The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Monday, October 31, 2005
"The Left's Cruelest Month"
October, 2005 will turn out to be the left's cruelest month since . . . well, in a long time. A couple of weeks in, it seemed so promising. October was going to be the month that would mark the meltdown of the loathed Bush presidency. Iraq was failing, gas prices were rising, a weak Supreme Court nominee was under assault, and the White House was under siege from a special prosecutor. What more could a Bush-hater want?
But it was a false dawn for the left. On October 15, the Iraqi people voted for the second time this year, and progress--slow and difficult--gradually became visible on the ground. The economy, it turned out, was chugging along at a 3.8 percent growth rate. Harriet Miers withdrew--and President Bush followed that foul ball with a home run in the impressive person of Judge Samuel Alito. And the special prosecutor produced only one indictment, and one that will lead no further than a trial focused on what Scooter Libby said or didn't say to three journalists.
This late October reversal means this for November: The left will get even more heated in its rhetoric, even more extreme in its attacks, even more willing to distort and demagogue. And this in turn means the Bush administration needs not just to play effective defense, but to go on the offense--making the case for the war, its necessity, and the prospects for victory; explaining the role of the Bush tax cuts in producing economic growth, and fighting to make those cuts permanent; winning the Alito vote in the Senate and the constitutional debate in the country; and counterattacking against the criminalization of conservatives.
It will be a more interesting end of the year than most of us expected.
CIA vs. the Bush White House
In a series of articles I began last July entitled “The CIA Vs. The White House,” I have tried to give context and meaning to the CIA’s war against the Administration and how that war has its roots in both partisan politics and bureaucratic infighting. But at bottom, what the Plame Affair reveals about the CIA is a culture of incompetence whose principals will do anything to avoid responsibility for their mistakes.
This is more than just simple bureacratic CYA. It is one thing for officials to hide some boondoggle or another in the Department of Health and Human Services. It is quite something else to miss 9/11 or be wrong about Saddam’s WMD’s.
One would think that by this time, the CIA would be used to owning up to its spectacular incompetence. Blessed with technical intelligence gathering capabilities that boggle the mind as well as some of the best minds in the country, one would believe that the CIA has its finger on the pulse of events around the world and with penetrating analysis, give our elected leaders a heads-up about what is coming down the pike that might be a threat to the United States and our vital interests.
Think again. While it is undoubtedly true that the CIA has assisted in heading off many threats to the US and its interests, it has also had several conspicuous and, in hindsight, puzzling failures. What these failures reveal is a system that does not punish incompetence – even when mistakes lead to the kind of tragedy we experienced on 9/11. Rather, a huge amount of effort is expended in either trying to explain away the errors or worse, attack those who attempt to find an explanation for the incompetence.
We have seen both tactics on display in the Plame Affair. The CIA’s failures in Iraq go all the way back to the first Gulf War when the Administration of George Bush #41 was taken completely by surprise when Saddam invaded Kuwait. This despite a huge build-up of Iraqi forces on Kuwait’s border prior to the invasion as well as many overt threats by Saddam against the Kuwaiti’s for pumping too much oil thus keeping the price depressed.
Following tactics that they repeated when it was discovered that Saddam’s huge stockpiles of WMD were a chimera, the CIA began to leak cherry-picked analysis which revealed that the the Agency did indeed believe that Saddam was going to invade, that it was the policymakers who missed the clear signals emanating from Langely. The problem, of course, is that those analyses were ignored in the run-up to the invasion as both the State Department and the CIA were telling the White House that Saddam was simply doing some saber rattling in order to get the Kuwaitis to cut back oil production.
The consequences of the CIA’s mistaken analysis about Saddam’s intentions were huge. It has since been revealed by former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that Saddam never anticipated the angry reaction from the United States that led to war. Just imagine what a strong statement from President Bush warning Saddam about the consequences of an invasion could have accomplished.
What the CIA analysis of Saddam’s intentions at that time revealed was a clear bias toward what has become known as the realpolitik faction in government who believed that Saddam was a vital ally and bulwark against radical Islam. There may have been a case to be made for such thinking prior to 9/11 as several high level Bush #41 Administration officials such as National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Secretary of State James Baker believed. But as Howard Fineman points out in this article from October, 2003 in Newsweek, opposition to that policy came from the Department of Defense which, at that time, was headed up by current Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney:
Behind the scenes or openly, at war or at peace, the United States has been debating what to do in, with and about Iraq for more than 20 years. We always have been of two minds. One faction, led by the CIA and State Department, favored using secular forces in Iraq—Saddam Hussein and his Baathists—as a counterweight to even more radical elements, from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the Shiite ayatollahs in Iran to the Palestinian terrorists in the Levant. The other faction, including Dick Cheney and the “neo-cons,” has long held a different view: that, with their huge oil reserves and lust for power (and dreams of recreating Baghdad’s ancient role in the Arab world), the Baathists had to be permanently weakened and isolated, if not destroyed. This group cheered when, more than 20 years ago in a secret airstrike, the Israelis destroyed a nuclear reactor Saddam had been trying to build, a reactor that could have given him the ultimate WMD.
The “we-can-use Saddam” faction held the upper hand right up to the moment he invaded Kuwait a decade ago. Until then, the administration of Bush One (with its close CIA ties) had been hoping to talk sense with Saddam. Indeed, the last American to speak to Saddam before the war was none other than Joe Wilson, who was the State Department charge’ d’affaires in Baghdad. Fluent in French, with years of experience in Africa, he remained behind in Iraq after the United States withdrew its ambassador, and won high marks for bravery and steadfastness, supervising the protection of Americans there at the start of the first Gulf War. But, as a diplomat, he didn’t want the Americans to “march all the way to Baghdad.” Cheney, always a careful bureaucrat, publicly supported the decision. Wilson was for repelling a tyrant who grabbed land, but not for regime change by force.
Choosing Wilson then to go to Niger to check out the yellowcake story does not seem such a stretch when placed in the context of a faction at the CIA who thought that their judgment about what kind of threat Saddam presented was superior to that of individuals who the American people elected to make those kinds of decisions. By sending Wilson, the CIA knew full well what the result of his “investigation” would be.
So why weren’t Wilson’s conclusions widely disseminated by the CIA? Speculation in this regard has run the gamut from a CIA “set-up” of the Administration to simple bureaucratic incompetence. Given a choice, I would settle on the latter. While it may be true that the CIA was trying to undercut the Administration’s case for war, it would be a stretch to believe that they knew there were no large stockpiles of WMD and thus, any use of Wilson’s “report” would be to demonstrate the “twisting” of intelligence charged by many on the left.
What may be true is that by not having Wilson sign a confidentiality agreement, they wished his “findings” to receive the widest possible distribution. Wilson’s contacts in the press included both Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, two reporters who eventually did publish very selective information about his trip Wilson himself admits to shopping his story to reporters for months prior to his OpEd in the New York Times in early July, 2003. This would seem to indicate that the selective leaking of classified information carried out by a partisan cabal at the CIA for more than a year prior to the election last November was done not just to discredit the Administration’s Iraq War case but also to politically damage the President so as to cause his defeat for re-election.
For those who were puzzled by why the Bush Administration was trying to push back against Wilson more than a month prior to his public acknowledgment of the Niger trip as both Cheney and Libby were discussing Wislon-Plame in early June, one need look no further than the Administration’s recognition that they were in the midst of a partisan political attack by a known Democratic party sympathizer who was running around Washington trying to discredit the Bush Administration by giving a skewed account of his CIA “mission” to national security reporters. If they could connect Wilson to both the nepotistic actions of his wife and the partisan cabal in the CIA who, along with those seeking to cover up the Agency’s incompetence with regard to WMD’s wanted to show the Administration “twisted” intelligence on Iraq, Cheney-Libby would be able to blunt the impact of the attack.
