davis said. ”This looks to me more like a CIA problem than a White House problem.”
Really. How about this, for starters: Make it a crime to reveal a CIA employee’s identity without affirmative confirmation that they are not covert? The law as currently constructed affords carte blanche to out as many CIA agents as you want, so long as you have plausible deniability that you didn’t know they were covert. That is inexcusably sloppy protection for people risking their necks, and the Bush administration cynically took advantage of it.
Congress must amend the law to protect the agents instead of the leakers.
6 commentsMarch 16th, 2007 at 11:44amPosted by Eli
Bush did not rule out a pardon but implied that it is not imminent. “I’m pretty much going to stay out of it until the course — the case has finally run its final — the course it’s going to take,” he told Univision during an interview before a trip to Latin America that begins today.
In other words, Bush will pardon Libby if all his appeals fail, but he doesn’t want to flush his party and his legacy the rest of the way down the toilet unless and until he absolutely has to (or at least not before the 2008 elections).
Hang in there, Scooter – no jail for you! No need at all to cop a plea…
So now that Scooter is officially guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice and I’ve stopped hyperventilating, some thoughts:
While Scooter’s conviction is probably not a sufficient condition for Fitz to start targeting Cheney or Rove (or even Dubya?), it is certainly a necessary one.
Dubya now has to contemplate the possibility of a pardon, and what the political implications of that might be. Especially if Scooter looks like he might cut a deal to rat out Cheney or Rove (or even Dubya?). Not that political implications have ever slowed him down.
If Libby cuts a deal to help Fitz go after Rove, it puts Rove in a very interesting position. On the one hand, he’s going to want to wrangle a pardon for Scooter to save his own ass. On the other hand, he knows that such a pardon could put the Republicans in an even deeper electoral hole in 2008. Would Rove let his own self-interest outweigh the possibility of a Democratic president and a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority? My bet is yes.
All the Republican spin in the world had no effect on the judge and jury. They can huff and puff all they want about how this is a witch hunt and how no-one’s been charged with the actual leak, but that argument is a lot harder to credibly sustain now that Fitz has the jury’s seal of approval. Not that they won’t try. Indeed, they’ll ramp up the fake outrage even further now that this Good And Innocent Man will be forced to suffer criminal penalties for his total non-crime.
I really didn’t think Scooter would be found guilty. Hoped, sure, but rich guys almost always walk, especially when they use the Confuse-A-Cat Defense.
Libby is guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, and I am gloaty, gloaty, gloaty, gloaty.
Now let’s hope Scooter feels like making some deals, and that Fitz feels like collecting some more scalps.
The Republicans can spin all they want, but the fact remains that a high-ranking member of the administration is now officially a convicted criminal, and it’s pretty clear that it’s because he was trying to cover criminal mastermind Cheney’s ass.
Anonymous: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much is this administration sweating the verdict in the Libby trial?
Jonathan Weisman: Uh, 1? WHy would they care? They’re just happy the trial is over.
Oh, sure, a guilty verdict wouldn’t reflect badly on them at all. It’s not like it would suggest that Libby was hiding something, or protecting someone who decided to deliberately expose the name of a CIA covert operative to discredit and intimidate someone speaking inconvenient truths…
1 commentFebruary 27th, 2007 at 01:26pmPosted by Eli
Just a mini-roundup of some interesting tidbits I noticed in various WaPo chat sessions. The most alarming being this wingnut question at the end of Dan Eggen’s chat about the fired US Attorneys, one of whom has yet to be identified, and “is not in the West, from what [Eggen’s] been told”:
Baltimore: Has Fitzgerald’s name been mentioned as at least a candiadate to be fired? After the pursuing the Valerie Plame case for years after he knew he had no crime, I’d think the idea of firing him would at least occur to somebody.
Dan Eggen: I will post this just because there have been a number of questions along this line, inquiring about the identity ofthe other prosecutor.
We obviously put everything significant in the paper that we can confirm, and all that I have been able to confirm so far about the eighth unidentified prosecutor is that this person was called and informed on Dec. 7 that he or she was being fired, but has somehow negotiated out of it, at least until now. I have not confirmed a name.
But I am ALWAYS open to tips if anyone’s got one! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my direct line is 202-334-7542.
Oh my. That would be something. I doubt it’s Fitz – I’m not sure even Dubya has that much chutzpah. But if he did, it would make sense to wait until after the Libby trial to officially pull his plug to avoid (more) uncomfortable Saturday Night Massacre comparisons.
From Peter Baker’s chat on politics in general:
Old City:“The notion that there are “powers that be” across the media that get together and decide collectively how to treat a story would be funny if you saw how a news outfit really works. Honestly, there’s no conspiracy.” Yep, not on the news side, but on the editorial side Hiatt and Co. have had an agenda for quite a while now — and it ain’t liberal…
Peter Baker: The Post editorialists have a point of view and they use their page to express it. So does every newspaper. My point was that doesn’t have anything to do with news coverage. And for what it’s worth, Fred Hiatt, the editor of the Post editorial pages, also prints a variety of columns by people of widely differing points of view — from Richard Cohen and Gene Robinson to George Will and Charles Krauthammer.
Re: Plame: Do you think the press will push further about the Plame story after the trial? There’s been a bunch of interesting news in the testimony.
Howard Kurtz: I don’t think the trial has suffered for lack of media attention, and I’m not sure how long it lasts after the verdict, especially since a large number of Americans find the whole case incomprehensible.
Boston: Where are you getting that a large number of Americans find the case incomprehensible. The only poll I’ve see says 70 percent of Americans find the Libby trial to be very important. [I think they’re talking about this one, #41] It seems it’s the D.C. media that wishes it would go away.
Howard Kurtz: I’m the first to argue that the reputation of Washington journalism has hardly been enhanced by this trial. But the major MSM outlets have covered the trial every day. Outside of the media/political world, though, I believe there is very little interest in a former vice presidential aide who was hardly a household name and who is accused not of outing a CIA operative but of lying about what he did with reporters. I wish there was more public interest in the case, but as I watch Fox and MSNBC continuing wall-to-wall coverage of the latest Anna Nicole hearing this afternoon, I just don’t think there is. Maybe if federal trials were televised, the situation would be different.
Move along, nothing to see here…
2 commentsFebruary 20th, 2007 at 06:57pmPosted by Eli