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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

October 29, 2005 PERMALINK
Justice Obstructed, Cover-Up Continues, Credibility Shot
(posted Oct. 29 12:45 AM ET)

Why did Libby allegedly lie?

From what LiberalOasis saw on TV, pundits generally opted for the cop-out “Libby was stupid” possibility.

On Hardball, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman suggested he’s protecting his boss Dick Cheney, one of Libby’s sources for the Plame info according to the indictment.

That’s more plausible, and probably at least part of the story.

But LO is not aware of anyone pointing out the obvious: Libby was trying to duck being charged under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

One of the law’s stipulations was you had to get the agent’s identity from a classified source before revealing it, in order to violate the Act.

If Libby could claim he got it from reporters, he’d be in the clear (he may never have even thought of being busted under the more broadly written Espionage Act.)

Which brings us to the import of the alleged crimes.

Already you have some conservative pundits trying to downplay the charges, arguing that there was no underlying crime.

This is circular logic.

According to Special Counsel Fitzgerald, he is not able (yet?) to charge an underlying crime solely because Libby has obstructed justice with his lies.

It’s worth quoting Fitz at length on this point:

...if national defense information -- which is involved because her affiliation with the CIA, whether or not she was covert, was classified -- if that was intentionally transmitted, that would violate the statute known as Section 793, which is the Espionage Act.

That is a difficult statute to interpret...

...you should be very careful in applying that law because there are a lot of interests that could be implicated in making sure that you picked the right case to charge that statute.

That actually feeds into [another] question.

When you decide whether or not to charge someone with a crime, you want to know as many facts as possible.

You want to know what their motive is, you want to know their state of knowledge, you want to know their intent, you want to know the facts...

... If [the indictment’s allegations against Libby are] true, you cannot figure out the right judgment to make, whether or not you should charge someone with a serious national security crime or walk away from it or recommend any other course of action...

...one of the harms in obstruction is that you don't have a clear view of what should be done.

And that's why people ought to walk in [to] the grand jury ... take an oath, [and] tell us the who, what, when, where and why -- straight.

Justice has (so far) been obstructed, and facts regarding the true reasons we were taken to war have been covered-up, by Libby’s underhanded effort to discredit Joe Wilson, ruin his wife’s career, and his subsequent lies about it.

Furthermore, neither George W. Bush or Dick Cheney have disavowed and distanced the White House from Libby’s actions.

Bush said in 2000, “in my Administration, we will ask not only what is legal but what is right, not what the lawyers allow but what the public deserves.”

Even giving Libby his basic human right of presumption of innocence, his personal attacks on Joe and Valerie Wilson fail Bush’s own test.

YetBush and Cheney said nothing to assure the public that they reject Libby’s actions. We heard only praise for how Libby “sacrificed much in the service to this country.”

Instead of working to restore the credibility of our government, Bush seemingly chose to send a signal to Libby: “We won’t kick you when you’re down. Now, don’t screw us and maybe there’s a pardon or a Carlyle Group job waiting for you in a few years.”

There may or may not be more indictments coming.

But the indictment of Libby alone, and the White House reaction to it, is more evidence that the cover-up of why we went to war continues, and continues to suck every ounce of credibility out of this Administration.

And as argued here earlier, without credibility – in general and on the war specifically – there’s no way our government can play a positive role in the reconstruction of Iraq, the most pressing foreign policy crisis facing the world.

October 28, 2005 PERMALINK
Who's Next?
(posted Oct. 28 2 AM ET)

Pretty much anything written at this hour will be out of date after Special Counsel Fitzgerald’s expected announcement today.

So LiberalOasis will stick to some quick Supreme Court observations for the moment, and likely post about the anticipated CIA Leak indictments later on today or Saturday morning.

The NY Times reports the following about the previous Court runner-ups:

One lawyer close to the president said that when Mr. Bush chose Ms. Miers he did so after concluding there was not a long roster of female candidates with whom he felt comfortable.

