Monthly Archives: October 2005

The People v. Bush

It is a pleasure to see the Bushrovers being dealt with like the little criminals they are. 

It’s not only that Libby has been indicted.  The whole process that Fitzgerald and his team have pursued is a classic of prosecutorial form, in particular the way in which they are winding it up.  They are dealing with the inner Bush team like any other band of gangstas—starting with the smaller fish, leaning on them to provide the scaffolding into the main arena, corroborating (or, mainly, anti-corroborating) statements with various press tools used in the Bush spin cycle, letting the principal targets twist in the wind for as long as possible (gaining, no doubt, additional ‘cooperation’ along the way); and for the piece de resistance, putting a big arm on the VP’s COS. 

Hamilton_burgerThe grand jury has run through its maximum allowable tenure—but Fitzgerald has mentioned that he may call them back for one or two bits and pieces as he wraps up  (or another grand jury, its not clear).  Having landed Libby for five counts, what could be left?  And, really, why Libby?

Libby is one of the more self-effacing of these operators.  Rove is a star, though he may appear to slave for W—W is his creation in so many ways.  Cheney is absolutely his own creation, and sui generis as well.  So Scooter is a junior G-man—can anyone imagine that he pursued the Wilson vendetta without clear direction from Cheney? 

Luckily, Fitzgerald was able to catch Scooter in some lies.  As he insists, this is not a trivial matter in a national security investigation—in fact, he was pretty clear that, in terms of his personal theory of prosecution, going after prejury and obstruction is continuously necessary for the health of the justice system.  It is only when viewed amongst his co-conspirators that Libby’s indictment seems a bit of a denoument.

But wait, there is more.  For gentle reader, know that Fitzgerald is still using leverage.  We didn’t see Hannah or any other apparently cooperating minion hauled away in chains.  They were useful in hooking Libby.  But Libby is also only bait—for Rove, or better yet, for Cheney.  Because Libby is going to think hard about the cost and pain  if the trial goes forward, and is going to worry in a way that Rove would not (he can write his own ticket with any rightwing national candidate in the country) and that Cheney will never have to (Dick could pay a lot of legal bills without running through all that blind trust money from his Halliburton days).

Fitzgerald has pulled of a very elegant piece of plotting.  He has landed on Libby like a ton ofElliotness bricks, in the most public and humiliating way possible (the guy didn’t even reveal a secret agent, he is just a liar).  This sets Libby up for the next phase.   If his trial goes forward, we get Cheney and Rove on the stand—will all sorts opportunity for perjury.  Alternativly, Scooter can cop a plea—but there is a price for that: Cheney and/or Rove.  For all of his air of "I’m done and I’m heading back to Chicago", Fitzgerald is still heading for the real finale.

[Elliot Ness over on the right]

UPDATE 11/11/05:  see Murray Waas’ piece in National Journal (lead grafs here):

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald delayed a decision on whether to seek criminal charges against Karl Rove in large part because he wants to determine whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, can provide information on Rove’s role in the CIA leak case, according to attorneys involved in the investigation.

Even if Fitzgerald concludes in the near future that he does not have sufficient evidence to charge Rove, the special prosecutor would not rule out bringing charges at a later date and would not finish his inquiry on Rove until he hears whatever information Libby might provide — either incriminating or exculpatory — on Rove’s role, the sources said.

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Where are the Weapons of Mass 1st Amendment Destruction?

An explosion of indictment rumors has been coruscating through blogland and the MSM in the past couple of days.  One pair of sparks was the publication in last Sunday’s New York Times of both Judy Miller’s statement about her grand jury testimony as well as (finally) coverage of her situation in depth by a team of NYT professionals (Van Natta, Liptak and Levy).  (There is excellent rumor-parsing, news aggregation, and commentary in Dan Froomkin’s Washington Post column,  the bunch at Needlenose, those at firedoglake, and Laura Rozen at Warandpiece.)

