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October 19, 2005


Dickey's thoughtful comments from a long piece:

There are not many really useful lessons, I think, in the kind of cannibalistic frenzy that’s erupted in much of the fourth estate. It ignores fundamental problems of the industry like shrinking budgets, small staffs, fractured markets, shorter public attention spans, a preternatural fear of lawsuits and persistent intimidation by right-wing ideologues. Because of all this, the business is increasingly driven by simple-minded celebrity reporting, even when those celebrities “won’t let their names be used because of the sensitivity of the subject.” And journalists who play the game well get to be celebrities themselves, writing best-selling books, making television appearances, joining the club, as it were, unless and until they betray those very special sources that got them in to begin with. Judy’s a symptom of all this, not the disease. But like witch hunters in the midst of a plague, a lot of my brethren are looking for someone they can burn at the stake, as if that could cure our chronic afflictions.

ReddHedd's review of the Waas artivle from National Journal (emptywheel's advice was to visit firedoglake for more on this story).

Swopa's take on all this is here.

interesting column from Brownstein.

GOP Is Caught Between Alliances The party could push independents further away in efforts to steady its conservative base.

By Ronald Brownstein, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — As they navigate turbulent political seas, President Bush and congressional Republicans find themselves in a boat leaking from both ends.

Amid public discontent over the war in Iraq, high gas prices, the response to Hurricane Katrina and ethical controversies in Washington, approval ratings for Bush and the GOP-led Congress have tumbled to ominously low levels among independent and moderate voters.

But the White House and congressional leaders also are facing widespread dissatisfaction among conservative leaders antagonized by Bush's spending policies and his nomination of White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court.

How much spin can a spinmeister meist if a spinmeister must meist spin?

"Valerie Flame" tracking:
10/15: 243 Google hits
10/18: 10,500 Google hits
10/19: 22,400 Google hits

For comparison:
"turn in clusters": 16,900 Google hits
"Valerie Plame" : 2,170,000 Google hits
"Harriet Miers" : 15,300,000 Google hits
"emptywheel" : 44,100 Google hits

The Brownstein article gets to something I've been astonished no one else in the press seems to even consider: that catering to the far right is ultimate electoral suicide. Every Miers story, in particular, seems to take the view that placating the fringe is the only issue for the Bush folk; the idea there might be a downside to such a strategy doesn't even bear consideration.

It seems to me this view arises from bad or mis-reporting on the outcome of the '04 contest. That poll question which falsely isolated "moral issues" as the decisive factor in the election, combined with hype claiming the GOP won by mobilizing its base with little concern for centrists, created an erroneous impression that Bush won with right-wingers alone and didn't need to worry about "the middle". But that's nonsense. Kerry, it's true, "won" the moderates -- but he won them something like 52-48, as many people in flip-a-coin territory were won over by the security argument. Were Bush (or any Republican) to lose moderates the way they are in current polling (60-40 or worse), the result would be a ballot-box wipeout. The laws of political gravity haven't been repealed.

Has everyone read that Tom DeFrank aricle from the NY Daily News, which says Bush essentially knew Rove was the guy behind all this two years ago, and chewed him out for it (not on moral grounds, but because he screwed it up so badly)? I think the article is highly significant, because it brings Bush personally into the cover-up frame (and even beats down a little of the "it's all Rove, you know; not Bush" spin). It's also an article that has to be seen as very believable, because Tom DeFrank has long-standing ties to the Bush crowd. I wouldn't call him a whore for them, exactly, but his articles have always articulated their point of view. Bob Novak said some time back (and was, I think, correct) that if you wanted to know what the Bush people thought, you should read DeFrank.

A minor item: the Iraq death toll is rocketing toward that ugly round number 2000. There's a real possibility, give the two current trajectories, that the dreadful milestone could be reached the precise day Fitzgerald issues indictments: a harmonic convergence of the worst kind for the administration.

About the DeFrank article. This paragraph interests me a lot:

A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.

