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July 22, 2005


Houston Chronicle must be like the WSJ: a good paper with editorial pages that contradict the sound reporting found in the news section. I spent a couple weeks in Houston last year, and I thought the news coverage was pretty solid.

And I think you're 100% correct, that if the Repubs are saying this is a sign of Democratic desperation, than the Repubs don't really have much of a talking point to push.

for the detail oriented from JMM:

Now, I know we've got a few balls in the air already. But let me note one other point.

A few days ago a former high-level administration official who was on Air Force One going to Africa with the president (and think for a moment how many now-former administration officials were on that flight in a position to vouch for this fact) told Bloomberg News that he saw Ari Fleischer "perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife."

So Perhaps Libby and Rove found out about Plame from Fleischer, who would have been calling back to the White House. Or perhaps they got it from their research and authorship of the Tenet mea culpa. It seems quite conceiveable that they got it from both directions. Remember, Libby would have had no shortage of access to former CIA officers and CIA personnel on loan to the administration who could have given him more backstory on Plame. The two channels might even help explain the two versions of her name that were in circulation.

In any case, there was no shortage of channels through which they might have gotten the information. But each, it seems, in his grand jury testimony, has claimed he learned the information from journalists -- even though the journalists disagree.

Good point about the Chronicle, DHinMI. Many papers make a wall between editorial and news content. Not everyone is the Washington Times.

great comment from Digby:

If this is true, the wingnuts are going to have to call Father Tim and poor old Bob Novak liars. I have no doubt they will do it if they have to. But this game gets more and more dangerous for them every day.

And the thing about Libby is just delicious. WTF, did Scooter just blurt out Tim Russert's name without thinking? If he lied about the Monsignor he was making a grave error. There aren't many media figures in Washington who are viewed with any reverence anymore, but he's one of them, as sad a comment as that is. It's a fatal error to get into a he said/she said with a guy like him --- if there's a trial, he's the guy who will be believed.

another good read from Wolcott on the meaning of the DSM:

Kinsley comes off rather the worse in the exchange, if I may deploy a rare bit of understatement. And I agree with Danner that the American people are coming to understand what the grand high exalted mystic pundits seem willfully to miss:

"We must be grateful that the American polity is broader and more complex than the American press. Kinsley claims that the Downing Street memo 'will not persuade anyone who is not already persuaded. That doesn't make it wrong. But it does make the memo fairly worthless.' But it is Kinsley who is quite demonstrably wrong on this question. Whether or not the memo will 'persuade anyone who is not already persuaded' is of course an empirical question and I know myself a number of people who have been so persuaded. And the fact that more than half of all Americans now believe the President and his administration intentionally 'misled the American public before the war' seems a rather strong suggestion that, as a matter of persuasion and of politics, the Downing Street memo is very far from worthless."

Again, for the detail-minded:

The NYT story that Rove and Libby (and Hadley) were all working on the push-back on the 16 words story, on Tenet's forthcoming press release, at the same time as they were doing damage control on Wilson is interesting. Recall that the ONE time that the Bush Administration ever admitted a mistake was on the 16 words. Tenet said that they should not have been in the SOTU.

That was really the important aspect of the story, as it was the first (and last) break in the Bush Admin's facade of infallibility. Also, it took direct aim at one of the twin pillars of the "mushroom cloud" rationale for the war, the one thing that really scared people. (The other was the aluminum tubes, also false.)

No wonder Rove, trying to keep up the facade of infallibility, and Libby, on behalf of his patron, the one person who still really believed Saddam had WMD and had been buying uranium in Niger, fought back so hard. Also, on July 10 Senator Rockefeller accused Rice and Hadley of forcing tenet to take the blame for the 16 words, so he had an interest in exactly what Tenet said too. Discounting Wilson was important to explain why no one had either received, or perhaps just paid attention to, the CIA's report on Wilson's findings. Once the Niger documents had been exposed as forgeries, there were statements from INR that they never should have been taken seriously in the first place.

As Pollyusa theorized on Kos last night, as part of the push-back effort they would have only seen the first INR report, the one that did not mention Wilson's wife by name. But once you know she is important to the story because she worked at the CIA in WMD, I think it would have been relatively easy to find out her first and maiden name.

Pollyusa also theorized that Rove and Libby probably believed that they could sneak the "Wilson's wife, who worked at the CIA, sent him to Niger" into Tenet's press release. That, of course, is not really plausible, because Tenet would presumably never burn an agent like that, but Rove and Libby may have thought they had the ability to sneak that in there when Rove talked to Cooper.