The Times’ front page effort carries, unobtrusively, a nevertheless bright thread of scepticism, including the last subhead, "A Puzzling Outcome".  Along the way, it implies that editorial management was fragmentary and lax, and even after the jailing, unable to come to grips with the intricate plotting via multiple agendas in the case.  It does not paint a complimentary picture of Ms. Miller, but one has to say it is far easier on her than a number of other commentaries by fellow journalists that have emerged.  (Just scan through the recent entries at Romenesko.)

Those of us who were disgusted by the sychophantic reporting of US correspondents from the Iraqi front during the invasion phase of the war have good reason to recall Judith Miller’s work from that period, not least since it appeared in lead positions in the blessed Newspaper Of Record.  In the US, war reporting has been carried out with neither fear nor favor since WW2 and certainly so during the Vietnam War.  George Clooney has apparently constructed a large extended middle finger aimed at the news media in his just-released Murrow film, for example, celebrating Murrow’s courage in calling out Joseph McCarthy on the air.

Murrow_1_1

Judy, on the other hand, has functioned as a virtual mouthpiece for the Bushrovers, especially in justifying the Iraqi invasion based on supposed WMDs in Hussein’s possession.  Eventually, in May 2004, the Times published some retrospective criticism.

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

The mea culpa cites a number of "problematic" articles, without citing authors, but as Sunday’s professional Times coverage summarizes,

The note said the paper’s articles on unconventional weapons were credulous. It did not name any reporters and said the failures were institutional. Five of the six articles called into question were written or co-written by Ms. Miller.

One has to feel for the embittered pros on 43rd Street.  Reporters are famous for protecting their turf, but Judy is infamous for it.  The story about her supposed Secret clearance, claimed by her to other reporters on the battlefield as grounds for excluding them from her particular place in the WMD search, is either an indication that she will lie for exclusive control of her sources, or will utterly compromise her journalistic objectivity for them.  Yet after all that specious coverage of the run up to the war, and after virtually gagging her colleagues for months on a story that potentially is leading to a governmental traffic accident of Watergate proportions, once waivered by viva voce she still won’t break a crust with them:

In two interviews, Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes.

And three of the last four grafs of their piece must have been particularly ironic to write:

On Tuesday, Ms. Miller is to receive a First Amendment award from the Society of Professional Journalists. She said she thought she would write a book about her experiences in the leak case, although she added that she did not yet have a book deal. She also plans on taking some time off but says she hopes to return to the newsroom.

She said she hopes to cover "the same thing I’ve always covered – threats to our country."

The Times incurred millions of dollars in legal fees in Ms. Miller’s case. It limited its own ability to cover aspects of one of the biggest scandals of the day. Even as the paper asked for the public’s support, it was unable to answer its questions.

The First Amendment award from the professional society, the book deal, the millions in legal fees, the damage to other reporters’ work and the paper’s image with its readership—and, hopefully, a return to covering "threats to our country"—its a wonderful bloody life in journalism. 

I expect to see some high-level damage at the Times in the near future, including (one can only hope for the sake of the other reporters who have sweated and occassionally lost blood for their work) the departure of Ms. Miller herself—despite her attempt last Sunday to out-parse the parsers.

From her account, she seems lost in a parallel journalistic universe in which protecting her special governmental access is the only public good she can serve.  So sensitive is she to the rights of endangered "sources" that she must wait patiently by the phone until these sources call her direct, and she can monitor by the tone of their voice for a desired absence of coercion, before spilling the beans.  Despite signed waivers that permitted other reporters to cooperate with the grand jury, Judy claims to be receiving contradictory signals on some sideband no one else can pick up:

At the behest of President Bush and Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Libby had signed a blanket form waiver, which his lawyer signaled to my counsel was not really voluntary, even though Mr. Libby’s lawyer also said it had enabled other reporters to cooperate with the grand jury.  [from Miller’s "personal account"]

Ms. Miller authorized Mr. Abrams to talk to Mr. Libby’s lawyer, Joseph A. Tate. The question was whether Mr. Libby really wanted her to testify. Mr. Abrams passed the details of his conversation with Mr. Tate along to Ms. Miller and to Times executives and lawyers, people involved in the internal discussion said.

People present at the meetings said that what they heard about the preliminary negotiations was troubling.

