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October 21, 2005

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These tentative discussions come at a time when White House senior officials are exploring staff changes to address broader structural problems that have bedeviled Bush's second term, according to Republicans who said they could speak candidly about internal deliberations only if they are not named. But it remains unclear whether Bush agrees that changes are needed and the uncertainty has unsettled his team.

"People are very demoralized and unhappy," a former administration official said. "The leak investigation is [part of it], but things were not happy before this took preeminence. It's just been a rough year. A lot has gotten done, but nothing is easy."

That's too bad. But of course, Bush doesn't agree. He's the greatest thing to happen to DC since air conditioning.

P.S. Who is going to tell him?

note the NY Times article specifically says:

Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy, the lawyers said, but only this week has Mr. Fitzgerald begun to narrow the possible charges. The prosecutor has said he will not make up his mind about any charges until next week, government officials say.

I guess it's official.

Hey, where are all the economists?

The coverup is worse than the crime? It can't be. Republicans are rational economic actors, right? Isn't that what they're always telling us? Therefore, the very reason they cover up is because the crimes are so much worse. Economics contemplates no other explanation.

And part of the strategy is, will be, and always was to go to jail for obstruction of justice and perjury -- much easier to paint as "criminalizing politics" than going to jail for espionage.

Assuming Waas's article is all true, isn't there at least a prima facie case that Miller is obstructing justice? Or maybe even part of the conspiracy itself. After all, what possible motive could she have for concealing the June 23 meeting other than to protect Libby? I wonder if Fitz is holding an obstruction or conspiracy charge over her head as well as the perjury. It would be a shame if she got off scot-free, but if she really has ratted out half the administration, she'll suffer enough from fatigue (sleeping with one eye open) and anxiety (starting her car).

The coverup is worse than the crime because it is the coverup that gets you caught, that's all. Since Watergate people haven't examined what the phrase really means. Coverup crimes such as obstruction and perjury are much easier to prove than most of the substantive original crimes, so they not only get you caught, they get you indicted. And some of what the Nixonites did wasn't criminal in the strict sense, but the obstruction was.

But even if the old adage were true in general, the crimes of the Bush Adminsitration, especially hijacking the foreign policy aparatus per Larry Wilkerson and ginning up evidence to push the nation into war and, perhaps, serving the interests of foreign powers, are so much worse than Nixon that for them the adage can't possibly be true. Nor for the NYTimes.

The coverup is worse than the crime because it is the coverup that gets you caught, that's all. Since Watergate people haven't examined what the phrase really means. Coverup crimes such as obstruction and perjury are much easier to prove than most of the substantive original crimes, so they not only get you caught, they get you indicted. And some of what the Nixonites did wasn't criminal in the strict sense, but the obstruction was.

But even if the old adage were true in general, the crimes of the Bush Adminsitration, especially hijacking the foreign policy aparatus per Larry Wilkerson and ginning up evidence to push the nation into war and, perhaps, serving the interests of foreign powers, are so much worse than Nixon that for them the adage can't possibly be true. Nor for the NYTimes.

In this instance the cover-up is not worse than the crime. The crime being leading us into a war based on lies and, with the Larry Franklin spy scandal, probably doing the bidding of a foreign government. Can we say treason?

Our democracy has become so undone we do not go anywhere near an outright investigation of those responsible for taking this country to war based on trumped up charges, aka lies, a war which has done unfathomable damage at home and abroad. Historians may never be able to unravel the sordid saga should one of them try.

No one's really saying the cover-up is worse than the crime. The cover-up is just more prosecutable than the crime.

That more evil actions are less prosecutable is a fundamental failure of our justice system.

It's academic whether cover-up is worse than the crime, because they're going to get nailed for both. But for what it's worth, my vote is with emptywheel that the crime in this case is infinitely worse.

Guys like Rove and Libby made their way to the top by screwing over and ruthlessly character assassinating countless numbers, not just opposition Democrats but rival Republicans too.