What is the connection between lack of WMD and the Administration countering of Wilson? The answer is Valerie Plame whose associates in the Counterproliferation Department at the agency were responsible both for sending Wilson to Niger and giving the Administration uncredible reports with regard to WMD in Iraq in the first place. Any attempt to understand the prosecution of Libby must begin with Valerie Plame herself and her part in the leaking and bureaucratic backbiting that led the Administration to its current dilemma.
Will this part of the story ever fully be revealed? If Scooter Libby goes to trial rather than take a plea deal, it is very possible that the full role of the CIA and their war against the Administration will be revealed. Otherwise, the entire matter will simply remain an interesting footnote in the history of the Iraq War.
Powerline “gets it”...
“...[Is] there a serious journalist among the mainstream media who thinks the story in the Libby case might be the CIA’s efforts to defeat the president. Isn’t that the big story?”
Does Glenn Reyonolds “get it?”
“This leaves two possibilities. One is that the mission was intended to result in the New York Times oped all along, meaning that the CIA didn’t care much about Plame’s status, and was trying to meddle in domestic politics. This reflects very badly on the CIA.”
Once again, Mr. Reynolds proves that his gift for understating the obvious with devastating effect is the best around.
How about Tom McGuire?
Come on, we see through this – if the CIA prepared a formal report, it would be subpoenaed as evidence, and the jury would laugh out loud at the “no damage” assessment. So the CIA filed a criminal referral in 2003, got the White House tied up in a two year investigation, and now they are laughing out loud. Well played, especially if you like a spy service that shrugs off executive oversight by inventing crimes and playing dirty tricks.
This may sound far-fetched, but it almost makes one wonder whether Fitzgerald's has an entirely different goal in bringing these charges: exposing the CIA. Before you laugh this one away, consider the facts: Fitzgerald is in a no-lose situation. If Libby goes to trial, the CIA's role in trying to bring down a President of the United States will be revealed. If not, perhaps a minor sentence for Libby in a plea bargain? Although this indictment never should have seen the light of day--in that revealing Plame's name turns out not to have been a crime (or at least not worth pursuing in court)--it may be that Fitzgerald was sickened by what he saw, sickened that unelected elites conspired to bring down a President who they were supposed to be serving. Meanwhile even a Libby conviction for the charges will not severely damage the Bush Administration--whereas an indictment of Rove would have been a heavy blow. Far-fetched? Perhaps. Time will tell if the CIA will be exposed for what it has done.
But I will say this--as much as I was dismayed by the charges brought against Libby, and as much as I tried, I saw something in Fitzgerald's presentation and determination that was hard to dislike. And the end result of his actions could be that the cabal at the CIA--who tried to engineer a Coup d'Etat against a President at war against an enemy unlike one we have ever faced--will be tossed out like the traitorous chattel they all are.
UPDATE: Cliff Kinkaid of Accuracy in Media adds to what to Mr. Moran has done by exploring the role of Judith Miller in this matter; and it fits like a glove with the CIA treachery outlined above. Published in Real Clear Politics: this is a must read:
The savage left-wing attack on Judith Miller from inside and outside of the New York Times completely misses the point. She is under attack for being a lackey of the Bush Administration when she failed to do the administration and the public a big favor. She could have done a potential Pulitzer Prize-winning story that could have broken the Joseph Wilson case wide open. It is a story exposing the Wilson mission to Africa as a CIA operation designed to undermine President Bush.
For 85 days in jail, Miller protected her source, Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, but the fact remains that she never used the explosive information Libby gave her. Now we know, according to Miller's account, that Libby told her about a CIA war with the Bush Administration over Iraq intelligence and that he vociferously complained to her about CIA leaks to the press. But Miller decided that what Libby told her was not newsworthy. Why?
We were critical of Miller from the start because she went to jail rather than testify under oath and tell the truth before a grand jury. Eventually, she did testify, under questionable and mysterious circumstances. She claims she insisted that her testimony be restricted to her conversations with Libby. Clearly, Miller had a relationship with Libby as a source. On that matter, she is "guilty" as charged. But the media attacks on Miller really show her critics do not regard Libby as a source worth protecting. Libby, according to columnist Frank Rich, is a "neocon" who misled the nation to get us into the Iraq War. On the other hand, Wilson is supposed to be a hero and whistleblower. He came back from Africa, after investigating the Iraq-uranium link, and concluded that the Bush Administration was lying. His wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, had her identity revealed by conservative columnist Robert Novak because Bush officials were upset that her husband had told the truth. At least this is their version of the facts.
But if Miller was too cozy with the White House, why didn't she rush into print with Libby's version of events and use him as an anonymous source? Miller couldn't even be counted on to do a story based on high-level information provided to her by the vice president's top aide. It was information that was not only true but explosive. Libby was letting Miller in on the real story of the Wilson affair--that the CIA was out to get the President, and that the agency was using Wilson to get Bush.
The fact that she didn't write a story has been cited many times, supposedly to prove that Miller should never have been called by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald before the grand jury. If she didn't write a story, we were told, she shouldn't have to be ordered to talk about her sources. Fitzgerald obviously believed the information she had about her sources was relevant to the case. And it was. But Miller didn't write any of this up at the time. That's mighty strange behavior for a pawn of the administration.
In my recent special report on this matter, former prosecutor Joseph diGenova called the Wilson mission a CIA "covert operation" against Bush. Like the Novak column, a Miller story about this matter could have raised questions about the purpose of the trip and who was behind it. But if Miller had done such a story for the Times, the impact could have been enormous. After all, the Times was the chosen vessel for Wilson to write his column claiming there was no Iraq uranium deal with Niger.
Miller could have revealed that Wilson was recommended for the mission by his own wife, a CIA employee. His wife's role was critically important because a truly undercover CIA operative would not recommend her husband for an overseas trip and then expect to maintain her "secret" identity as he proceeded to write an article for the New York Times and become a public spectacle because of it. Her role in the trip means that she was not undercover in any real sense of the word.
As I have noted previously, Herbert Romerstein, a former professional staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, says that Plame's involvement in sending her husband on the CIA mission to Africa meant that when Wilson went public about it, foreign intelligence services would investigate all of his family members for possible CIA connections. Those intelligence services would not simply assume that he went on the mission because he was a former diplomat. They would investigate his wife. And that would inevitably lead to unraveling the facts about Valerie Wilson, or Valerie Plame, and her involvement with the CIA. Romerstein says that Plame's role in arranging the mission for her husband is solid proof that she was not concerned about having her "cover" blown because she was not truly under cover.
By any account, she was hardly a James Bond-type. Plame's "cover," a company called "Brewster-Jennings & Associates," was so flimsy that she used it as her affiliation when she made a 1999 contribution to Al Gore for president. She identified herself as "Valerie Wilson" in this case. The same Federal Election Commission records showing her contribution to Gore also reveal a $372 contribution to America Coming Together, when the group was organizing to defeat Bush.
If Miller had done some extra digging, she would have discovered that, contrary to what Wilson said publicly in the Times, his findings were interpreted by many officials as additional evidence of an Iraqi interest in obtaining uranium. This kind of story, if it had been published in the New York Times, could have completely undermined Wilson's credibility. It would have made it ridiculous for the Times to subsequently demand the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush White House. The Times went ahead and made that editorial demand, only to have it backfire on the paper when Fitzgerald demanded Miller's testimony.