Mr. Abrams told Ms. Miller and the group that Mr. Tate had said she was free to testify. Mr. Abrams said Mr. Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby’s grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson’s wife.

That raised a potential conflict for Ms. Miller. Did the references in her notes to "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" suggest that she would have to contradict Mr. Libby’s account of their conversations? Ms. Miller said in an interview that she concluded that Mr. Tate was sending her a message that Mr. Libby did not want her to testify.  [from Sunday’s Times Van Natta, Liptak and Levy piece]

Mr. Tate was "sending a message", or "signaling" the opposite of what he was saying.  When, rather than risk the extension of her heroism to another grand jury term, Miller authorized one of her attorneys (Bill Bennett) to contact Libby’s lawyer on August 31, Tate told him

Mr. Libby had given permission to Ms. Miller to testify a year earlier. "I called Tate and this guy could not have been clearer – ‘Bob, my client has given a waiver,’ " Mr. Bennett said.  [again, from Van Natta, Liptak and Levy]

I guess it wasn’t clear enough when it was clear the first time.  Alternatively, even if (as it appears from Murray Waas’ article) the issue of permissive versus tampering communication from Libby’s lawyer to Miller’s lawyer is a potential grand jury issue, it is hard to understand why a journalist with a waiver wouldn’t write the story.  After all, we are talking about a source who is blatantly trying to control news spin, after the fact of a collosal failure of policy and of governmental intelligence (of several varieties), not some whistle-blower on the low end of the GSA scale.  Judge Hogan, who sent Miller to jail, said "She has the keys to release herself.  She has a waiver she chooses not to recognize."

And there turns out to be no difficulty at all in navigating the supposed conflict between Tate’s supposed representation of Libby’s testimony that he told Miller neither Plame’s name nor anything about her undercover status, and the fact that Miller found variants of Plame’s name in her notes.  In summarizing (we assume accurately) her testimony in last Sunday’s piece, Miller says

My notes indicate that well before Mr. Wilson published his critique, Mr. Libby told me that Mr. Wilson’s wife may have worked on unconventional weapons at the C.I.A.

My notes do not show that Mr. Libby identified Mr. Wilson’s wife by name. Nor do they show that he described Valerie Wilson as a covert agent or "operative," as the conservative columnist Robert D. Novak first described her in a syndicated column published on July 14, 2003.

These points are important, because it is illegal to expose the identity of a covert agent.  But by Miller’s account, Scooter didn’t do it, so what’s the problem?

What is ironic, and may become more so as we learn the extent, if any, of Fitzgerald’s Agnew_halfsize indictments and the actual charges, is that all this havering about what Libby meant or didn’t mean to convey, which is necessary to protect her sacred news source and the First Amendment, has potentially contributed to what current speculation defines as Libby’s greatest technical exposure: witness tampering.  Laura Rozen quotes Murry Waas:

Evidence indicating that Libby or his attorney may have tried to discourage or influence Miller’s testimony is significant for two reasons, outside legal experts say. First, attempting to influence a witness’s testimony might in and of itself constitute obstruction of justice or witness-tampering, said the experts.

So let’s review the position.  Judy prefers not to testify about her conversations with a senior public official.  The only way to avoid this is to ignore the de jure waiver she has from him, and pretend that representations made by his lawyer constitute a form of message from him requesting that she not testify.  But in explaining these implicit "messages" that drove her to source-protective silence, Judy damages her source in another way, by reinforcing a suspicion that Libby was trying to tamper her testimony as a grand jury witness.  Finally, why does she care?  Perhaps Libby has answered this in his own poetical way, to quote from his September 15 letter to his reporter friend:  "Out west, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning.  They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."

But these apparently directive "messages" are of course different from the kinds of information Libby was supplying during the meetings in question.  Journalism-tampering is not a crime, at least (so far) not at the Times.

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Is Baghdad Burning?

Who controls communication about this war?  That has become more a question about peoples’ information consumption habits, rather than about control of the channels themselves.

Consider a comparison of today’s Presidential video con with the troops and the blog Baghdad Burning. 