So Rove did tell Bush about Rove's role in the "counterattack"? But this paragraph leaves unclear whether Bush himself was involved in the "counterattack." What DeFrank's article does is exactly what the "recently published reports" were supposed to do: insulate Bush against charges that he was directly involved in the attack against Wilson. If Bush was upset with Rove about Rove's handling of the matter, then that signals that Bush himself was not part of any plan to discredit Wilson. What I'm saying is, is this newest DeFrank article another example of leaking in order to protect the president?

Actually, park, that paragraph is precisely what I had in mind when I say DeFrank is at least partly negating the "Bush had no idea" spin. The rest of the article could be interpreted as an effort to exonerate Bush by putting everything unequivocally in Rove's lap; but I took that one paragraph to suggest at least "some people" say you're a putz if you believe such spin.

What I'm saying is, is this newest DeFrank article another example of leaking in order to protect the president?

I had assumed so, but demtom's points are noted. Another thing about the Brownstein article is the difference between short- and long-term effects. Things that hurt the Rs longer term are being ignored. Short-term, until 2006, there's no way this congress starts acting differently. In the House, there's Chris Shays, but who else? Inb the Senate, despite all the grandstanding, who would act to buck Bush and vote against Miers besides "Ol' Scottish Law" Specter.

One of the reasons I don't respect congressional Rs is that they are congenitally incapable of thinking for themselves. Fear drives them at this point, not polls and not logic.

The above ap[plies to this current batch. From Javits to Morse to Weicker, that's not always been so.

On the Daily News report, this was amusing (from TPM):

UESTION: Scott, is it true that the President -- SCOTT McCLELLAN: Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thanks. Is it true that the President slapped Karl Rove upside the head a couple of years ago over the CIA leak?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Are you referring to, what, a New York Daily News report? Two things: One, we're not commenting on an ongoing investigation; two, and I would challenge the overall accuracy of that news account.

QUESTION: That's a comment.

QUESTION: Which part of it?

QUESTION: Yes, that is.

QUESTION: Which facts --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying -- no, I'm just trying to help you all.

QUESTION: So what facts are you challenging?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation.

QUESTION: You can't say you're challenging the facts and then not say which ones you're challenging.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Yes, I can. I just did. (Laughter.)

That's what's so weird about the DeFrank piece. It reads (to me) like another of these reports that come from a leak to protect the president, but stuck right in the middle of it there's a "well-placed" source saying such articles are bullshit. It's very strange. I wish I knew more about DeFrank so I could figure out what it means.

he helped co-write Bush I memoir books. See TPM for more. He's a Baker-Scowcroft Republican, not a neocon.

DeFrank's the byline and he's the Daily News DC Bureau Chief. DeFrank has a unique relationship to the Bush world, particularly to the older generation. He cowrote James Baker's diplomatic autobiography The Politics of Diplomacy, for instance. And back in the summer of 2001, The Weekly Standard suggested he'd actually been in the running to be chief Pentagon spokesman, before the job went to Tori Clarke.

RawStory is now saying a second Cheney aide has flipped--David Wurmser. OT, somewhat, but I figured anyone checking in here for their minute-by-minute Plame fix would want to know.

thanks, Dr. BB

From the latest Raw Story piece DrBB points us to:

Hannah and Wurmser were first named as possible suspects in the Plame leak by Wilson, Plame’s husband, in his book, The Politics of Truth.

“In fact, senior advisers close to the president may well have been clever enough to have used others to do the actual leaking, in order to keep their fingerprints off the crime,” Wilson writes.

“John Hannah and David Wurmser, mid-level political appointees in the vice-president’s office, have both been suggested as sources of the leak …Mid-level officials, however, do not leak information without the authority from a higher level,” Wilson notes.

Who's willing to place bets on how long it takes for the GOP spin point to emerge that Joe Wilson (proven liar, don't forget--just don't ask for the proof) has been calling the shots for Fitzgerald the whole time, tampering with a federal investigation?

Cliff Kincaid, where are you? Cliiiifff???