When they were powerful, nobody wanted to screw around with 'em, but now that they're going down, it's amazing the amount of dirt that is coming out on them.

'pockets, there are 4 major news items today fron LA Times, WaPo, NY Times and WSJ. Only the NY Times focuses on cover-up, and so that's how I interpret their story, which btw doesn't mention Judy. Calome's public editor column this Sunday should be very interesting. They owe us more.

I don't think they'll get nailed for both. I think they'll get nailed for the coverup, but the crime may be too big and too broad to name, much less nail down.

From the perpetrator's perspective, it's probably not even a good bet to engage in the coverup at all, given that the crimes are so far-reaching and yet at the same time so nebulous that there's very little likelihood that they'll be directly prosecuted.

But as a sort of game theory problem, I suppose it's better to gamble that you'll be nailed for obstruction/perjury which carry light sentences and are colorable as "just politics," as opposed to rolling the dice on drawing a prosecutor who's capable of distilling a real crime out of the ether of your actions.

Crimes like obstruction and perjury are soon enough forgotten. But if Fitzgerald was able to paint a clear picture of an understandable crime out of Plamegate -- or rather out of the manipulation of intelligence and the march to war -- we'd experience a seismic shakeup of our social and constitutional foundations that might put you in Benedict Arnold's league.

Of course, no one would be willing to believe that about themselves, so the chances that such a decision would be made with that possibility in mind is probably ridiculous. Still, there's more than just the possibility of conviction of an actual crime to worry about. If the aftermath of this investigation was to establish that "Republicans lied under oath," that wouldn't be so bad. But if it was established that "Republicans lied us into a war," that'd be something else entirely.

I think they obstructed justice with that outcome in mind.

the court of public opinion is another story. What were they lying about? what were they covering up? Want to revisit watergate?

PS Hpwabout John dean (worse than watergate) on all the sunday shows, hardball, etc?

The court of public opinion? You mean American Idol?

The cover-up is sometimes more easily prosecuted, and in complex cases [like Andersen/Enron document shredding] the cover-up is more easily understood by the jury (be it in formal court, or the court of public opinion).

Also, the cover-up evinces consciousness of guilt. It fairly well shouts "GULTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!".

Also, the cover-up evinces consciousness of guilt.

That's a good point. Go after them for lying about the war and there will be chest-puffery and proclamations that they did what was good for their country. Show that they lied about it and that pride doesn't fly.

One might suggest that it seems like prosecutors (and journalists) always go after the cover-up, not because they always do but because those are the times when they succeed.

I wasn't paying attention to politics at the time, but during Iran-Contra: the bad guys were being investigated for the actual crime more than the cover-up then, right? And they were able to sit with medals on and claim they acted in the country's best interest? or am I mixed up as usual

I am wondering about two related issues. First, did the country's reaction post-Watergate lead to good law changes or bad as a result of the Watergate scandal? What is likely to happen as a response to the exposed Bush scandals well down the road?

Second and related! Conservative Repubs seem to be the only ones to win big in the last 35 years with the Dems more or less squeaking by when they do win. Nixon won in 68 and trounced the Dems in 72. Due to post-Watergate reaction, the Dems did win in 76, but not by a 72 style landslide. Then Reagan goes on to win quite easily in 1980 and another trouncing in 2004. Things have gotton closer in most elections since then with Clinton winning fairly easily but not by landslides.

Why did not the Dems win by a landslide in 76 post-Watergate, and will the Bush scandals lead to a Dem landslide in 2008? If not, why not, as the political soil will never be richer against the Repubs than it should be now!

I don't think the public is ready to accept that the cover-up is worse than the crime after Martha Stewart. It established a paradigm that sometimes the government investigates you when you've committed no crime, but ends up prosecuting you because you slipped up during the questioning. Of course, one can always argue "why would you lie if you've got nothing to hide" but that argument only gets you so far.