W, like all recent presidents, has an awesome information machine at his disposal.  It used to be (starting with Ike) that for personal TV coverage of the Pres, there was a news conference—going to that level of real time was reportedly a scary loss of control for the handlers in those days.  Now, the news pump can be always on, and hooked into the zillions of fibres carrying propaganda to your home instantly.  This level of saturation and message control is the logical evolution of a process that started to pick up steam in the 60s.

Of course, all the imperfections get instantly transmitted as well (Nixon’s five-oclock shadow, for example).  With W, you get that funny sense that his words are not quite connected with his brain—I don’t mean that he seems stupid, just that he seems to be working very hard to say the thing he thinks he should or has planned to say, while also trying to seem folksy and spontaneous as if he had no plan to say it.

The medium is so open and omnipresent now that big imperfections also are sometimes revealed.   Like today’s totally scripted prep for W’s up-to-six questions of the troops, caught ahead of the actual call via the already open cable feed.  From ThinkProgress:

Earlier today, Pentagon communications aide Allison Barber “insisted” to reporters that questions during President Bush’s photo-op teleconference “were not rehearsed,” and that no “specific questions” were prepared.

Unfortunately, she was caught on tape acknowledging just the opposite — that she had “drilled through” “all six” of the questions that Bush was going to ask:

BARBER: So here’s what you to be prepared for, Captain Kennedy, is that the president is going to ask some questions. He may ask all six of them, he may ask three of them. He might have such a great time talking to you, he might come up with some new questions. So what we want to be prepared for is to not stutter. So if there’s a question that the president comes up with that we haven’t drilled through today, then I’m expecting the microphone to go right back to you, Captain Kennedy, and you to handle [it].

If W’s usual cardboard folksiness didn’t destroy the attempt at spontaneity, this news certainly did. 

Pres_videocon But lets assume all came off as "planned"—what would the best case have looked like?  W, talking from a podium (as Wonkette points out) "cheated toward the press cameras with one quarter turn", spilling out the rhetoric fewer and fewer citizens are buying, sucking whatever political life he can from the obvious patriotism and bravery of soldiers in the field.  That is the best he could have hoped for.  It falls pretty far short of convincing, or even of having its own kind of integrity though you disagree with the position.

No amount of communications technology can substitute for the acute observation of a single, engaged, critical observer.  In contrast to Bush’s preamble to the scripted questions today

We got a strategy, and it’s a clear strategy. On the one hand, we will hunt down these killers and terrorists and bring them to justice, and train the Iraqi forces to join us in that effort.

The second part of the strategy is a political strategy, based upon the knowledge that you defeat a backward, dark philosophy with one that’s hopeful. And that hopeful philosophy is one based upon universal freedom. I’m very impressed that the Iraqi government has continued to work to have a constitution that attracts Sunnis and Shias and Kurds. They’ve worked hard to get a constitution, and now the people of Iraq are going to get to vote once again, on a constitution, in this case.

you can get an entirely different point of view on that wonderful constitution from the author of Baghdad Burning, a blog apparently by a young Iraqi woman living there.  She (I believe in both her girlness and Iraqi-ness, so I’ll honor that possible truth) has, unusually often for her, posted every week for the past three, discussing and dissecting the drafts of the constitution (from the Arabic as well as English language NYT translations).  Her most recent entry is more about how the constitution does or does not fit into Iraqi life, as she knows it anyway, describing her irrascible neighbor’s use of her copy of the Arabic draft to clear up some tooki berries pruned from a shared tree.

I frowned and tried to hand her the Arabic version. “But you should read it. READ IT. Look- I even highlighted the good parts… the yellow is about Islam and the pink is about federalism and here in green- that’s the stuff I didn’t really understand.” She looked at it suspiciously and then took it from me.

I watched as she split the pile of 20 papers in two- she began sweeping the top edge of the wall with one pile, and using the other pile like a dustpan, she started to gather the wilted, drying tooki scattered on the wall. “I don’t have time or patience to read it. We’re not getting water- the electricity has been terrible and Abu F. hasn’t been able to get gasoline for three days… And you want me to read a constitution?”