But the Tenet July press release does not mention Wilson's wife and says that the CIA's counter-proliferation folks sent Wilson on their own initiative.

So Rove and/or Libby esclated and had Novak put Plame's name in his column, which he had been writing and which was posted the same day.

This still does not explain why Novak used Plame's maiden name. That may have been, as many have theorized, a shot across Tenet's bow for not cooperating with the Wilson smear. Or there could have been more nefarious reasons.

In any event, as the head of the agency that made the referral to DOJ, Tenet and his staff would have had a great deal to tell DOJ and, especially, an independent prosecutor once he had been appointed. All the more since the Bush Admin was trying to pin the blame for faulty intel on the CIA, not on Cheney for corrupting the process and lying us into war.

Ans as they all scramble to avoid criminal liability, they are likely to share more of the story with us.

In a certain way I think Kinsley is right about the DSM - but in a way that isn't the least helpful to Bush.

It's hard for me to imagine people reading about the DSM and suddenly leaping up crying "the scales have fallen from my eyes!" Rather, people who have already turned against the war, or are in process of turning, focus on the DSM as a way to handle the cognitive dissonance of their previous support (or at least acceptance): "I was lied to."

The strange and sad thing is that most people kinda sorta knew this all along. Remember the infamous line about never rolling out a new product in August? People (at least those even minimally attentive) knew they were being pushed into this thing. The war never generated any broad public enthusiasm - at most, an attitude of "Well, we're in it now, so hope to God it goes well."

The DSM simply formalizes the reality of the ad campaign.

DemFromCT - while Republican shills are beginning to call the focus on Rove 'desperate' on the part of Democrats

This is curiously evocative of the now-defunct spin that the upsurge of insurgency violence in Iraq was "desperate," and a last gasp before their inevitable collapse.

-- Rick Robinson

As a side comment, a question now arises about Judy Miller's role in all this. A week or two ago, a plausible theory was that she had found out about Plame through her own reporting (using that word a bit loosely), and outed her to Rove. From this was inferred the possibility that she was in a jam not for refusing to say what she told Rove, but for refusing to say who outed Plame to her.

But it is looking now more and more as if Rove got Plame's identity from within the WH, either while ghostwriting Tenets mea culpa or from someone on AF1 who saw the INR memo.

So is Judy in the Big House merely because Luskin didn't shoot off his mouth in a way that gave her an out? Or is she still tied more deeply to this in some way not now apparent to us?

-- Rick Robinson

One note on JMM's details. JMM says "high-level administration official" but the actual quote is "according to a former administration official." Not necessarily a high level official. Particularly given that, according to DC code for anonymous sources they normally WOULD have called Powell "high-level" I'm not entirely convinced this is Powell. There are a few more people in the Administration who that might have been, such as Adam Levine. I just have never seen a list of who all was on AF1 that week.


I've been thinking recently about Wilson's first appearance on CNN (finally got his book, but haven't gotten there yet). This was right after Baradei had debunked the forgeries and before we went to war. That is, Wilson deprived BushCo of their plausible deniability on the forgeries, as much as on the SOTU. And it was at this point that CheneyCo started their workup on Wilson.

I think the real problem for Wilson was not so much that he revealed what he knew, but he revealed what he knew before we started the war. With Wilson saying, "no, the State Department DID know those documents were wrong" before the war, it makes the difference between a war based on ignorance (which BushCo are still claiming) and a war based on willful credulity.

I think you are right. He was dangerous because he was someone outside gov't (unlike the INR analysts) who had direct knowledge that they knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that the nuclear rationale was way overblown, and had enough credibility from his past career to get himself on TV, in touch with reporters, and potentially listened to. He was apparently also somewhat close to Scowcroft, who, you remember, wrote an op-ed against going to war. So he isn't Michael Moore or some lefty journalist. He is a credible and articulate source who knew they lied, or at least were incredibly blinkered and gullible.

Do read the part of the book Sara referred to yesterday, pp. 232-234, describing a friend's (failed) recruitment to the neocon network.

want to see desperate? Take a look at the right side of the page.