Kagro and or Dem,

What do you make of the new web site that Fitz has put up at DOJ? The discussion on Kos leads one to believe that a) he was making sure that everyone knows what his authority is b) it gives him a vehicle for the document dump and c) it will probably be big and perhaps of a large scope, thus the specifics of his authority spelled out in documents on the site.

I think where there's smoke, there's fire. I think Rove and Libby get indicted, and at the least it becomes clear it's a bigger problem than just perjury. Monday or Wednesday, there are indictments.

Catch Hardball tonight. But we'll know next week.

Noted in passing: Bush approval all-time low (42-56) in Rasmussen (GOP) daily tracking.

Noted in passing: Bush approval all-time low (42-56) in Rasmussen (GOP) daily tracking.

Ah, he finally hit 42?

See also this interesting post from firedoglake on Bill Keller's Judyache.

Well, emptypockets, I'm afraid it was pretty much the same in Iran-contra for the medal wearers. Col. North pretty much won the public opinion battle by playing the hero in the hearings. As for the trial of a man who had illegally run guns to our friend the Iranian ayatollah and using the cash to fund the terrorism of our friends the contras, he was only nailed for shredding government documents (cover-up), lying to Congress (cover-up) and accepting an illegal personal gratuity from Richard Secord, the very guy whose company was providing Iran the guns.

As you may recall, North burned many documents and had some smuggled from the White House BEFORE the investigation got underway. If he hadn't been caught, his total take from Secord would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, the court of public opinion cheers him on today - and boosts his personal treasury - with the same discrimination they employ with American Idol.

I'm only shocked that he's not running some federal department these days. Maybe making bulletproof vests is just too lucrative to give up.

I love this one:

So many leaks are coming fast and furious now in the Plame/Fitzgerald case that it's hard to know sometimes where they're coming from or what the leakers were trying to achieve. Perhaps the best example of this was yesterday's Daily News story by Tom DeFrank, which provided the first clear evidence that President Bush has known who the culprits were from the beginning and possibly failed to disclose that to Patrick Fitzgerald in their interview last year.

Why would White House officials sell the president out like that? The question becomes more pointed when you note that DeFrank, as we discussed yesterday, has long been close to people in the Bush world.

So what's the story?

According to knowledgeable sources, those White House officials behind that story were trying to help the president, not hurt him. The story, in their view, was about his unhappiness with what Rove had done but his loyalty to those who work for him.

MB, thanks. As with most politics before I began paying attention the last few years, my sum knowledge comes from old Doonesbury strips. (on the Iran-Contra affair, Roland Hedley's "voyage into Reagan's brain" in the strip was eerily prescient by the way.)

I think of Watergate as a paradigm for "bad guys get caught" and Iran-Contra as a paradigm for "bad guys get off." From a satellite's-eye point of view that's about right isn't it?

Watergate I think of as being prosecuted mainly as a cover-up. As you point out, North was only nailed on cover-up-type charges not for the orginal crimes he was concealing. But I think of the Iran-Contra hearings as fundamentally about those crimes, and only peripherally about the cover-up. Is that right or have I spent too long reading the funnies?

I think that's one of the big open questions for where we're going here: will the investigation, if we really get one, be primarily into the cover-up or into the actual crimes. Most lefty bloggers are hoping it will expand to cover the actual crimes. We may have a better chance of seeing at least a partial regime change if Fitz sticks to the cover-up.

@kagro, I think they'll be nailed for all elements of the crime and cover-up:

1. Crime

a. Breaking some statute by revealing Plame's name. They did a work-up on Wilson and conceded talking about Wilson and Plame amongst themselves well before leaking her name to reporters.

They've tried to finger reporters as giving them the information, but all of the reporters have denied being the source and these denials are plausible as who is more likely to have top secret info? Who has the motive to spread dirt on Wilson to cover their butts?

b. The greater crime of lying to American citizens to prosecute a completely unnecessary war. They're already being convicted of this, look at Bush's dropping poll numbers.