"When he chose her," said the lawyer, "she was one of three finalists and the other two were men."

The other two candidates, the lawyer said, were federal appeals court judges, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and J. Michael Luttig, both of whom remain leading candidates...

If that is accurate (and it may not be), it’s hard to see why Bush wouldn’t turn to one of those guys now.

Luttig and Alito are exactly the kind of nominees the anti-Miers right-wingers are pining for: federal judges with conservative paper trails.

And if Bush felt they were good enough to be on his short list before, and since they would appease his empowered yet disgruntled base, then one of them would seem to be a virtual lock.

So while LiberalOasis would not suggest putting all of our attention on those two, reading up on them ain’t a bad idea either.

Here’s some Luttig links, and a couple Alito links to chew on.

In other SCOTUS news, LiberalOasis is engaging in some scholarly discourse with Prof. Geoffrey Stone over at the Huffington Post regarding post-Miers strategy: see here, here and here.

October 27, 2005 PERMALINK
Miers Withdraws
(posted Oct. 27 10:30 AM ET)

Two key points:

1. LiberalOasis had expressed skepticism a couple of times that Miers wouldn't make it to the hearings.

But it was only yesterday that Miers' seemingly pro-Roe 1993 speech surfaced (see the LO post below from earlier this morning).

It simply could not be reconciled with her 1989 support for an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. It could not be explained away.

While the Right loves to claim that liberals have a Roe litmus test, Miers inability to assure the Right on Roe clearly was the last straw.

Furthermore, the stated reason for withdrawl -- a refusal to release private memos -- is a bogus excuse previously suggested by right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer.

John Roberts had memos they kept secret, and they pushed him through.

Miers' memos are not the new development. The 1993 speeches were.

2. As LO has previously discussed, a Miers defeat puts Dems in a fantastic position, if they choose to recognize it. From LO's 10/4 post:

If there’s enough criticism coming from the left and right to sink the nominee ... Bush ends up in his weakest political position ever.

If he then feels compelled to pick an overt right-winger to rehab his base, then that pick can be beat with a unified Democratic party backed by public opinion, completely boxing Bush in – unable to get a stealth pick or a overt right-wing pick.

Dems then would have the political leverage to force a real moderate pick.

LO didn't care for Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid's initial kind words for Miers. But his reaction to withdrawl is a smart start:

The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination...

...In choosing a replacement for Ms. Miers, President Bush should not reward the bad behavior of his right wing base.

He should reject the demands of a few extremists and choose a justice who will protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.

The one thing Reid isn't doing yet, is getting beyond the buzz words and articulating what is specifically under threat from the Right: workplace equality, consumer rights, clean environment, and privacy rights.

The Roberts process made it harder for judicial views on substantive issues be the main criteria.

But the Right, by having their Roe litmus test, has helped put those issues back on the table.

We should not hesitate to take advantage and ensure the public know full well what they're getting in a lifetime appointment, and full well what the Right is trying to impose on us.

If we don't, and the standard simply becomes "qualifications" alone, Dems may feel compelled to vote for a right-winger just because he or she has a decent resume.

October 27, 2005 PERMALINK
While We Wait, What's Up With Harriet?
(posted Oct. 27 1:45 AM ET)

Deep in ConservaWorld, where denial and delusion over The Leak is pervasive (The Corner yesterday was discussing whether Joe Wilson would get indicted) the big news was two 1993 Harriet Miers speeches that she dug up.

Most notable were her remarks to the Executive Women of Dallas regarding “law and religion” cases, which include, in her words:

The ongoing debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual women's right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion.

Her stated approach to such cases?

The underlying theme in most of these [law and religion] cases is the insistence of more self-determination.

And the more I think about these issues, the more self-determination makes sense.

Legislating religion or morality we gave up on a long time ago...

...Where science determines the facts, the law can effectively govern.

However, when science cannot determine the facts and decisions vary based upon religious belief, then government should not act.

As you can imagine, the anti-Miers conservatives are livid, and the pro-Miers conservatives are befuddled.