“But what will you vote?” I asked, watching the papers as they became streaked with the crimson, blood-like tooki stains.

“You’ll actually vote?” She scoffed. “It will be a joke like the elections… They want this constitution and the Americans want it- do you think it will make a difference if you vote against it?” She had finished clearing the top edge of the wall of the wilting tooki and she dumped it all on our side. She put the now dusty, took- stained sheets of paper back together and smiled as she handed them back, “In any case, let no one tell you it wasn’t a useful constitution- look how clean the wall is now! I’ll vote for it!” And Umm F. and the hedge clippers disappeared.

Riverbend (apparently her nom de plume) only has a PC and a connection (intermittent, no doubt) to a web service.  W has total, permanent, always-on, massively connected infrastructure at his instant disposal.  Today, who do you believe is giving you the real story on Iraq? 

Juan Cole cites Brit journalist Robert Fisk, quoted more fully here from the online Independent:

He said that the portrayal of Iraq by Western leaders ­ of efforts to introduce democracy, including Saturday’s national vote on the country’s proposed constitution ­ was "unreal" to most of its citizens. In Baghdad, children and women were kept at home to prevent themCnngreenzonemap_halfsize from being kidnapped for money or sold into slavery. They faced a desperate struggle to find the money to keep generators running to provide themselves with electricity. "They aren’t sitting in their front rooms discussing the referendum on the constitution."

With insurgents half a mile from Baghdad’s Green Zone, Fisk said the danger to reporters from a brutal insurgency that did not respect journalists was increasing. "Every time I go to Baghdad it’s worse, every time I ask myself how we can keep going. Because the real question is ­ is the story worth the risk?"

I’m not listening to a huge amount of TV news—has there been much visibility there of the fact that (for many, many months now) reporters can’t actually report, as we normally understand the word, from Iraq?  By the way, this is a big mistake on the part of the insurgency.  If most Americans could see what is really going on (what Riverbend is already telling us, along with many others) we’d be out of there in no time flat.  Between the pre-scripted bullshit we get from from the Bushrovers and the fearful jabbering silence of the talking heads in the Green Zone, there is no bad news, or news at all.

Green_zone0

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There is a cancer on the Presidency

Think I’m crazy for yesterday’s post on IMPEACHMENT?  Hot off the blogs and wires just today:

Andrew Card’s disquisition on Harriet Miers and constitutional law, pointer thanks to Laura Rozen at Warandpiece.com (my daily read along with the WSJ and NYT).  Laura calls out coverage by Harold Meyerson in a TAPPED account of a talk by Andrew Card about Ms. Miers’ qualifications, delivered last night at the Hudson Institute in front of Robert Bork among other right wingnut luminaries.

According to Meyerson’s account of Andrew’s talk:

As White House chief-of-staff, he [Card] found the most intriguing article, he said, to be Article II, which established the presidency and the executive branch. Miers, he continued, understood Article II as well, and would defend it "when challenged by those given the power to challenge it by Article I [i.e., the Congress] and Article III [i.e., the courts]."

[…] At minimum, he suggested that Miers would be the staunchest proponent of executive power over that of the other two branches that the Court had seen in a very long time.

If this isn’t from the horse’s mouth (or perhaps, given its undoubted effect on those exercising their power of advice and consent, from its other end), I don’t know what is. 

Then there are all the Nixonian twitches, ticks, and tensions, summarized today by Dan Froomkin in his Washington Post White House Briefing.  Froomkin quotes reporting by WaPo Oliphant_lest_we_forget_vc007261_halfsiz columnist Dana Milbank on the topic:

"The fidgeting clearly corresponded to the questioning. When Lauer asked if Bush, after a slow response to Katrina, was ‘trying to get a second chance to make a good first impression,’ Bush blinked 24 times in his answer. When asked why Gulf Coast residents would have to pay back funds but Iraqis would not, Bush blinked 23 times and hitched his trousers up by the belt.

"When the questioning turned to Miers, Bush blinked 37 times in a single answer — along with a lick of the lips, three weight shifts and some serious foot jiggling."

