Friday, October 21, 2005

Rove-a-Palooza/Take a Letter from Libby/Miller's Crossing/Big Time!

Here's a bit from William Kristol's commentary in The Weekly Standard from next week--one with a very desperate tone of an apologist trying to hold on for dear life:
And here is the point: Unless the perjury is clear-cut or the obstruction

of justice willful and determined, we hope that the special prosecutor has the courage to end the inquiry without bringing indictments. It is fundamentally inappropriate to allow the criminal law to be used to resolve what is basically a policy and political dispute within the administration, or between the administration and its critics. One trusts that the special counsel will have the courage after conducting his exhaustive investigation to reject inappropriate criminal indictments if the evidence does not require them, no matter how much criticism he might then get from the liberal establishment that yearns to damage the Bush administration through the use of the criminal law.

And I will go out on a limb to say this, based on the very limited information one can glean from press accounts: It seems to me quite possible--dare I say probable?--that no indictments would be the just and appropriate resolution to this inquiry.

I say this knowing that administration officials may have engaged in behavior that is not altogether admirable. I say this knowing that legions of Clinton defenders will complain that conservatives were happy to support the impeachment of a president for lying under oath seven years ago. My response to the second charge is that if anyone lied under oath the way Bill Clinton did--knowingly and purposefully in order to thwart a legitimate legal process, or if anyone engaged in an obstruction of justice, the way Bill Clinton did, then indictments would be proper. What is more, the Clinton White House mounted an extraordinary--and successful--political campaign against the office of the independent counsel and the person of Kenneth Starr. All the evidence suggests that the Bush White House has been fully cooperative with, even deferential to, the Fitzgerald investigation. And as for the first point, many people in government and politics engage in behavior that is less than admirable. That said, defending one's bosses against criticism, and debunking their attackers, is not a criminal conspiracy. Spin is not perjury. Political hardball is not a felony.
OK, fine. I'm a Clintonista who's going to complain. And while I can harp on the relativism of importance between two investigations (Clinton's was about lying to cover a personal blemish; this one is potentially covering up a real federal crime--the outing of a covert CIA operative), the fact is that the members of the White House who are caught in the short hairs of this investigation have not been forthcoming. Here's one example, from the NYTimes:

In Mr. Rove's case, the prosecutor appears to have focused on two conversations with reporters. The first was a July 9, 2003, discussion with Mr. Novak in which, Mr. Rove has said, he first heard Ms. Wilson's name. The second conversation took place on July 11, 2003 with a Time magazine reporter, Matthew Cooper, who later wrote that Mr. Rove had not named Ms. Wilson but had told him that she worked at the C.I.A. and that she had been responsible for her husband being sent to Africa.

Mr. Rove did not tell the grand jury about his phone conversation with Mr. Cooper until months into the leak investigation, long after he had testified about his conversation with Mr. Novak, the lawyers said. Later, Mr. Rove said he had not recalled the conversation with Mr. Cooper until the discovery of an e-mail message about it that he sent to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser. But Mr. Fitzgerald has remained skeptical about the omission, the lawyers said.

And here's one for Libby from the AP article from yesterday:

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald now knows that Libby met three times with a New York Times reporter before the leak of Plame's identity, initiated a call to NBC's Tim Russert and was a confirming source about Wilson's wife for a Time magazine reporter.
Where Libby first heard the information still isn't publicly known, but a full three weeks before Plame's name first showed up in print, Libby was telling New York Times reporter Judith Miller that he thought Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, according to Miller's testimony.

While Libby maintains that he didn't know Plame's name until it was published in the news media, the now-public evidence suggests Libby at least was aware that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and that he spread the information.

Prosecutors must determine whether it was part of an effort to undermine the credibility of Plame's husband who was criticizing the White House.
This whole thing starts with mean-spirited hubris, and I guess that's a political behavior that Kristol can excuse. I don't. If the Clinton administration was ever this full of venom, my support would have eroded quickly. But like I said--it's about far more than playing political hardball. It's appearing, through all the drips and drabs of news leaks coming out this week, that there has indeed been some perjury and conspiracy going on and perhaps some trouncing of individual citizen's civil liberties. Is it provable enough to write up some indictments? I don't know, though I certainly hope so.


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