I found the Bolton nugget in the NYT story very interesting

In his disclosure form for his confirmation hearings, Mr. Bolton made no mention of being interviewed in the case, a government official said. In the week after Mr. Wilson's article appeared, Mr. Bolton attended a conference in Australia.
From Hardball last night it was disclosed that he did testify
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A witness who testified at the grand jury and lawyers for other witnesses say the memo was written in July of 2003, identified Valerie Wilson, also known as Valerie Plame, as a CIA officer, and cited her in a paragraph marked S for sensitive.

According to lawyers, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and undersecretaries, including John Bolton, gave testimony about this memo....


I like the intro to this thread, Perjury or Conspiracy. I'd like to help sort that out, because the two fit together in cases like this.

I used to teach a piece on Conspiracy Law for non=Lawyer Historical students, because it is the legal theory on which many of the attacks on Progressive Social Movements rested, and it is also the theory on which most Government Scandal Cases get tried. So it is important to understand.

A conspiracy is possible when two or more people agree to coordinate action that either (A) has an illegal objective, and/or )B) has a perfectly legitimate objective that is to be accomplished through illegal means. It is a very simple formulation,

Other crimes that can be proven such as Perjury, Obstruction of Justice, Lying to a Federal Officer or Grand Jury, -- you name it -- these are items on the B side of the conspiracy equation. They show that individuals did something in furtherance of the overarching conspiracy. In essence you need appropriate ones you can prove up as the building blocks of proving the core charge, there was a Conspiracy. So it is never either/or, it is both and.

In this case I think Wilson identifies the date of the birth of the conspiracy -- the meeting called in Cheney's office (Cheney probably was not present) in response to Wilson's appearance on CNN the day after the UN was informed the documents were frauds, forgeries. What Wilson said simply was that State and the White House had dependable ways of knowing that before the UN Security Council revelation. (State had dismissively said they were fooled.)

This cut to the heart of their fake argument for a war that had not yet kicked off -- so Wilson was a huge danger. They also knew, or should have known that Wilson was not an oddball anti-war protester -- he was part of the governing circle, He was not only close to Scowcroft, but to Jim Baker, to GHW Bush, to Eagleberger, and they had sponsored his association with the Middle East Institute, (old line Think Tank) and MEI was booking Wilson on to TV talk Shows, panel discussions and all. (see p. 306-07 in Wilson's book). In otherwords he was a real threat because he had the connections and access to do them damage. Had to be stopped!!!!

If Fitzgerald is successful in bringing a large conspiracy case it could be a doozy, because the rational for smearing Wilson and his wife was to stop a well founded criticism of the Invasion Policy by illegal means. The key here is the illegal means. If they had decided to send Shouting Neo-Cons on to TV to scream at Wilson -- that would not be illegal. Anyhow from this point on you can go lots of places from the first week in March up to the combat around Wilson's op-ed in July. If someone rifled Wilson's personnel file at State so as to find derrogatory information about him -- that would be missappropriation of Government Property.

We know that some of the Neo-con pundits such as Clifford May learned about Wilson, and had instructions to smear him, somewhat before things ramped up in the Summer of 2003. I suspect Fitzgerald has asked a few questions about who suggested they take this tact. If they received any of their information from someone with a security clearance, and the information provided depended on that access -- you could easily push the effort back into April and May. In otherwords this conspiracy has the potential of getting to the heart of the Republican Noise Machine as well as to other things. As I said, it is a potential Doozy.

One thing about Conspiracy Charges is the very high potential that someone on the inside will break, and testify against the others -- this is because in Conspiracy the actions of others attach to all participants. There is a huge incentive for individual members to turn state's evidence and take a plea to one charge, and testify against the others. That is what John Dean did in Watergate as well as Jeb MacGruder. In otherwords with all this breaking right now, the incentive is there for someone to get on the train first, and provide the best evidence against the other participants. (I am looking at Ari and Andrew Card with interest.) I also suspect Jimes Carville is working Mary over pretty well, trying to get her a ticket on the train. In otherwords the possibility of conspiracy charges makes everyone involved an enemy of the others. For Fitzgerald is probably looking at who is essential for telling the story, and letting some lawyers know that if their client wants a cheap ticket out, they better come in and talk today.

My guess is that the focus on Rove is an indication that Fitzgerald has run the cases against Rove by his counsel, and made clear it is either turn against all the rest, or face some pretty open and shut charges. I think the noise we hear from that camp is the caught squealing Pig sound.

Let me post this, and then return with some additional comments.

Sara, thank you... crystal clear for this non-lawyer.

I know that people probably want to know how "high" this goes -- was W involved at any level in the conspiracy? Will it lead to impeachment? What about Cheney?