He continues to paraphrase and quote Milbank:

Milbank also touches on Bush’s habit of making inappropriate facial expressions. At one point, he writes, Bush "seemed to lose control of the timing. He smiled after observing that Iraqis are ‘paying a serious price’ because of terrorism."

And Milbank doesn’t even mention the tic that has been the subject of intense speculation in the blogosphere for several months: Bush’s bizarre, shifting lower jaw movement that increasingly punctuates the ends of his sentences.

Blognixonapproval8_3 

In fact, Froomkin’s whole column is a nice little slice o’ Watergate.  He covers (I’m using his subheads):

  • Tension city (above)
  • Rove, Card at War—over Iraq? (Chris Matthews asks Newsweek editor Howard Fineman, "You believe that the fight between those who may be headed toward indictment, the vice president’s [deputy] chief of staff, Karl Rove, there is a war between them and the people who are going to survive them, Andy Card, etcetera?")
  • Rove, Card at War—over Miers? (quoting National Journal’s Hotlineblog "Is it just us or is there already a storyline developing about ‘who’s to blame for Miers’? And if so, is WH CoS Andrew Card about to be on the wrong end of this blame game?")
  • Et tu, Cheney? (circumstantial blogospheric evidence of cooling love between W and The Vice)
  • David Ignatius writing in the Post "that the GOP is entering the post-Bush era. A war of succession has begun, cloaked in a war of principles. "
  • Plame Endgame:

Signs are everywhere that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is tightening his noose, possibly around Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s two most essential aides: Rove and Scooter Libby. But even more than that, it also looks more and more like his investigation, once it’s made public, could pull back the curtain on some less than savory White House efforts to incite the country to war in Iraq and then prevent the press from exposing its secrets.

Froomkin quotes Carol Leonard’s Post reporting:

"Numerous lawyers involved in the 22-month investigation said they are bracing for Fitzgerald to bring criminal charges against administration officials. They speculated, based on his questions, that he may be focused on charges of false statements, obstruction of justice or violations of the Espionage Act involving the release of classified government information to unauthorized persons."

  • Impeachment Watch

After waiting fruitlessly for a polling company to repeat a question first asked by Zogby in June, a group that supports a congressional inquiry into Bush’s decision to invade Iraq paid another polling company to do so.

The question: "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him."

AfterDowningStreet.org reports on the results .

"By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans say that President Bush should be impeached if he lied about the war in Iraq, according to a new poll. . . .

"The poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company. The poll interviewed 1,001 U.S. adults on October 8-9."

The Zogby poll in June found 42 percent of respondents agreed with a very similar statement.

Laura Rozen has a good collection of reporting, current and recent, on the White House Iraq Group.  This seems to have been a Big Lie-type propaganda committee designed to put over the Iraq War in just the way that so many Americans object to, including in its weekly convocations Rove, Scooter, Card, Matalin, Rice, Hadley, and a couple of others (here, here, here, and, in large part, here).

Another interesting sign for me, again highlighted by Laura, is in the testimony of Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff, talking on Hardball:

Well, I—I mean, I think the whole White House in is turmoil over this [the special prosecutor’s Plame investigation].

And I would slightly disagree with Howard, that I‘m not sure it‘s so much of a division as lots of people running around and trying to protect themselves, because—because this could—this could wash over everyone. I mean, one of the—one of the reasonable questions here is—is, what were the guys in the Oval Office thinking?

In fact, Mathews’ whole leadin for Hardball last Monday is amazing, given his usual orientation:

Bush_and_rove Karl Rove, the president‘s political ramrod, has been called back to the grand jury probing the CIA leak case.  If you don‘t think this leak case matters, ask yourself, what was the most frightening case you heard for going to war with Iraq?  Probably it was that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium yellow cake in Africa to build nuclear weapons.  The president said it in his 2003 State of the Union address.  The vice president repeated it with military precision, almost like a Gatling gun, Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons, Saddam Hussein, nuclear weapons, again and again. 

