Thursday, April 06, 2006

Nixon's Mistake, Bush's Genius

We realize you're probably suffering from Bushscandalfatiguery. So you may not have read Murray Wass' important scoop in last week's National Journal that a "single piece of paper" lies at the heart of the Plame-gate scandal over the unauthorized outing of a secret CIA agent.

You also might be so overdosed on Bushincompetenisis you didn't even read Greg Sargent's superb summary of Waas' article, which advances the ball a bit farther.

Without that background, you'll definitely have trouble understanding the significance of today's revelations by Josh Gerstein in the New York Sun. In effect, Gerstein reports that former vice-presidential aide Lewis 'Scooter' Libby previously testified before the grand jury that vice president Dick Cheney told him George W. Bush personally ordered the disclosure of a confidential CIA assessment for purely domestic political reasons, even if, apparently, it meant 'outing' Valerie Plame and her spy network.

Gerstein gets his information from a long and boring court filing made yesterday by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. There is a copy in pdf format on the web, titled "Government’s Response to Defendant's Third Motion to Compel Discovery."

The same single "piece of paper" Waas was writing about turns out to be a highly classified one-page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that casts serious doubt on any suggestion that Saddam was trying to acquire nuclear technology. When Joe Wilson wrote his op-ed article for the New York Times almost ten months later, casting the same kind of doubts after his in-person investigation into the Niger 'yellowcake' claim, Cheney and Bush feared their earlier deceptions would be revealed.

So Cheney, Bush, or both of them ordered Libby to release a portion of the NIE to the infamous Judy Miller -- but not the damning single page -- in hopes of covering up their previous lies.

Here's an easy-to-read excerpt of Sargent's summary of the kernel that lies at the center of this whole sorry business:
White House officials, including Bush himself, withheld critical information it had about doubts over supposed evidence of Saddam's nuke ambitions in order to better make the case for war. Then they subsequently discovered that hard evidence existed of [their own] duplicity. Then, anxious that this evidence might surface before the 2004 reelection, they engaged in a relentless campaign to cover up what really happened during the Iraq run-up and to prevent an aggressive congressional investigation until after the election. * * * [T]hey obscured their role in the outing of [CIA agent Valerie] Plame to prevent an outcry that would have certainly forced Congress and the press to probe far more aggressively than they did.
Nothing in this suggests Bush is a crook who violated the law, of course. After all, this president is above the law, right?

That was Nixon's mistake. The poor man claimed only, "I am not a crook."

George W. is a lot cagier than Nixon ever was. His defense is, "It's impossible for me to be a crook because the law does not apply to me."

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