I think Cheney is vulnerable to being charged if they have a solid case against him, and if you remember the Agnew precident, it is not necessary to first impeach and convict a VP before you charge him, as would be the case with the President. If charged, he would probably have to resign. My guess is he would get sicker in the ticker and resign for health reasons.

As to George Walker Bush -- I seriously doubt if he would be impeached, given this congress. I suspect what we are looking at is a kind of "Regency" such as we had after Iran-Contra evolved, and they put Howard Baker in Reagan's office to keep him going through the end of his term. He would have to purge all the Neo-con's, and accept a very diminished presidency -- a new VP who would not run in 2008, and from outside his circle. I think Condi would have to go, probably Rumsfeld and all his crowd, and my guess is that in some form Powell would be back as regent -- perhaps as Chief of Staff. They might send Lugar to State, and probably find a non-political for Defense and DOJ. In otherwords the way out for GWB would be to become a figurehead. They might even make Daddy the guardian. This would be instead of impeachment because that approach would be impossible.

The establishment has its ways -- and this fight is all about that.

Very good as always, Sara. Definitely a case of Prisoner's Dilemma.

As I noted a while back -- smell the compelling parallel's between WH defense of the Sixteen Words and WH defense of the Plame Outing ... especially the early orchestration. Same modus operandi, same mind behind the motions.

And same can't-possibly-work-in-the-long-run defects, just pressing ahead on pure determination, hubris and faith that all the faithful will keep singing harmony until the next scandal blows this one off Page One.

Remember also that Watergate evolved as a cover-up of a cover-up of a cover-up.

Regarding Regency, I guess I should drop in a handy link to my Independence Day post.

Democratic Strategy.

Look, I am a Democrat -- infact I am betyter than that, I am a Democratic Farmer Laborite of the Wellstone School of Politics. Any strategy the Democrats evolve in the face of this has to be about regaining power in legitimate ways so as to have the power to do good for the little fella, in the language of Wellstone. So while a strategy of revenge may emotionally appeal, now is not the time for that. Let the Republicans do in their own with the help of the center of the Establishment, and while cheering them as they do it, and egging them on is good strategy, the real Democratic Strategy has to be about a narrative of "why" this happened that will break into the Republican Coalition is a significant way.

While I don't think we can break into the hard core evangelicals -- I do think we can break up the larger coalition by focusing on the "bearing False Witness" aspect of this whole case. (And I would suggest using that King James version language.) Yes, sometimes politics does involve a bit of fibbing and spinning -- but there is a huge difference between that and lying to start a war. Little white lies versus big black ones. I think we need to wrap this whole issue in this sort of language.

Taking another step -- we have a number of good Democrats who supported Bush on Iraq in 2002-03. People like Kerry. We need to make the case that they were "white hats" because they "trusted" the President, and in normal times when a President testifies to the evidence for an important policy, it ought to be understood as truthful. Sadly, Bush was a Black Hat -- made false witness to Congress. Had the means to know it was false witness. In otherwords give Hilary and Kerry and the rest of them a way out of their dilemma. In the end we will be much better off making the case that congress has to have access to solid information on which to form opinions (end secrecy of executive department evidence) and that given that, Senators and Congressmembers should then be held responsible for their judgments. This would go a fair piece toward ending the Partisian Lock Step Dance.

The Bush Administration governs on a pattern of bearing false witness -- for instance screwing up science data before publication is a form of bearing false witness. In otherwords spread out the formal criticism to a host of other issues. If you fake up the economic statistics, the notion that social security is about to go bust, or the High School graduation rate -- you are bearing false witness. Not everyone cares that much about Iraq or al-Qaeda -- so spread the idea over other issues.

Then Democrats need candidates who can carry this message well in both 2006 and 2008, and maybe we'll win some elections, and be able to talk reasonably and powerfully about how to help the little fella.

Anyhow, that's my strategy.

Sara -- Agreed. We can't drive, but we can assist at certain pressure points as the establishment bites the bullet and plucks out the eye that offends it.

And our thematic focus should be on dishonesty -- NOT corruption. Big difference, and big topic for another time.

Anyway, the big story now has legs of its own. There's now a journalistic ecosystem developing, with nests and colonies and food chains of critters demanding to be fed ... under publish-or-perish thermodynamic constraints.

This blog is a natural home for Sara, the best non-economic blog poster without a permanent home. I think somebody should make her an offer......

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