The CIA obviously knew the facts of the case. Nevertheless, with Wilson and the media, led by the Times, generating a feeding frenzy over the publication of his wife's name and affiliation, the agency pushed for a Justice Department investigation, on the false premise that revealing her identity was a crime. This is what started it all. It was the perfect way to divert attention from a much-needed investigation of the CIA, the ultimate source of the questionable intelligence that the administration used to make the case for the Iraq War.
Eventually, some members of the press caught up with some parts of the truth. Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post was honest enough to admit, when the evidence came out, that Wilson had misrepresented his wife's role. Schmidt reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee report found that he was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, "contrary to what he has said publicly." By then, however, the media feeding frenzy was well underway and the facts of the case were being buried or shunted aside. And this takes us to where we are today--wondering whether Fitzgerald will indict Bush officials for making conflicting statements about the facts of the case. If the investigation was a real desire for truth and justice, Fitzgerald would drop the case and accuse the CIA of pursuing the matter for an illegitimate political reason. It's the CIA--not the White House--that should be under investigation.
If Miller deserves criticism, it is for failing to write the story when Libby handed it to her on a silver platter. She had the perfect opportunity to set the record straight about some misinformation that had already appeared in her own paper. After all, it was Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who had asserted, in a May 6, 2003, column, that "I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger." We now know that Wilson was the source of this information, and that it was false. He whitewashed the nature of the CIA role in the trip because he wanted to protect his wife. Wilson wanted people to think that the Vice President's office was somehow behind his mission.
We also know, because of Miller's account of her testimony under oath, that it was because of this misinformation that Libby talked to Miller and wanted to get out the other side of the story. The Vice President's office, said by the liberal press to be at the center of the CIA leak "conspiracy," was justifiably outraged over Wilson going public with misleading information about his mission and blasting the administration in the process. Miller also testified that she thought Plame's CIA connection "potentially newsworthy." You bet it was. But she didn't write the story. This is where Miller failed her paper and the public.
Consider the record of the Times in this case. Editorially, the Times called for the investigation but didn't want to cooperate with it. The paper also published the misleading Wilson and Kristof columns. And yet Miller, who didn't write anything, is the Times journalist under fire in the press because she wrote stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs before the war and later talked to Libby about how the CIA had gotten the facts wrong! Miller has become a target even though it's her colleagues who put the misleading Wilson column into the paper, published Kristof's erroneous account, and called for the probe that resulted in Miller serving jail time.
Miller's WMD stories are said by the hard left to be evidence of her reliance on the Bush Administration for information. In fact, it shows her dependence on the same sources that told the administration that Iraq had WMD. Those sources included CIA director George Tenet, a Clinton holdover, who told Bush that finding WMD in Iraq was a "slam dunk."
We are still left with the mystery of why Miller didn't write anything based on what Libby told her. She says she proposed a story. Miller and/or her editors may have been persuaded to drop it by other sources, who may have been in the CIA. It makes perfect sense. The CIA had been behind the Wilson trip from the beginning and, as Libby told Miller, had been trying to undercut the administration's Iraq policy and divert attention from the agency's poor performance on Iraqi WMD. The CIA did not want the full extent of its role uncovered and decided that the best way to divert attention from its own shabby performance was to accuse Bush officials of violating the law against identifying covert agents. This was one covert operation by the CIA on top of another. Miller watched the whole thing play out and refused to tell her own paper and the public what was really happening.
Miller says that she only talked to the grand jury about her conversations with Libby. She said she wanted to protect other sources she used on other stories. Miller's 2001 book, Germs, on "Biological weapons and America's secret war," has several references to her other sources. Some are unnamed "analysts" at the CIA.
My own recent special report on this matter struck a chord with readers, one of whom said it is a case of "the CIA undermining and eliminating a president." But Bush is still hanging on, dismissing the stream of stories on the case as "background noise." Staying above the fray, when he has come under assault by America's premier intelligence service, Bush is letting CIA director Porter Goss do the necessary job of cleaning house at this corrupt agency.
If some of Bush's aides now go down on dubious charges of having faulty or inconsistent memories about the case, they could try to blow the whistle on the CIA in court. The CIA would most likely try to censor the proceedings on grounds of "national security" and protecting agency "operations." For the sake of maintaining our democratic form of government and reigning in rogue elements at the CIA, the truth must come out.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
The French were behind misleading Niger Documents
Rocco Martino has admitted that the French paid him to make the fake Niger-Iraq uranium documents. If the Bush administration weren't in a fog largely of its own making, it would take this story and run with it. It locks in several important Iraq-related threads and thoughts as facts: The French are our enemies, the UN is corrupt, and Joseph Wilson isn't operating in good faith and never was.
The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.
Let that sink in for a minute. The French paid a man to conjure up fake documents related to Saddam's WMD ambitions and floated those documents to the US and UK. Why would the French do this?
The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".
His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.
Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.
It was a set-up to protect Saddam, who had been a close associate of French President Jacques Chirac since the 1970s. Oil-For-Food may have played a role as well; several officials close to Chirac have been caught out on that scheme.
Let's rewind back to summer 2003. These documents, which purported to show that a yellowcake transaction between Iraq and Niger had actually taken place, were the ones Joseph Wilson's Niger trip had helped debunk (the IAEA did the heavy lifting, Googling names on the documents that turned out to be wrong, proving the docs were fakes). In his anonymous whisper campaign to Nick Kristoff and in his own op-ed of July 2003, Wilson pulled a switcheroo between these documents and the infamous 16 words in the President's SOTU address of January 2003, claiming that his trip to Niger had debunked those 16 words. But the 16 words were not based on those documents, but rather on a British finding that they stand by to this day regarding Iraqi interest in purchasing yellowcake uranium from Niger.
Is it possible that Wilson pulled the switcheroo for the same reason that Martino created the documents in the first place--that he had paymasters who wanted him to? This next section is highly speculative, but intriguing. If the French could pay an Italian to make the documents to undermine the case for war before hostilities ensued, and we have the forger's confession that they did, why couldn't the French pay an American to use them to smear the Bush administration once hostilities had been underway for a few months? There has always been something puzzling about Wilson's obvious misstatements and obfuscations regarding these documents as they relate (or not, as it turns out) to the 16 words. After all these years, it can't just be an honest misunderstanding. Wilson knows what his trip did and did not do, yet has chosen to misrepresent its findings on the 16 words consistently for more than two years. French involvement at both ends of the document dupe would explain a lot. It looks like a coherent strategy to first protect Saddam from US-UK attack, then undermine the Coalition as it sought to fight off the insurgency and capture Saddam, who at the time of Wilson's smear campaign remained at large.
French authorship of the scheme would also help explain how the IAEA had been able to determine that the documents were forgeries so quickly--the French tipped them off. Recall that the IAEA Googled names on the documents to prove them false. Googling, while useful to bloggers, isn't yet a standard investigative technique for the UN's nuclear weapons proliferation watchdog agency. But if those who knew the docs were fakes tipped someone in the IAEA's offices off, well then Google works both to prove the forgery and to discredit the US and UK as being so incompetent as to go to war based on documents that a quick Google search would prove were fakes.
Even though we never went to war based on anything in those documents.
Let's hope Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation takes all of these new facts and leads into account.
UPDATE: It turns out that Wilson's trip didn't even help debunk the documents at all. He lied about that to the Washington Post's Walter Pincus too. Which doesn't help Wilson's credibility, but does lend believability to the speculation that he was helping the French forgery have its intended impact.