But it wasn‘t true.  There‘s no evidence even now that Saddam tried to by nuclear materials in Africa.  We know that now because the man the CIA sent down there to Niger to check it out, sent there after Vice President Cheney asked the CIA to check it out, wrote a “New York Times” article a few months after the war started that there was no deal.  Worse yet, the former ambassador, Joseph Wilson, wrote that the people around the president must have known there was no deal, even when the president and his people kept telling the country there was. 

What did they know, and when did they know it?  I’m sure that’s the Special Prosecutor’s main question.   Now, will W execute him at dawn (actually on a Saturday night) like Nixon did Cox?

Oliphant_devil_vc007263_halfsize Call me a sentimental old Watergate fool (what a fascinating summer I had watching the daily rushes from the Ervin committee each evening on WNET in New York).  But it’s strangely familiar.  The special prosecutor chewing on the top aides.  The military longing to pull out, the CIA closely watching for an opportune moment to dump more toxins into the Presidential publicity bloodstream.  The crimes allegedly committed to cover up for more serious breaches of the public trust.  The snarling, self-appointed guardians of American virtue, the legacy of a hopeless war, and—more than anything—the religious conviction of the Chief Executive that he is the right man at the right time and can do no wrong.

The key moment inside the Watergate White House was the point at which the enormously ambitious, slavishly Nixonite, highly organized machine degraded from political juggernaut to a bunch of lawyered-up victims of someone else’s hubris and wrong-doing.   It happened suddenly, after the application of thousands of small cuts like those we’ve been seeing lately.

We need to watch very carefully, without the gloating we deserve, when, after the trashing of our country, our economy, our military, our national security, our childrens’ fiscal future, our reputation, and our elective system, the Bad Guys start receiving it in the neck.  These are junkyard dogs, Cheney and Rove most of all, and they will not go gentle into that good night.

Nixon_resigns2     Nixon_resignation

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Macbush

The right wing is certainly unhappy with their commander in chief on the Supreme Court front.   For once, right wingnuts have better arguments against the Bushrovers than the lefties.  The execrable Michele Malkin provides a great roundup.

One of the more practical arguments from this right side of the debate questions what pragmatic use Ms. Miers will be in any issue before the Court that is related to what she worked Image564771l_1 on as White House counsel.  The "worst" case assumes that this includes prisoner of non-war policy, partial-birth abortion, and the legality of administration activities in prosecuting their so-called Global War on Terror.

(subliminal telegraphing of my argument!—do you recognize this man?)

John Wohlstetter, writing in American Spectator, covers this anti-Miers position in "The Recusal Trap".

Under federal law, if Ms. Miers is confirmed, and has professionally advised on a matter that subsequently comes before her on the bench, she must recuse herself. Federal law is quite specific here. Title 28 U.S. Code sec. 455 covers recusal of judges, justices, and magistrate judges. Sec, 455 (b)(3) recites one ground for mandatory recusal: "Where [a judge, justice, magistrate judge] has served in governmental employment and in such capacity participated as counsel, adviser or material witness concerning the proceeding or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy." Sec. 455 (e) adds: "No justice, judge or magistrate judge shall accept from the parties to the proceeding a waiver of any ground for disqualification enumerated in subsection (b)." 

Wohlstetter is associated with the Discovery Institute, one of the "non-partisan" organizations spearheading the drive for intelligent design creationism.  If we need further provenance for his point of view on this as right wingnuttery (though perhaps cogent as well), Dumb-as-a-Bag-of-Krauthammers weighs in contra Miers in his Washington Post column:

But what does she bring to the bench?

This, say her advocates: We are now at war, and therefore the great issue of our time is the powers of the president, under Article II, to wage war. For four years Miers has been immersed in war-and-peace decisions and therefore will have a deep familiarity with the tough constitutional issues regarding detention, prisoner treatment and war powers.

Perhaps. We have no idea what her role in these decisions was. But to the extent that there was any role, it becomes a liability. For years — crucial years in the war on terrorism — she will have to recuse herself from judging the constitutionality of these decisions because she will have been a party to having made them in the first place. The Supreme Court will be left with an absent chair on precisely the laws-of-war issues to which she is supposed to bring so much.