According to those familiar with the case, Wurmser was in attendance at several meetings of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a little-known cabal of administration hawks that formed in August 2002 to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Those who say they have reviewed documents obtained in the probe assert that the Vice President was also present at some of the group’s meetings.

Wow. Now, of course, the VP would have been present at some of thememeetings. But was he present during meeting about the leak? And who were the higher-ups who ordered Wurmser to leak the name, as the story suggests?

My head will definitely explode soon if they don't hand down these indictments.

I'm wondering also about whether or not Fitzgerald is considering the timing of his announcement. For example, if hurricane Wilma slams into Florida as a Cat 5 on Sunday and does some huge Katrina-esque amount of damage, any announcement by Fitzgerald will be eclipsed by disaster porno. So does he back up the announcement to Friday to get two good days of coverage before disaster porno takes over; or does he wait until substantially after any disaster; or does he just not care? I would imagine that, having invested two years of his life and career in this effort, he would be mindful of the fact that the timing of the indictment announcements can, in some ways, be as important as the indictments themselves.

Nes pas?

But what do I know.

Well, next week is the word, RenaRF. we'll see. Biting my tongue till then.

Rena, My impression is that Fitzgerald isn't concerned about how this will play out in the news. In fact, I believe I remember reading in the WaPo profile of him from earlier this year that he doesn't care for the media in general. I imagine he will announce indictments (if there are any) when he feels that no more evidence can be reviewed and/or no more plea deals can be struck, and not before then.

Pat Buchanan said on Wednesday on Hardball:

"During Watergate, a good friend went to prison for saying twice before a grand jury, "I can't recall." That was about a picayune matter compared to Judy Miller's "I can't recall" to the question, "Who gave you this name, 'Valerie Flame'?" "

(as reported on Marisa McNee's diary at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/10/20/134759/47 and at http://yesandthensome.blogspot.com/)

While I cannot know which of the convicted felons involved in the Watergate crimes was Buchanan's "good friend," it is certainly true that some people went to prison for telling a grand jury, "I can't recall" when that was false.

For example, White House domestic policy assistant John Erlichman was indicted on September 4, 1973. Count 4 of the indictments issued by the a grand jury against John Erlichman and others (CR 74-116, United States District Court for the District of Columbia) charged that Erlichman violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 1623, which makes "False declarations before grand jury or court" . His crime occurred in this exchange:

Q. Just so that the Grand Jury and we are clear on
this, prior to receiving information about the break-in, you
had no information, direct or indirect, that a psychological
profile of Dr. Ellsberg was being drawn up?
A. I can't recall hearing of a psychological profile until
after I had heard or the break-in.

5. The underscored portions of the material
Declarations quoted in paragraph 4, made by JOHN D.
were material to the said investigation and, as he then
and there well knew, were false.
(Title 18, United States Code, Section 1623.)

http://www.watergate.info/judiciary/APPII.PDF at pages 19-21 (indictment starts at page 12).

Erlichman was found guilty of this count and 2 other counts. http://www.watergate.info/judiciary/APPII.PDF at page 9. He was sentenced to serve a prison term of 20 months to 5 years for conviction on 3 counts.

Egil Krogh avoided conviction on a similar count of falsely declaring when he said that he was not aware of certain travel. He avoided that conviction because instead he entered a guilty plea on another matter in a plea agreement with the prosecution. Pages 29-31 of same.

Krogh made a statement to the court upon entering his guilty plea, to the effect that the actions of retaliation against a critique of the war in Vietnam, Dr. Daniel Ellsburg, were an invasion of the rights of Dr. Ellsburg. He stated:

"But however national security is defined, I now see that
none of the potential uses of the sought information could justify the
invasion of the rights of the individuals that the break-in
necessitated. The understanding I have come to is that these rights
are the definition of our nation. To invade them unlawfully in the
name of national security is to work a destructive force upon the
nation, not to take a protective measure."
(http://www.watergate.info/judiciary/APPII.PDF at page 61)

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