The media should cover Wilson's credibility issues thoroughly as the Fitzgerald investigation winds toward whatever conclusion it reaches.
UPDATES: It may be asking too much of Fitzgerald to include anything relating to the origin of those fake Nigerian documents in his investigation--the story linked above is a little over a year old. Had you heard of it? Has the press made a big deal of it, and have the Democrats treated that story in anything resembling good faith?
But the French connection to those documents brings back to light one of the most curious lapses in journalism history, the widespread incuriosity about the role Oil-For-Food played in the run-up to the war. French fingerprints are all over that scandal:
Taken together with the scandal surrounding Benon Sevan, the U.N. official responsible for "running" the program, and with the recent arrest of Ambassador Jean-Bernard Merimee (France's former U.N. envoy) in Paris, and with other evidence about pointing to big bribes paid to French and Russian politicians like Charles Pasqua and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, what we are looking at is a well-organized Baathist attempt to buy or influence the member states of the U.N. Security Council. One wonders how high this investigation will reach and how much it will eventually explain.
"...a well-organized Baathist attempt to buy or influence the member states of the U.N. Security Council." How true. We have an Italian confessing to creating the Niger documents for French paymasters, we have Frenchmen and Russians--both permanent UNSC countries opposed the war, naturally--caught in various stages of Oil-For-Food undress, we have the UK's George Galloway up to his eyeballs in that same scandal. Is it even conceivable that no strategically-placed Americans got cut in on the action? Do I need to point out that the US is a permanent member of the UNSC? Do I need to point out how much undermining the case for war would have been in Saddam Hussein's interest?
Are the Winds now shifting in Bush's favor?
So who exactly leaked to columnist Robert Novak? That was the big question that was supposed to be answered. The CIA leak probe was, after all, about a leak. In particular it was about the leak of classified government information, namely the clandestine intelligence service of Mrs. Valerie (Plame) Wilson. That was the mission of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. But after a two-year tortuous investigation, he failed to complete his assignment. Instead, he produced a five-count indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff, on a Martha Stewart-like technicality of perjury, making false statements, and obstructing justice.
Mr. Libby’s lawyer completely denies these charges, although it’s probable that Libby did make a bunch of mistakes in the course of the investigation. Still, in America, you are innocent until proven guilty. And Fitzgerald may have a devil of a time drawing a curious he-said-she-said conviction out of a series of alleged phone calls between Tim Russert, Matt Cooper, Judy Miller, and Scooter Libby.
In the meantime, we still don’t know the identity of the leaker.
Perhaps Vice President Dick Cheney simply called George Tenet over at the CIA and said, “George, who the hell is this Joseph Wilson guy? I never sent him to Niger or anywhere else. Why is he writing this crazy stuff in the New York Times questioning whether Saddam was seeking nuclear material?” That’s just my speculation about the origin of the leak. And whether it did or didn’t happen that way, Cheney never told Scooter Libby to mouth off to various big-shot reporters. The White House should have merely issued a statement saying they had no knowledge of Wilson’s assignment and left it that. But at least now we know there was no conspiracy running through the White House. Watergate-wishing Democrats will be sorely disappointed. There are no high crimes and misdemeanors.
The president’s chief of staff, meanwhile, appears to have escaped with his life. Fitzgerald bent over backwards to allow certain Karl Rove “corrections” into the grand jury record in return for total cooperation in the investigation. There’s more to be revealed on this front, but for now we have one indictment for allegedly not telling the truth in an investigation that seems to have not found any wrongdoing in the matter of the “outing” of a CIA operative.
That was quite a long time for so little of a result. Did Wall Street even notice? Not at all. The stock market was too busy rallying on the sensational economic news that gross domestic product grew 3.8 percent (while core inflation rose only 1.3 percent) for the third quarter. That’s a heck of a number when you consider the disruptions that two major hurricanes caused this country during the period.
Let there be no doubt about it: President Bush’s economy is recovered and roaring. His supply-side tax cuts are clearly working, and he has an excellent base on which to begin to recover his administration.
To be sure, the second-term White House looks tired, and could use an infusion of new blood in all the key areas, indictments or not. With the Harriet Miers pick having gone down to the cheers of constitutional originalists everywhere, a good strong conservative Supreme Court nomination is now a must. Bush’s conservative base is still with him, but he must produce results.
And while Bush has this economy working for him, he must take this opportunity to reinvigorate his entire policy machine. On the domestic side, the president needs to promote large spending cuts, tax-cut extensions, and pro-growth tax reform, all of which will put even that much more firepower into a resilient economy. He needs to start talking tort reform again, must outline a tough immigration-reform plan, and should also stop congressional Republicans from their Jimmy Carter-style anti-capitalist bashing of energy companies. On this last point, it’s our maligned fuel producers who are essential to economic growth, and who would love to invest in new refineries and nuclear plants if only government regulators would step out of the way. Declaring war on business is a Democratic ploy, and the president should stand up and say so. A hundred million investors and 140 million workers will back him on this.
Finally, Bush must keep the Iraq conversation alive, taking his message of freedom to the people, pointing out the success of the constitutional vote, and combating the stream of anti-war negativity that flows from the mainstream media.
Plamegate couldn’t deliver a leaker. And on the same day Fitzgerald produced his findings, a fat GDP number greeted Wall Street. I’m getting the sense that the winds are turning back in the favor of this administration. Bush must seize the moment.
It is clear: Valerie Plame was NOT "Covert"
Joe Wilson, aka "Mr. Incredible" will be whining appearing on 60 Minutes about threats to his wife. Uh huh. Maybe, since Joe admitted to doing consulting work for the CIA in his NY Times op-ed (and the Senate revealed that he undertook a 1999 CIA mission), it is he that is imperiled. Or maybe the baddies are excited about the prospect of a twofer.
Closer to reality is Joseph DiGenova, a Washington lawyer and former US attorney who spoke to the Christian Science Monitor:
DiGenova adds that if the trial judge allows the references to classified information to remain in the indictment, defense lawyers will probably attack the CIA itself for failing to take the necessary measures to protect its own agent.
It was the CIA that enlisted the agent's husband, Joseph Wilson, for the sensitive mission in Africa, and it was the CIA that permitted Mr. Wilson to publicly disclose his role and publicly criticize the White House in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, diGenova says. In effect, the CIA set the stage through sloppy tradecraft for the disclosure of one of its agents.
Indeed - as the Boston Globe noted, her Brewster-Jennings cover was not designed to withstand any scrutiny at all.
The Washington Post surveys the damage done by the Plame leak, and delivers this reassurance:
There is no indication, according to current and former intelligence officials, that the most dire of consequences -- the risk of anyone's life -- resulted from her outing.
Bob Woodward's leaked version was even more reassuring:
WOODWARD: ... They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment.
The WaPo also presents a garbled paragraph that is more compelling in the re-edited version picked up by Newsday:
The CIA will not conduct a formal damage assessment until legal proceedings are complete.
Is that how it works when our national security is threatened and lives are on the line - the CIA waits a few years until the trials are over, then assesses the damage?
Come on, we see through this - if the CIA prepared a formal report, it would be subpoenaed as evidence, and the jury would laugh out loud at the "no damage" assessment. So the CIA filed a criminal referral in 2003, got the White House tied up in a two year investigation, and now they are laughing out loud. Well played, especially if you like a spy service that shrugs off executive oversight by inventing crimes and playing dirty tricks.