Of course, we should take into account Scalia’s response to the motion of the Sierra Club to recuse himself from In Re: Cheney (Docket #03-475, related to the Energy Task Force case):

Let me respond, at the outset, to Sierra Club’s suggestion that I should "resolve any doubts in favor of recusal." Motion to Recuse 8. That might be sound advice if I were sitting on a Court of Appeals. But see In re Aguinda, 241 F. 3d 194, 201 (CA2 2000). There, my place would be taken by another judge, and the case would proceed normally. On the Supreme Court, however, the consequence is different: The Court proceeds with eight Justices, raising the possibility that, by reason of a tie vote, it will find itself unable to resolve the significant legal issue presented by the case. Thus, as Justices stated in their 1993 Statement of Recusal Policy: "[W]e do not think it would serve the public interest to go beyond the requirements of the statute, and to recuse ourselves, out of an excess of caution, whenever a relative is a partner in the firm before us or acted as a lawyer at an earlier stage. Even one unnecessary recusal impairs the functioning of the Court." (Available in Clerk of Court’s case file.) Moreover, granting the motion is (insofar as the outcome of the particular case is concerned) effectively the same as casting a vote against the petitioner. The petitioner needs five votes to overturn the judgment below, and it makes no difference whether the needed fifth vote is missing because it has been cast for the other side, or because it has not been cast at all.

So we may imagine there is a circumstance where an unnecessary recusal might impair the functioning of the Supreme Court, and is therefore not prudent.  (How about when the outcome of a presidential election is before the court?)

The White House has its own interesting reasons for soliciting right-wing support for Miers.  Ken Mehlman ticked off three main points in a 10/6 RNC/White House concall with other conservative do-bees (summary notes from Savethecourt.org here, transcript from nocrony.com here, audio from CrooksAndLiars here, thanks feministing):

So we’ve . . . other speakers are going to talk about other issues but I think these are three very important things, number one, how do we avoid what those in the, what I like to call [4:27] people who grow in office, which is to say who would do up things do differently than we expect them to. I think the way we know that is cause this president knows his nominee better than ever before. Second, top advisor at a time when this president has made some incredibly effective decisions, and third her unique ability to understand how bad judicial activism is on the [4:50] critical issue of the global war on terror.

Talking point number three loosely translates as "she’ll trample on civil rights and judicial  prerogative in the name of the GWoT".  Not an unreasonably Rovian maneuver.

So—known quantity? Key advisor on incredibly effective decisions? Paid-off vote to cover GWoT civil-rights abuses? 

My money is on none of these.  I think they’re setting up for the impeachment.

1101730730_400_halfsize They know that things are very dicey for Rove and Scooter (despite Judith Miller’s best attempts to go away and shut up). They know that DeLay won’t be in the House to cover their corrupt posteriors, and suspect that Frist will not be arranging the chairmanships of select committees in the near future.  Cheney was Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, and a close observer of the drama and aftermath of the Nixon resignation. The key issue in defending the Oval Office (as the key lieutenants fall in the cross-fire) will be Executive Privilege. W will need to keep his bidness private in order to survive. His very own Supreme Court Justice will certainly know where the landmines are.

Let’s not loose sight of the context—we’re talking about strategists who are playing the ultimate power game. These are  not people who will let judicial process, law, or a few 1101730416_400_halfsize_1 thousand dead soldiers or a few hundred thousand dead foreign civilians prevent them from striving toward their ends.  There hasn’t been this level of frank corruption in executive politics since—well, that’s a tough one.  My sense is that on a dollar basis, the Bushrovers are far and away the modern world record holders.  In this league, covering the Presidential ass is not just a political game, it is about the continuity of power and influence, and of the flow of greenbacks and oil, all under political attack now as never before in this administration.  The current extreme level of political threat should lead us to look for correspondingly extreme countermoves by the Bushrovers.  Buying a Supreme Court Justice is no big deal, if it ensures a key support in a time of constitutional need.

Wouldn’t you think of it yourself if that very Court had made you the President illegally in the first place?

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