And the speech prompted the Concerned Women For America to formally oppose Miers, perhaps the biggest organization to do so to date. (Family Research Council also reacted negatively, and may be on the brink of following suit.)

Of course, the speech isn’t evidence that Miers is pro-Roe. It’s just evidence you can’t trust a word she says.

In 1989, as a candidate for Dallas City Council, she told Texans United For Life that she supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion except to save the mother’s life.

A mere four years later, she tells a group of women professionals that “we gave up on” legislating morality “a long time ago”? Please.

It’s unclear to LiberalOasis if the speech’s surfacing is the result of a sloppy vetting, or if it is something the Bushies knew about and thought (before the right-wing revolt) it would mainly disarm Dems.

So LO won’t speculate just yet on how damaging this is for Miers’ prospects.

But if it prompts more and more right-wing groups to oppose Miers, we should keep tabs on their comments.

Because these groups will have no choice but to embrace hypocrisy.

Back in July, after the John Roberts nomination was announced, Concerned Women For America said a president’s nominee deserves an “up or down vote” and said:

The confirmation process should occur without partisan political rancor and be in keeping with the dignity of the Court.

The past is the best evidence of future expectations. And there's plenty of reasons to expect the Left to re-run plays from their judicial warfare book-distort-defame-delay.

The problem for the left is that the American people are on to them and won't stand for obstructionist, partisan politics.

And what did CWFA say yesterday about Miers?

Though she attends an Evangelical church known for its pro-life position, during the same time period she advanced radical feminists and organizations that promote agendas that undermine respect for life and family...

... Every time she quotes or cites women she admires, they’re to the left of Betty Freidan...

....We’d prefer to have someone fond of quoting Margaret Thatcher or Antonin Scalia rather than Barbra Streisand and Gloria Steinem.

Some of Miss Miers’ own comments border on male-bashing.

Whew! For a second there, it almost seemed like the Right was engaging in “political rancor” that would sully the “dignity of the Court” by using the ol’ “judicial warfare book - distort-defame-delay.”

Because we all know, the American people won’t stand for that stinky obstructionism.

If Miers gets beat, and Bush replaces her with an overt right-winger, and the Right tries to revert back to their old talking points, we’ll be ready to shove them back down their throats.

October 26, 2005 PERMALINK
Time To Get On The Offensive
(posted Oct. 26 1:30 AM ET)

According to the Financial Times, W. Post and The Washington Note, indictments (possibly under seal for the time being) are expected today.

So how did the pre-indictment spin battle wind up?

LiberalOasis called that battle over a couple weeks ago.

However, in recent days, there has been some scattered activity.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison tried the “perjury technicality” line. The Wall Street Journal tried to raise the bar on what should be considered worthy of indictment. Right-wing pundits on Hardball dusted off the Joe Wilson smears.

But it’s a last pre-indictment gasp, not a blast of spin well-coordinated from the top.

And it’s way too little, way too late.

The “perjury technicality” bit is being laughed out of town.

The pressure is not on the special counsel, it’s on the suspects.

Fitzgerald is walking tall, buffeted by glowing profiles, while targets snipe at each other. If Fitz has the goods, he has no political reason to flinch.

And the attempt to shift focus to Wilson has not worked on the public. CNN reports, “Only one in 10 Americans said they believe Bush administration officials did nothing illegal or unethical...”

So what does that mean for the post-indictment spin battle?

Before getting into that, it should be noted that it looks like we will have such a battle.

Earlier, LO suggested that the lack of a coordinated spin effort meant top officials may just fall on the sword to protect Bush and Cheney.

Now, we’re seeing reports that Libby may be turning on Cheney.

And the GOP is also signaling that they’re gearing up for a fight. MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell reported the following on Hardball last night:

A senior Republican tells MSNBC that the President’s damage control handlers are preparing for, quote, multiple scenarios to defend against potential indictments.

This adviser says, quote, it would be foolish not to...