2. Cover-up. We've already all discussed and read enough to know that they're going down for the cover-up.

'pockets, Watergate was about using any means necessary to trash your opponents - from fake letters (rat-fucking as Don Segretti called it) to break-ins (Watergate DNC headquarters, Daniel Ellsberg's shrink) which were unarguably illegal. Playing hardball is arguably legal, but the standard Bush set when running (restoring honor and dignity to the WH) is so much crap that it takes a good deal of work to keep the illusion going.

Bush is Nixon's heir, not Reagan's. The Reagan people don't want him. And Bush fears that the public will see him wearing not the mantle of St. Ronald but the albatross of Tricky Dick.

NG, all national politics since 1968 has to be interpreted with two big picture considerations in mind (and they are closely related).

The first was the historic transition of the southern white voter from a democrat (on account of hating Lincoln and the radical reconstructionists) to republicans on account of hating johnson.

The second was the other aspect of the breakup of FDR's New Deal coalition (other than the loss of the south) - the split between what you might call the hawk/culturally conservative wing of the party (the scoop jackson democrats, some of whom became neocons and virtually all of whom became reagan republicans) and the antivietnam/culturally liberal wing of the party.

i saw a nice quote recently from someone on the right, which went roughly as follows: "you were right about vietnam, and what good did it do you politically?"

the southern white voter (never forget that bush carried the 13 states of the confederacy by 5.5M votes and lost the other 37 states by 2.5M votes) is a lost cause for the dems, but ironically, now we are seeing the split in the reagan coalition that replaced the fdr coalition finally revealed: the fantasists (and religious fundamentalists) vs. the realists.

i happen to think that the dems best target of opportunity are the realists (i often call them the honest consevatives), but i digress: in terms of your question, what watergate did was to delay the inevitable.

After all, Nixon creamed McGovern in '72; Reagan won very big in '80. Had there been no watergate, and therefore, no ford, reagan would have won the nomination in '76 and he would have kicked ass then instead....

RevDeb,

I noticed a Daily Kos diary on that web site today, but I didn't read the whole thing. Are we sure it's new? Certainly it's not something you'd expect to see go up a week before the grand jury expires if he's not planning on using it for something besides what's there now.

DemFromCT -- Bush is Nixon's heir, not Reagan's. Not only that, but Bush43 is Nixon's heir, not Bush41's.

And Steve Clemons is on another roll.

Kagro, I wondered the very same thing: how long the Fitzgerald site had been up. But it is new; there's a link in the Kos diary to a news item about it. Furthermore, a commenter determined that the PDF files on the site had been scanned only a few days ago.

Howard, I have one quibble with your nice analysis. Nixon creamed McGovern BECAUSE of Watergate. Remember what Watergate was really about. Nixon's crew managed, through dirty tricks, to eliminate our best candidate, Muskie, and (I believe) the two next best. McGovern was the one left standing, by intention. He was a good man but a horrible campaigner. Thus the sea of red with one blue commonwealth.

And yes, Kagro, the implications of that website going up just now are delicious.

Just a smidgen more about Watergate: Congressman Drinan tried to make lying about Vietnam one of the articles of Nixon's impeachment -- that went nowhere as cover-up was more comfortable to ALL the power players. But underlying Watergate was the seething division in the country about Vietnam -- how else would burgling Ellsberg's shrink ever have assumed any significance?

The lesson I'd draw from that parallel is that to lie about a war, and then lose the war, can bring down, temporarily, segments of the US ruling class. If they just lie and then mostly win, as the Reaganites did in squashing egalitarian movements in Central America in the 80s, the US people will let them get away with it.

scientistmom, fair point.

janinsanfran, unless my aging memory is letting me down, drinan wanted to make lying about cambodia part of the articles of impeachment, not vietnam.

great conversation tonight. and janinsanfran, you have to win the war to be the war president. Losing the war is Bush's biggest problem right now amongst many.