That said, Fitzgerald saw through their outing ploy, else, where are the indictments for the leaks to Novak and Pincus? However, Fitzgerald did not see through their mysterious "Forgettery Mind Ray" that was trained on Lewis Libby. Where is the justice?
Friday, October 28, 2005
VDH: Time for Bush to "cross the Rubicon"
For good or evil, George W. Bush will have to cross the Rubicon on judicial nominations, politicized indictments, Iraq, the greater Middle East, and the constant frenzy of the Howard Dean wing of the Democratic party — and now march on his various adversaries as never before. He can choose either to be nicked and slowly bled to death in his second term, or to bare his fangs and like some cornered carnivore start slashing back.
Before Harriet Miers, conservatives pined for a Chief Justice Antonin Scalia, with a Justice Roberts and someone like a Janice Rogers Brown rounding out a battle-hardened and formidable new conservative triad. They relished the idea of a Scalia frying Joe Biden in a televised cross-examination or another articulate black female nominee once again embarrassing a shrill Barbara Boxer — all as relish to brilliantly crafted opinions scaling back the reach of activist judges. That was not quite to be.
But now, with the Miers' withdrawal, the president might as well go for broke to reclaim his base and redefine his second term as one of principle rather than triangulating politics. So he should call in top Republican senators and the point people of his base — never more needed than now — and get them to agree on the most brilliant, accomplished, and conservative jurist possible. He should then ram the nominee through, in a display to the American people of the principles at stake.
It is also time to step up lecturing both the American people and the Iraqis on exactly what we are doing in the Sunni Triangle. We have been sleepwalking through the greatest revolutionary movement in the history of the Middle East, as the U.S. military is quietly empowering the once-despised Kurds and Shiites — and along with them women and the other formerly dispossessed of Iraq. In short, the U.S. Marine Corps has done more for global freedom and social justice in two years than has every U.N. peacekeeping mission since the inception of that now-corrupt organization.
This is high-stakes — and idealistic — stuff. And the more we talk in such terms, the more the president can put the onus of cynical realism on the peace movement and the corrupt forces in the Middle East, who alike wish us to fail. Forget acrimony over weapons of mass destruction, platitudes about abstract democracy, and arguments over U.S. security strategies. Instead bluntly explain to the world how at this time and at this moment the U. S. is trying to bring equality and freedom to the unfree, in a manner rare in the history of civilization.
Yes, the Kurds and the Shiites need to compromise. The Sunnis must disavow terrorism. But above all, the American people need to be reminded there was no oil, no hegemony, no money, no Israel, and no profit involved in this effort, but something far greater and more lasting. And so it no accident that the Iraqis are the only people in the Arab world voting in free elections and dying as they fight in the war against terror.
Was Iraq naïve? Perhaps. Idealistic? Of course. But cynical or conniving? — not at all. That is the domain of the Arab kleptocracies, the corrupt Europeans, and increasingly the radical American Left — who all have much to lose if the United States can stop the petrol-theft of the Hussein legacy, expose its corrupt ganglia, establish a democracy, and prove that the United States found real security from terrorism only by bringing constitutional government to the Middle East.
The key to Iraq is enfeebling those around it who are weakening the country — namely Syria and Iran. The U.S. should be calling for democratic reform in both countries — constantly, without interruption, and in the same idealistic fashion as we appeal to the Iraqis. The president must focus world attention on just how awful those two regimes are. After all, an Iranian president threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map at precisely the time his government lies and connives to obtain nuclear weapons — which alone could bring that avowed sick Khomeineseque dream to fruition, given Iran’s conventional military impotence. Again, the government of Iran is not just talking about warring with the Sharon government or attacking the Israeli nation, but rather liquidating the Jewish people — as Hitlerian a promise of genocide as we have seen since the Holocaust. And he boasts like a leader who fully expects to have nuclear weapons in the near future.
Syria’s government is little more than Murder, Inc. Its assassination of Mr. Hariri slowed the entire Lebanese reform movement. It’s been a fine and noble thing that George Bush began to confront Syria, but he should go even further to call on the nations of the world to consider the young Assad the new Milosevic who, like the Iranian president, is an international outlaw deserving of sanctions, embargos, and global ostracism.
We should remind the world that our 2,000th fatality did not end our commitment to freedom and justice, but reminded us just how much we owe our dead so that their ultimate sacrifice was not in vain. We must make sure this sacrifice will lead to the defeat of the terrorists and the establishment of freedom in the greater Middle East. Once we went into Iraq, in the long run there was no living with either Assad or a nuclear Iranian theocracy — and both autocracies grasped that fact far better than we did, as evidenced by the constant stream of terrorists flooding in to kill Americans and undermine Iraqi democracy. The more we jawbone them, pressure them, and isolate them now, the less likely it is that we will have to use force later. Again, no “smoke ‘em out” or “bring ‘em on” braggadocio, but just something to the effect that we are taking great risks at great costs to join with the Iraqis to give freedom and equality at last a chance in the Middle East.
George Bush also should begin addressing his most venomous critics at home, by condemning their current extremism. He must explain to the nation how a radical, vicious Left has more or less gotten a free pass in its rhetoric of hate, and has now passed the limits of accepted debate.
In the last six months we have heard from various demagogues — though they are recognized as such due to their prominence in the media — that we were waging nuclear war in Iraq (Cindy Sheehan), that there was cannibalism in New Orleans (Randall Robinson), that George Bush and Dick Cheney should be shot (the novelist Jane Smiley) or executed (Al Franken). Alfred Knopf has published a book about the theoretical assassination of the president, and the Nazi slur is now commonplace in Democratic circles, where a Senator Dick Durbin or Ted Kennedy slanders American soldiers as akin to either Saddam’s torturers or even Nazis and Stalinists. The case needs to be made that we are seeing a new paranoid style — but from the Left, whose opponents are not to be out-argued, but rather deemed worthy of death or demonization as Nazis. The recent eclipse of George Galloway — due in no large part to Christopher Hitchens’ lonely and underappreciated pursuit of his perfidy — reminds us how hard these reprobates finally will fall.
All of these issues are interrelated. If the president can win the hearts and minds of the American people on one theme, the others will fall into play. The more the president talks of principle and values, the more he can do so with zeal, and yes, real passion and occasional anger.
The odd thing is that so far the conventional advice to the president — keep the discussion on Iraq only to U.S. national security, not the upheaval of the existing corrupt order; reach out to the Democratic Senate; curb your idealistic rhetoric with Syria or Iran; ignore shrill enemies; nominate someone that the opposition will not seriously object to — has only emboldened critics here and abroad. It is time to go back on the offensive, both for the idealistic legacy of the Bush presidency and the immediate future of his ideas in the upcoming 2006 elections. The American people, both pro and con, are more than ready for a great debate to settle these issues one way or another.
I say "Amen, brother!"
Ledeen: Indictment a house of cards
I think the indictment stinks. You have to parse it very carefully to figure out whether Libby is accused of lying to the grand jury or the FBI, or to journalists. Go look. I finally concluded that it says that Libby lied to the grand jury (and elsewhere the FBI) when he testified that he told (Cooper, Miller or Russert) things that in fact he did not tell (Cooper, Miller or Russert).If that is right, it means that this poor man may well have been indicted because his memory of those conversations differs from the journalists'. And Fitzgerald chose/wanted? to believe the journalists' memories. Pfui.
To this non-lawyer, that's not good enough to shake up the staff of the vice president of the United States. Isn't perjury a knowing lie? Why should Fitzgerald assume, even if he thinks he KNOWS that the journalists' memories are all reliable, that Libby didn't misremember the conversations? Footnote: that's why lawyers tell clients not to say anything unless they have a very clear recollection of something.