...Sources say the Republican National Committee, led by Chairman Ken Mehlman, is prepared for a fight...

...one adviser pointed out to me today that they are going to keep the focus on Joe Wilson...so expect more battling to come, not only from Republicans, but from this White House...

That don’t sound like people are falling on swords. (Perhaps attempts at plea bargaining failed? Perhaps Fitz didn’t see a need to bite?)

So the spin battle may well be rejoined.

But before our truth and their lies meet once again, understand this.

There is no need to panic at the prospect of their spin.

Yes, the GOP Noise ‘n’ Slime machine is well-practiced and has a great track record.

But the GOP is on the defensive like never before in the Dubya Era.

Their spin efforts on PlameGate have failed since the summer.

They finish the pre-indictment stage quite weak, and actual indictments only put them further on the defensive.

Their big idea is to “keep the focus on Joe Wilson”? Go right ahead. See if anyone cares. No one has so far, and he’s not the one facing indictment.

We have no need to defensively rebut their spin line-by-line. Their two-bit spin can be slapped down and shrugged off.

We must seize the offensive.

Whether the indictments are about perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy or the Espionage Act, whether they hit deputies or top executives, they will be about the credibility of this Administration, the Republican Party and how they took the nation to war.

They will be about an effort to mask the actual foreign policy agenda of the Republican Party from the public, at home and abroad.

And they will raise the question: is an Administration that won’t tell the truth about its agenda able to work with the Iraqi people in the essential reconstruction of their country?

We have an opportunity to do much more than settle political scores.

We can reframe the discussion about the future of our foreign policy and change the perceptions of the two parties’ on national security.

But only if we realize that we can take the offensive.

October 24, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Oct. 24 12 AM ET)

Despite a Saturday attempt by the W. Times to create buzz for a Harriet Miers withdrawal, none of the seven Senators on the Sunday talkshows pushed for withdrawal.

That includes three GOP Senators who have expressed varying degrees of skepticism on Miers: Specter, Brownback and Allen.

If any one of them wanted to raise the pressure on Miers to fold, they could have built on the W. Times piece and aired the possibility.

Instead, when Brownback was asked about the piece – which claimed the White House was discussing the possibility of withdrawal – he threw cold water on it: “I haven't seen anything coming from the White House that says that they're going to pull this nomination.”

Furthermore, both Specter and Allen said Miers deserves to have her hearings.

All three Dem Senators on the shows – Leahy, Schumer and Feinstein – indicated the same.

Finally, The New York Times’ David Brooks shared this gossip/reporting on ABC’s This Week:

The President is defiant. I’m told that if Harriet Miers went to him and said, “I want out,” he would say, “No, we’re fighting this through.” Which happened with John Bolton...

...And then it goes over to the Senate, and a Senator told me this week, “if she’s a C-plus in the hearings, that’s good enough. She’ll get through.”

That is probably true.

Schumer offered on NBC’s Meet The Press that, “the hearings are going to be make or break ... in a way that they have not been for any other nominee ... she's going to have to do real well there.”

But is “real well” the standard for GOP Senators, as the vast majority of them are extremely reluctant and/or afraid to kick Bush when he’s down?

Highly doubtful. The C+ standard (not drooling on herself and not saying anything too controversial) will suit GOP Senators just fine.

Which means if Dems are serious about stopping Miers, they shouldn’t bank on Miers quitting before hearings or botching the hearings, and they shouldn’t bank on the renegade portion of the right-wing base successfully pressuring enough GOP Senators.

Those things could happen. But they are far from givens.

If Dems mean business (and we don’t know if they do), they need to plot a strategy that mostly relies on themselves.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Back To Iraq 3.0: "There are titanic forces moving beneath the surface all over the place: Iran, Iraq, Syria, France, the United States, Britain. They’re all related and I’m desperately trying to discern what’s happening, but it’s like watching the struggle of giant squids and sperm whales by observing the ripples on the surface. This is the new Great Game and the stakes are very high, indeed. With the publication of the Mehlis report — which I’m reading now — things will start to move very quickly now, I think, and there’s a straight road running from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Tehran, with off-ramps to the Palestinian camps of Lebanon to the Syrian border to Jordan."