Howard, I support your interpretation of post-'68 presidential results, and would maybe even simplify it further: after the break-up of the Roosevelt coalition, the GOP had the wind at its back, so when they had an incumbent-favorable year, they cashed in majorly. Dems, on the other hand, were always hobbled by those lost Wallace voters, so even when they had a decent opportunity like '76, they had to fight for the win.

And I'd say a near-opposite is in effect now. Bush has now had two "victories" in a row, and has barely squeaked by in either (no sense rearguing 2000). What will defeat look like? The fact that all those 3- and 4-point states in the Rocky Moutains are so Republican mean Dems will never score the near-shutouts Nixon and Reagan pitched. If, however, the GOP faces a tuly unfavorable year -- like, with Bush's approvals still where they are today -- the lean in the body politic (with so many states like CA, IL, NY and all NE but NH solidly Dem) will likely mean a very easy Democratic win -- like Clinton's second, but with 2/3 or better of the Perot votes going Dem.

demtom, thanx, and i like your simplification. you also make a point that i often do, although i didn't bother earlier: it's in the '68 wallace voters that we see the movement: in '72, they all went for nixon. in '76, they split between carter and ford. from '80 on, they've largely gone republican.

In various ways, I think the similarity between Watergate and the current "maze: (I wish we could finally agree on a term,) is that both are about institutional power struggles between the Executive and Congress. The Proximate cause of Watergate becoming a major issue was first of all, the stonewalling of the Patman hearings during the fall of 1972, and then Nixon's post election decision to sequester appropriated funds on one hand, and ignore other instructions (mostly involving defunding support for Vietnam) in the budget of 1972. Constitutionally, Congress has the power of the purse -- and in 1972 (even though McGovern lost) they exercised it -- Nixon tried to assume more executive power, and Congress struck back. The decision to do the Ervin hearings was the available strike back. I actually don't think most members of Congress expected to find what they found -- Remember the Ervin Resolution was focused on Campaign Finance matters. But once started, they had to do a civil job of it, and out came all the rot. Nixon in his own clumsy way tried to strike back, and only made his situation worse.

This too is in large measure about division of powers, but it is a different issue. Congress was totally incompetent in evaluating the argument for the Iraq war -- and earlier they were even more incompetent in comprehending al-Qaeda and terrorism. They were essentially afraid to conduct proper hearings -- educate themselves and the American People on that score -- and handed off to Bush the broad resolutions, with no oversight to make war. In otherwords, they gave up congressional power, the purse, and responsibility. And the Executive took that bit in its teeth and ran amok with it. The criminal slime has risen to the top, and now hopefully it will be law, and the Judicary that will rebalance things.

I think the comparison really has to be around the notion of power, and how it is distributed. I don't expect this Congress to reach in and try to retrive their share -- but maybe that should be a theme in the Democrats 2006 Election mantra.

Let me also add my guess as to the structure of the indictments about which I have been trying to read crumbs for the last few days. I go with the BIG CASE.

I argue for three seperate conspiracy charges. The first could be focused on the forged documents -- who did it, and who worked with whom to insert them into the intelligence systems, and then nurtured them along so they could be the basis for policy. Most of the overt acts here would date to December 2001 and early 2002. I realize people like to use the word lie -- and this is a constructive lie -- but it is a conspiracy to commit fraud, and now knowing that Fitzgerald has been working with Paul McNulty who indicted Larry Franklin et. al., and has the Italian report on this -- I suspect he may indict for this (Ledeen, Chalabi, Rhode, Elliott Abrams, Duane Clarridge, and others who moved the fake documents.) Protecting this -- covering it up, is the proximate cause for screwing Joe Wilson -- and that's my second count of Conspiracy.

This would include the WHIG and those who served the plan to do a work-up on Wilson so he could be trashed. Trashing Joe Wilson simply is not a crime really -- but if the overt acts are criminal, then the plan and the planners, and those who adopt the plan are in serious trouble. The Trash Wilson plan was operative from March, 2003 up to and even after the Novak column. The margins of the end are fuzzy -- but I date them to David Corn's article pointing out ouring Valerie could well be quite criminal.