They can't prosecute you for having Halfheimer's disease... Then, I entirely agree with those who have said that Fitzgerald has introduced an entirely different rationale into this process. He was supposed to determine if anyone had outed a covert operative. In this indictment, and in his press conference, he just said that her identity was classified, and so he wants to prosecute people for improper use of classified information. I expect the defense will have fun with that one. Is it criminal to say that so and so works at CIA? If so, a lot of normal people and even some journalists should be prosecuted forthwith. I'm not impressed at all. I think he's straining, I think he's forcing this issue, I think it's unreasonable.
Steyn: Much Ado about Nothing
The ‘Ding Dong, The Bush Is Dead’ fever rages on, disappointments notwithstanding. Hurricane Katrina was, at best, a wash. The more looters and welfare deadbeats who went on TV to whine that Bush wasn’t doing enough, the more most Americans remembered that New Orleans is a nice place to have a margarita with a topless transsexual but they wouldn’t want to live there and they don’t see why they should pay a gazillion dollars to those who do.
But in the wake of Katrina came a string of Category One or Two storms which the Democratic base and the media figure they can huff and puff into Category Four and total the White House. Tom DeLay has been indicted in Texas! Bill Frist is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission! Scooter Libby is up before the most zealous Federal prosecutor in the country! Can the impeachment of the President be far behind?
Look, you’re a well-informed Spectator reader: have you heard of any of these guys? Well, nor have most Americans. What’s that? You’ve heard of Scooter? No, you’re mistaken, you’re thinking of Skeeter — Skeeter Davis, the late country and western singer who had a top three hit in 1963 with ‘Don’t the-ey know it’s The End Of The World/ It ended when you said goodbye’, which is apparently what George W. Bush will be singing as Karl Rove’s led out of the Oval Office in handcuffs.
Just for the record, Tom DeLay is the House Majority Leader, Bill Frist is the Senate Majority Leader, and Scooter Libby is the highest-ranking Scooter in the administration, chief of staff to Vice-President Cheney. By the time you read this, Scooter may have been indicted. For a week now, I’ve woken up to emails beginning ‘Happy Fitzmas, asshole!’ — a seasonal greeting from prematurely ejaculating lefty gloaters. ‘Fitzmas’ is the Left’s designation for that happy day when federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald hands down indictments against Libby, Rove, and maybe Cheney, and — boy oh boy, who knows? — maybe Chimpy Bushitlerburton himself. Pat Fitzgerald has been making his list, checking it twice, found out who’s naughty or nice, and he’s ready to go on a Slay Ride leaving Bush the Little Drummed-Out Boy and the Dems having a blue blue blue blue blue-state Christmas in November 2006, if not before.
Well, I enjoy the politics of personal destruction as much as the next chap, and one appreciates that it’s been a long time since the heady days when Dems managed to collect the scalps of both Newt Gingrich and his short-lived successor within a few short weeks. But, as I’ve said before, one reason that the Democratic party is such a bunch of losers is because they’re all tactics and no strategy. Let’s suppose they succeed in destroying DeLay, Frist, Libby and a bunch of other names the majority of Americans aren’t familiar with. Then what? Several analysts are suggesting that the 2006 elections are shaping up like 1994, when Newt’s revolution swept the Democratic old guard from power. It’s a bit early for my reckless election predictions, but I’d bet on the Republicans holding both the House and Senate.
Though the electorate was disgusted by the sheer arrogance of Democrat corruption, 1994 wasn’t just a throw-the-bums-out spasm — despite ABC’s Peter Jennings’s sniffing that ‘the voters had a temper tantrum’. Au contraire, it was also a throw-the-bums-in election. Voters liked the alternative — a coherent conservative agenda. It’s quite possible that the electorate will have a throw-the-bums-out attitude to the Republicans in 12 months’ time, but I’d say it’s almost completely unfeasible that they’ll be in a mood to throw the Dems in. There are not a lot of competitive Congressional districts and those that are are mostly in Democrat blue states that, if not yet red, are turning distinctly purple. The Dems’ big immovable obstacle remains their inability to articulate a set of ideas that connects with the electorate. James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are said to be working on a Democrat version of Newt’s Contract with America, but Greenberg’s a pollster and Carville’s an attack dog. Whatever their charms, these aren’t the ideas guys.
The difficulty for the Left is that if the problem is Iraq, Katrina or pretty much anything else, the solution is not obviously the Democratic party. The future of Iraq is mostly a matter for Iraqis now and it’s not going badly, as you can sort of tell if you decode the headlines — ‘Bitterly Divided Iraqis Take Time Out From Trembling On Brink Of Civil War To Overwhelmingly Ratify New Constitution’, ‘Three Sunnis And Their Pet Camel Boycott Poll In Sign Iraq May Be Becoming Ungovernable’, etc. In fact, it’s Syria that’s bitterly divided and becoming ungovernable and, as noted here three weeks ago, Baby Assad’s fall will not be long now. Meanwhile, Brent Scowcroft, one of the foreign policy ‘realists’ from Bush’s daddy’s day, recalled a conversation with his protégée Condi Rice two years ago. ‘She says we’re going to democratise Iraq, and I said, “Condi, you’re not going to democratise Iraq,” and she said, “You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,” and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for 50 years and so on and so forth.... But we’ve had 50 years of peace.’
Well, yes, if you don’t include the Iranian hostages, Lebanon, Lockerbie and a lot else on the long road to 9/11. Nonetheless, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, also chipped in. As the Financial Times reported, ‘Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government’s foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.’
What does he mean by ‘hijacked’? Is Wilkerson saying that Cheney and Rumsfeld have imposed their foreign policy on the United States against the wishes of the President? I think not. If you read any Bush speech or talk to him for five minutes, it’s clear that he’s no supporter of the disastrously complacent State Department realpolitik herd mentality reflected by both Scowcroft and Wilkerson. Every word he utters on the subject suggests he inclines to the Cheney-Rumsfeld view of the world — or, rather, that they incline to his. The President sets foreign policy. He’s the pilot; he can’t ‘hijack’ his own plane. Wilkerson is a whining stewardess in a snit because she doesn’t want to learn a new spiel. ‘Do you want the chicken or the beef?’ She’s been serving up State Department chicken in Cairo and Amman and Damascus for decades, and she’s not comfortable with the new Texas beef. But the only hijack that’s going on is the State Department’s bland assumption that it has the right to block the President’s foreign policy.
I can’t claim to know George W. Bush, but as the years go by it strikes me that the caricature — the idiot sock-puppet manipulated by Cheney and Rove to do their bidding — is exactly backwards. The President is his own man — to such a degree that he seems not to notice that very few others are and, when he does, his response is to hunker down among a tight circle of loyalists. So, while he has a certain amount of stellar talent around him, most of his administration is either in the hands of active obstructionists like Wilkerson or trusted mediocrities like Harriet Miers. When I say Miss Miers is a mediocrity, that in itself is not a reason not to appoint her to the Supreme Court. For the first two centuries of the Republic, mediocre cronies were the rule rather than the exception. One thinks of Roscoe Conkling, appointed by Chester Arthur — or, rather, one doesn’t. It’s only in the revisionist interpretation of the Supreme Court as the ultimate nine-man omniscient parliament in which resides all true power to legislate the affairs of the nation that mediocrity would seem to be a disqualification. A decision of the court, according to Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ House leader, is ‘almost as if God has spoken’. Even in a robe, it’s hard to see Harriet Miers like that. But, on the other hand, one could argue that restoring the tradition of appointing hacks, creeps and time-servers to the court is a profoundly conservative act.
