In the aftermath of the latest miscarriage of justice from the White House, there’s only one question — formed with the help of the NY Times editorial board — to ask the White House:
Was the convicted felon Scooter Libby kept out of jail because the president was “worried about what a former loyalist might say when actually staring into a prison cell”?
And there’s only one question to ask the GOP presidential candidates:
Do you pledge not to hire the convicted felon Scooter Libby to serve on your White House staff?
Dubya claimed that Libby has actually received significant punishment since, “[t]he reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged.”
That, of course, is a joke, based on the recent history of the Republican Party and the Bush family.
As The Nation’s David Corn wrote back in 2002, “The Bush Administration is turning into one big rehab center for the Iran/contra schemers…”
Republican aides know that they can push the envelope without worrying about crossing any line.
Take one for the team, you’ll stay on the team. You won’t go to jail, and you’ll get promoted later.
So if Libby really is to be treated like the convicted felon he is, Republican candidates should have no problem keeping him of the payroll.
Although, let’s not kid ourselves. The payroll extends beyond the White House. Libby will be set up, one way or another.
The system worked and justice was served in the Scooter Libby case because Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was not fired or muzzled.
As we know, the Bush Administration is not above firing federal prosecutors for political reasons.
But they couldn’t whack Fitzgerald (though there was a flurry of rumors in 2005 that they wanted to).
Why? In part, because bloggers kept interest in the story alive.
This was not a story that received intense media coverage at first.
The media didn’t really take it seriously until Judy Miller went to jail (and then it was a story about a runaway prosecutor destroying the First Amendment.)
And Democratic attempts to draw attention to the story were erratic.
But the attention in the blogosphere made sure the scandal never got swept under the rug.
With enough light being shone on the investigation, it was too difficult for the White House to squelch Fitzgerald without suffering severe political fallout.
This was a case of the blogosphere at its best, applying the right kind of political and media pressure so the truth could triumph over misinformation.
This is not to say this battle is over.
The conservative noise machine is still trying to undermine the jury verdict, and create a political climate favorable for a presidential pardon.
Seems implausible they could alter the dynamic.
But one thing the conservative movement has long recognized is that public opinion does not solidify immediately after a court decision, it only begins to form.
Liberals — believing in constitutional government, checks and balances, fair trials and all sorts of silly stuff the Founders made up — often make the mistake of treating the court’s decision as the final victory, and then take a breather.
When in fact, that’s often when the battle for public opinion is just beginning.
Fortunately, many leaders said the right things today. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Dubya to renounce any pardon. DNC Chair Howard Dean said the verdict was “the tip of the iceberg,” wanting more answers from Dick Cheney.
The question is, will there be follow-through?
Will we all be able to maintain the pressure so neither Bush nor Cheney can ever face questioners for the rest of their term without having to deal with the outstanding questions?
Follow-through is the trickiest part of dealing with the Bushies, because so many disturbing things are happening all at once, it’s difficult to keep up.
With the Joe and Valerie Wilson still pursuing their civil suit against Cheney and others, there should be a vehicle to maintain pressure.
But, as is often the case, that’s easier said than done.
Today, the NY Times and W. Post further confirm the scoop by David Corn and Michael Isikoff, that Richard Armitage — Colin Powell’s #2 when they were both at the State Dept. — was Bob Novak’s other source for his outing of Valerie Plame Wilson.
Armitage is no neocon (though he is now advising neocon John McCain), and was not part of the Cheney-Libby-Rove effort to discredit Joseph Wilson.
Isikoff suggests Armitage was just being a cavalier gossip, who “apparently hadn’t thought through the possible implications of telling Novak about Plame’s identity.”
Corn floated the possibility that he may have been trying to distance his fellow moderates at State from Wilson, so White House officials wouldn’t be further suspicious of their loyalty to the Administration.
More importantly, both stress that there were two tracks of leaks.
One involved Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove as part of an underhanded campaign against Joe Wilson. The other was Armitage on his own with little to no nefarious motive.
The surfacing of the Armitage track does not magically wash away what we already knew about the Cheney-Libby-Rove track.
We know that Cheney raised the notion that Wilson’s fact-finding mission to Niger was a “junket” arranged by Plame.
We know that Libby — Cheney’s #2 — sought a memo from State to learn more about the origins of Wilson’s trip. (That memo fell into Armitage’s hands and was the source of his leak to Novak. It also, according to Corn, was “based on notes that were not accurate.”)
We know that Libby leaked about Plame to NY Times’ Judy Miller and Time’s Matt Cooper.
We know that Rove leaked to Cooper and Novak.
We know that these leaks occurred (as Corn reminds us) “prior to the appearance of the Bob Novak column that contained the Armitage leak.”
We know that Libby has been indicted for lying about his role in the leak.
We know that even though Rove was not indicted, by discussing the identity of an undercover agent with reporters, he violated his security clearance agreement.
And it has been 1147 days since that agreement was violated without the White House taking the necessary “corrective action.”
(Armitage also should have lost his security clearance, but he’s no longer in the Administration and presumably, he doesn’t currently have clearance to lose.)
What we don’t know is if the Special Counsel investigation will go beyond the Libby indictment.
We know there will be no indictments of Rove and Armitage. (We don’t know why exactly there was no Rove indictment.)
We know there have not been any indictments over the leaks themselves.
(Which is not the same as saying the leaks were not crimes. Fitzgerald described his four criteria for an indictment: determining “whether a crime has been committed, who has committed the crime, whether you can prove the crime and whether the crime should be charged.” He may believe the leak was a crime, but be unsure of his ability to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, or have other political or practical reasons for not charging the crime. )
We don’t know if that will always be the case. (TalkLeft suspects the investigation, which is still open, has an eye on Cheney.)
But even if there are no more indictments, what is known is disturbing and damning.
A anonymous campaign was waged by taxpayer-paid government officials to tar the reputation of a Administration critic exercising his First Amendment rights, destroying his wife’s career as a public servant in the process.
It was true before the Armitage revelation. It’s true now.