And then you have the cover-up. This begins with Tenet's referral to DOJ and probably continues till today. If just a couple of weeks ago Judith Miller could not "remember" her earlier meeting with Libby until confronted with a Secret Service sign in sheet, -- just imagine how many other drips and dabs are still unresolved.

All your counts of perjury, or obstruction of Justice, or misuse of classified materials, then get arranged within these overarching conspiracy counts. And I suspect we have lots of pleas and deals for testimony that will befuddle the masses who have not followed the case.

lots of pleas and deals for testimony that will befuddle the masses

That last line is only at first. Pleas and deals mean guilt (the simple message - I am not a crook is now inoperative), and the press and the Dems will need to explain what the guilt is from. A teachable moment as it were.

But given the separation of powers discussion, this NY Times piece by Dahlia Lithwick becomes relevant. Imperial Presidency redux.

Howard, I support your interpretation of post-'68 presidential results, and would maybe even simplify it further: after the break-up of the Roosevelt coalition, the GOP had the wind at its back, so when they had an incumbent-favorable year, they cashed in majorly. Dems, on the other hand, were always hobbled by those lost Wallace voters, so even when they had a decent opportunity like '76, they had to fight for the win.

These posts offer a great insight into the American "moral" spirit, or whatever you want to call the average voters main motivational impulse in this country over the last 40 years. I believe it is important for Dems to understand this average voters main motivational impulse.

In other words, when/why can/do conservative Repubs win in a landslide but since 1964, this paradigm is not available to the progressive party anymore?? Demtom above says that this next election may provide the Dems with a landslide victory, but that is purely speculative now, and again, why didn't the Dems under Carter walk away with a massive landslide in 1976?

To my mind, the large bulk of American voters over the last 40 years are either solidly or srongly leaning into the conservative camp. Enough of them will occasionally stray over to the other side when the Dems flavor is favorable in order to allow the Dems a close victory, but when the Repub flavor is favorable, the conservatives win an absolute landslide as in 72 and 2004. It is this seemingly conservative default average political position of the majority of American voters that I want to know more about. Workers, the poor, and the disenfranchised once formed that FDR coalition that put the average American voter in the progressive camp, but since 1968, that average voters beliefs have turned away from progressive Dems most of the time. Why again did this happen, or how can workers, the poor, and the disenfranchised, who surely make up the majority of voters, be so blinded against their own personal welfare on average over the last 40 years?? What is it that REALLY motivates them when voting like this??

In my last post, I of course meant that when the Repub flavor is favorable, the conservatives win an absolute landslide as in 72 and 1984!

Wallace voters were race-based populists who deserted Nixon in '68 but 'came home' (Southern strategy) by 72. Carter couldn't get them back in '76 and lost them in '80. Something of a simplification, as it changed with Perot voters, but the '64 voting rights act under Johnson changed American politics forever.

Reagan found a way to woo some so-called Reagan Democrats in 80 (close race, Iran hostages) and by '84 and '88 Mondale and Dukakis found new ways to become uncompetitive with them.

The Democracy Corps studies (see Oct '05) suggest ways to try and woo Perot voters back.

Real excellent analysis here. Another thing to keep in mind (point's been made but want to make it clearer) is that the Republicans have been very adept at picking off voters who should be Dems from the economic or foreign policy perspective, but vote Republican because of issues like abortion or gay marriage.

I know a LOT of people, they don't care about any issue other than abortion or gay marriage. They acknowledge that Bush is a terrible president and don't agree on him with anything other than abortion or gay marriage, but that's enough.

The problem, as I see it for the Dems, is who on the Republican coalition can we pick off? The fiscal conservatives look like the low lying fruit, but I'm a little doubtful about how big a group they really are and whether going after them is worth it. My experience is that people are always in favor of balancing the budget by slashing SOMEONE ELSE'S programs. Generally, slashing spendin is not the best way to win an election.

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