In their different ways, Miss Miers and Patrick Fitzgerald’s supposedly imminent indictments sum up the Bush administration, caught between the Scylla of third-rate cronies and the Charybdis of fourth-rate obstructionists.
The Fitzgerald investigation arises from the ‘leak’ to the media of the name of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame. Miss Plame is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, who in 2002 was dispatched by the Agency to Africa to investigate reports that Saddam was attempting to procure uranium from Niger. Ambassador Wilson spent a week ‘sipping sweet mint tea’ with old contacts from Major Wanke’s regime. (I suggested to the New York Times the scandal should be called Wankegate, but they seem reluctant to take me up on the offer.) If this rings a vague bell with you, it’s because I wrote about it in these pages back in the summer of 2003 and concluded:
‘If sending Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger for a week is the best the world’s only hyperpower can do, that’s a serious problem. If the Company knew it was a joke all along, that’s a worse problem. It means Mr Bush is in the same position with the CIA as General Musharraf is with Pakistan’s ISI: when he makes a routine request, he has to figure out whether they’re going to use it to try and set him up.’
That’s still the real scandal, and the only thing wrong with that judgment is that since then Musharraf and the ISI have reached a rough’n’ready modus vivendi that the Bush administration can only envy vis à vis the CIA.
Otherwise, everything that’s come out only confirms my original view. In his laughably misnamed book The Politics Of Truth: Inside The Lies That Led To War And Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, Wilson strenuously denies that ‘my wife had somehow influenced a decision to send me to the middle of the Sahara Desert.... Valerie had had nothing to do with the matter.’
Really? How about the memo she wrote to the deputy director of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division suggesting hubby was the ideal man for the job? (‘My husband has good relations with the PM and the former Minister of Mines,’ etc.) Or the meeting convened by Mrs Wilson at CIA headquarters on 19 February 2002 to introduce her husband to the relevant intelligence officials.
But Wilson’s curiously faulty memory of his wife’s role in getting him the assignment is as nothing compared with his recollection of what he ‘found out’ in Niger. The 2004 Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report on pre-war intelligence has 48 pages on Wilson that exposes everything he’s said publicly about his mission as a lot of baloney. Not only did the Senate report and the Butler report in London and British Intelligence and French Intelligence think Saddam was trying to acquire uranium from Niger, but so did a former Prime Minister of Major Wanke’s, who said so to Wilson, who said so to the CIA.
The scandal here is not that ‘BUSH LIED!!!’ about Saddam’s nuclear ambitions, nor even that Wilson lied about Bush lying, but that the world’s most lavishly funded intelligence agency can do no better on a priority security matter than flying in a vain unqualified buffoon for a week of pseudo-spook tourism.
When Wankegate first erupted, the alleged ‘crime’ was that of leaking the name of a covert agent. Miss Plame was not in the least bit ‘covert’ and Victoria Toensing, who helped draft the relevant law, says no crime was committed. Wankegate may yet take down Libby and Rove, but so far all it’s done is drive the New York Times nuts. Judith Miller, a Times reporter and a peripheral figure in the Wilson farrago, went to jail for three months for the usual noble reasons, and the paper proudly stood by her. She got sprung from the big house just the other day, since when her colleagues have been trashing her name in daily 32-page pull-out supplements. Maureen Dowd, the paper’s elderly schoolgirl columnist, went for the jugular, and I haven’t seen a catfight like that since lesbian mud-wrestling night at Bud’s Roadhouse out on Route 123. If the Left were nimbler, they’d have figured that the whole thing is just a Karl Rove front operation to provoke the Times into tearing itself apart.
The Democrats are going to be mighty disappointed by the time this is all over, and still confronting their own identity crisis. Enjoy Fitzmas while you can, guys. You need a gift that keeps on giving, and this one won’t.
Iran President: Israel language was "valid"
Newly-appointed Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed no remorse or signs of retreat after making a demand that Israel be "wiped off the map" at an Islamist conference in Teheran earlier this week. Instead, after facing near-universal condemnation even in Arabic countries, Ahmadinejad rejected the criticism as "invalid":
Iran's president has defended his widely criticised call for Israel to be "wiped off the map".
Attending an anti-Israel rally in Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his remarks were "just" - and the criticism did not "have any validity."
Last Wednesday's comment provoked world outrage. Israel has called for Iran's expulsion from the United Nations.
Egypt said they showed "the weakness of the Iranian government". A Palestinian official also rejected the remarks.
In fact, Saeb Erekat said on behalf of the Palestinians that they had already accepted Israel's right to exist and that the extant question should be about adding Palestine to the map. In the UK, Tony Blair hinted about military options for the first time in conjunction with Iranian intransigence on nuclear disarmament, and in the background, the US presence in Southwest Asia looms as an ever-present threat. Ahmadinejad might delight the Iranian mullahcracy and its thin band of supporters with his genocidal rhetoric, but all it has done is to remind the international community why nuclear technology should be removed from Iran.
Even Kofi Annan rebuked Ahmadinejad.
If democratic activists in Iran ever intend on doing something about their present state and government, now would be the time. Their position vis-a-vis the radical Islamists that Ahmadinejad appears to be inviting to Iran will only get worse over time. As Iran continues to provide both provocations such as Ahmadinejad's speech and the refusal to comply with nuclear treaties, Western nations get closer to military options to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear bomb. They will find it more difficult at that point to maintain their credibility in the debacle that will inevitably occur if it comes to that.
We can help, but the push should come from within. As Michael Ledeen says, "Faster, please." We stand ready.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Potentially A BIG opportunity for the President
Despite the fact that the left and their willing cohorts in the mainstream media will attempt to paint Harriet Miers' decision to withdraw her nomination for the Supreme Court as a "defeat" for President Bush, both Ms. Miers' decision and the timing of it portent well for a strong rebound for the President and Republicans—just in time for the 2006 mid-term elections.
Initially, I supported Ms. Miers for several reasons, primarily because President Bush has had a tremendous record for picking judges for the Courts of Appeals, and for the Supreme Court (John Roberts), indicating to me that he was very serious about keeping his campaign promise to not appoint activist judges. Unlike his father, this President Bush has demonstrated clearly that he was committed to fill Court vacancies with judges who would interpret the Constitution, rather than to try to rewrite it. In fact, the initial anti-Miers rhetoric from the right seemed to me to be an incredible overreaction—especially considering Bush's aforementioned track record and his personal day to day dealings with Ms. Miers. But with all of that said, I cannot help but believe that Ms. Miers has done the President a tremendous service for a number of reasons:
1. She may not indeed have been a strict Constitutionalist as advertised – Although as I said I trusted the President, some documents surfaced yesterday that raised serious questions as to whether Miers truly is a Constitutionalist--or whether she is a Judicial Activist in disguise. In particular, some quotes in yesterday's Washington Post from the 1990's were real eyebrow-raisers for me:
Miers also defended judges who order lawmakers to address social concerns. While judicial activism is derided by many conservatives, Miers said that sometimes "officials would rather abandon to the courts the hard questions so they can respond to constituents: I did not want to do that -- the court is making me."
And then there was this:
Miers blamed the legislators for what she called an "unacceptable" school funding plan and for ducking tough issues such as imposing a state income tax.
"My basic message here is that when you hear the courts blamed for activism or intrusion where they do not belong, stop and examine what the elected leadership has done to solve the problem at issue," she said.