The Angry Arab News Service: "now, the propaganda wars will begin. It can be predicted that one side (the Hariri funded side) will insist that this is an 'objective' and 'professional' report ... The other side, will insist that the report is politicized and will dig holes in it. And the Syrian government will continue to lie ... The US will have a new tool in its hand to add pressure on Syria, and if the regime feels endangered, the confronation between US and Syria will only get uglier, and the people of Syria, Lebanon AND Iraq will pay the price. The US is still tempted to play with fire in Lebanon, and that will not be pretty, not pretty for anybody ... And you wonder why I often miss the Cold War?"

Syria Comment: "Moshe Ma'oz is Israel's foremost Syria scholar. [His] is the best overview of how and why Syria-US relations have arrived at their present state of confrontation. His proposal for how both sides can climb down from this confrontation is reasonable. It probably makes too much sense to be followed by either side."

Mark A.R. Kleiman: "It seems to me that the Bush I crowd, including Bush I himself ... mostly feel about Bush II and his cronies the way the Kennedy folks felt about Jimmy Carter and what they considered and his band of yokels and second-raters. That split did the Democrats enormous harm, and I think the same dynamic is now at work among Republicans."

War and Piece: Libby's Obsession With Wilson

Oct. 21: It has been 832 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

firedoglake: "Anger can be a substantial motive. But anger at being publicly criticised during an ongoing fued, in an arena where large egos are a standard issue can result in some very bad decisions. In [the CIA Leak] case, some extremely stupid and overreaching decisions"

Just World News: "[There's] another very important part of Miller's record: the role she has played in disinformation campaigns aimed against the UN."

Oct. 20: It has been 831 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Whiskey Bar: What did Bush know and when did he know it?

Talking Points Memo cites the Nelson Report: "[John] Hannah has told associates he has been forced to cut a deal, and that they think this includes testifying against his immediate boss, Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Hannah’s name resonates to the insiders, since he is a samurai for UN Amb. John Bolton"

National Journal: "evidence that Libby might have tried to discourage Miller's testimony has put Libby's testimony in a worse light ... According to a Justice Department official ... "Both intent and frame of mind are often essential to bringing the type of charges Fitzgerald is apparently considering ...'" (TalkLeft reacts: "Libby appears to be in a heap of trouble.")

Oct. 19: It has been 830 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

TalkLeft: "I would guess anyone indicted in this case is looking at a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Many will be tempted to cut their losses now, particularly if they can plead to a misdemeanor, rather risk a felony conviction and mortgage their families' future."

NY Daily News: "Cheney's name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge - with help from a secret snitch. 'They have got a senior cooperating witness - someone who is giving them all of that,' a source who has been questioned in the leak probe told the Daily News yesterday."

Bitch Ph.D: "Harriet Miers pledged support in 1989 for a constitutional amendment banning abortions. Although the White House, and Miers herself, are attempting to plant the seeds of reasonable doubt ... this seems to me very clear evidence that we should oppose her confirmation with all our power."

Oct. 18: It has been 830 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Hullabaloo: "If Scooter and Turdblossom have to go down that's one thing --- revealing the true scope of the Iraq lies is another. Doing time for the GOP has become a badge of courage and it never stops anyone from finding their way back to the halls of power and making big money if they want to. As long as everybody keeps their mouths shut about the war, the family will take care of them."

firedoglake: "Seems like our boy Fitz is asking an awful lot of questions about Dick Cheney lately ... This morning's Bloomberg contains an intriguing story ..."

MaxSpeak: "One of the key issues is whether the government should be stockpiling large quantities of Tamiflu, the drug deemed most effective in combating Avian Flu. The major obstacle to large-scale stockpiling is that the drug is under patent by Roche ..."

Oct. 17: It has been 829 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

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