At a speech later that summer titled "Women and Courage," Miers went further. Citing statistics that showed Texas's relatively high poverty rates, Miers said the public should not blame judges when courts step in to solve such problems.
"Allowing conditions to exist so long and get so bad that resort to the courts is the only answer has not served our state well," she said. "Politicians who would cry 'The courts made me do it' or 'I did not do that -- the courts did' should not be tolerated."
This does not sound to me like someone who disavows Judicial Activism.
2. The Republican Base had begun to come apart at the seams – When the President nominated Ms. Miers, the initial reaction of the right truly came as a shock to me. After all, the President had been stellar in his nominations prior to the Miers appointment, and Judge Roberts made the Senate Democrats look like complete fools.
But immediately, people I respect a lot, such as Charles Krauthammer, Laura Ingraham, George Will, and Bill Kristol, seemed to come completely unglued. I didn't get it. And Senate Republicans did not seem to step up to the plate either (except for the barely-contained glee of opposition Democrat leader Harry Reid...) And it only got worse from there.
As Miers made the rounds in the Senate, from all appearances she was not in top form on a number of occasions--in fact she did not seem to garner the level of commitment necessary to win in the Judiciary Committee, much less on the Senate floor.
The second problem with the President straying from his base (or vice versa) was that he may really need that base to rally around him in the very near future. If a Martha Stewart-style indictment comes down tomorrow against Scooter Libby, the President needs more than anything a highly-energized base to go to the mattresses for this Presidency—because you know the media sharks will be in a feeding frenzy. Hell, Chris Matthews will probably implode if no indictments come down...
So...this is by no means an easy time to be President. One has to admire how steely Bush has been in staunchly supporting this just war against Islamofascism in the wake of an avalanche of Vietnam/Watergate era negative journalism. But if other Republicans are to rally behind President Bush--(as Republicans rallied around Reagan during Iran/Contra, and Democrats rallied around Clinton during Whitewater, Jennifer Flowers, Juanita Broderick, Travelgate, Document gate, and last but not least, Monica and the Impeachment of the President for lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice)--then President Bush has simply got to stay true to his principles and to the promises that got him (and his fellow Republicans in both houses) elected in the first place.
3. A battle was looming over confidential documents from the White House – Because Ms. Miers had virtually no paper trail, the hue and cry was loud and persistent for the President to turn over documents from Ms. Miers' current role of giving legal advice to the President. This put the President in the unfortunate position of appearing that he had something to hide in denying the Senate these documents--even if they would have helped Meirs' confirmation.
But the President was right in refusing to cave to this pressure: giving in to these clearly unreasonable demands so would not only have shattered the attorney-client privilege that every citizen has a right to, (much less the President of the United States)—it would also have made it very difficult for future Presidents to claim any level of Executive Privilege and conduct confidential business in the White House. Every President has a right to confidential legal advice. To have turned over confidential documents relevant to his current Presidency to save the candidacy of his nominee might have harmed President Bush, but it definitely would have done irreparable damage to the office of the Presidency. If the President's lawyer can't give confidential advice to the President, who can?
In a way, Harriet Miers showed the world today that, more than anything else, she is loyal to the man she serves as Counsel. And she showed that she is a class act in doing her President and her country a huge service by sparing him the humiliation of a divisive battle within his own party at a time when the support of that party might be critically important to his Presidency.
The other silver lining in this "cloud" is that the President has now been given the freedom to really rally and energize his base—and simultaneously deflect attention from this Plamegate farce—by nominating someone like Janice Rogers Brown (let me repeat those three words -- Janice - Rogers - Brown---oh, OK Mike McConnell would do too...) to the court and finally taking on head to head the failed ideology of the Democrats once and for all.
In a way Miers' unselfish act is going to allow the President an opportunity to take off the gloves and really show the country what he and the Republican Party stand for. President Bush now has a chance to take lemons and make sweet lemonade. But he must not blow it this time: this is indeed a crossroads in this Administration. If the President steps up to the plate--and nominates a jurist with the appropriate credentials, intellect, and reverence for the integrity of the Constitution as the unimpeachable law of the land--it could be the genesis of not only a Supreme Court that finally once again begins to reflect the true intent of the founding fathers, but of an overwhelming Republicn sweep in the 2006 elections. Once the Democrats and the left in general are shown to be the intellectually vacant frauds that they really are, for all the world and the American public to see, the public will make the right decision for its future.
Second chances like this must not be squandered. My guess is that this one will not be. Thank you Ms. Miers for your service to your country, and for taking one for the team.
And for you Mr. President, two words: "Batter up!"
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Best President Bush speech in months, if not years
Tomorrow may bring indictments of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby on charges that can charitably be described as trivial. Tonight, one of our readers urged us to link to President Bush's great speech to the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' group rather than being distracted by the minutiae of the day. Good suggestion. President Bush gave another magnificent speech; here are a few highlights:
Some have argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and al Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. (Applause.)
The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet the militants killed more than 150 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan. Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence -- the Israeli presence on the West Bank, or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.
No acts of ours involves the rage of killers. And no concessions, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans of murder. On the contrary; they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)
The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims -- and I quote -- "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride. (Laughter.)
When 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, or Iraqi teachers are executed at their school, or hospital workers are killed caring for the wounded, this is murder, pure and simple -- the total rejection of justice and honor and morality and religion. These militants are not just enemies of America or enemies of Iraq, they are the enemies of Islam and enemies of humanity. (Applause.)
We have seen this kind of shameless cruelty before -- in the heartless zealotry that led to the gulags, the Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields. Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination; they wish to make everyone powerless, except themselves.***
Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. Zarqawi has said that Americans are, "the most cowardly of God's creatures." But let us be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs. It's cowardice that cuts the throat of a bound captive. It is cowardice that targets worshipers leaving a mosque. It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people; it is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of a rising democracy. It is courage in the cause of freedom that will once again destroy the enemies of freedom. (Applause.)
Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It's not justified. With every random bombing and every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots or resistance fighters -- they are murderers at war with the Iraqi people, themselves. In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress -- from tyranny to liberation, to national elections, to the ratification of a constitution -- in the space of two and a half years. (Applause.)
There's always a temptation, in the middle of a long struggle, to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder. That would be a pleasant world -- but it isn't the world in which we live. The enemy is never tired, never sated, never content with yesterday's brutality. This enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory -- and we will keep our nerve and we will win that victory. (Applause.)
Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision -- and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure -- until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent -- until the day that free men and women defeat them.
It is rather pathetic, frankly, to compare the soaring vision of freedom that President Bush has elaborated over the past five years to the cramped, hateful hectoring the Democrats have produced during the same time.
UPDATE: A law professor with too much time on his hands (and with readers whose mouths should be washed out with soap, based on their comments on his site) claimed that my reference to the "trivial" charges against Rove and Libby somehow contradicted a statement I made, back in 1998, that the fact that Bill Clinton committed perjury was a serious matter. This professor evidently assumes that Rove and/or Libby is about to be indicted for perjury. I don't make that assumption. If it should happen, it would indeed be a serious charge, and if either man should be convicted of perjury, it would be, in my view, a very serious matter, just as it was when Clinton lied under oath. But, again, I know of no reason to expect that this will happen.
What I consider to be "trivial" is the claim that Rove and/or Libby discussed Valerie Plame's CIA desk job with a reporter, in the context of trying to respond to the web of lies that was spun by Joe Wilson, including his lies about how he came to be sent to Niger.