boistering

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Neo-Con Republicans Endanger America




The terrorists are still out there and Bush Co. is worried about stacking the Supreme Court with anti-abortion judges. Does this tell you how these people think? What could be more important than our national security? Does the issue of abortion even rate right now? It does to the Neo-Cons. Bush is thinking about his legacy, not about protecting America?

Why did Bush try to stop recent efforts to send more federal agents to secure our border with Mexico? Is this a man who's trying to protect America? Where is Osama Bin Laden? Have we forgotten about the man who attacked New York killing thousands?

The Neo-Cons claim they are the party that can protect the people and wage the most effective war on "terror," but these people leak the name of a CIA agent and think nothing of it. When did Bush know about this? (He's been promising to prosecute the guilty party for years.) What did Bush know?

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Washington -- His former secretary of state, most of his closest aides and a parade of other senior officials have testified to a grand jury. His political strategist has emerged as a central figure in the case, as has his vice president's chief of staff. His spokesman has taken a pounding for making statements about the matter that now appear not to be accurate.

For all that, it is still not clear what the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity will mean for President Bush. So far the disclosures about the involvement of Karl Rove, among others, have not exacted any substantial political price from the administration. And nobody has suggested that the investigation directly implicates the president. Yet Bush has yet to address some uncomfortable questions that he may not be able to evade indefinitely.

For starters, did Bush know in the fall of 2003, when he was telling the public that no one wanted to get to the bottom of the case more than he did, that Rove, his longtime strategist, senior adviser and alter ego; and Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, had touched on the CIA officer's identity in conversations with journalists before the officer's name became public? If not, when did they tell him, and what would the delay say in particular about his relationship with Rove, whose career and Bush's have been intertwined for decades?

Then there is the broader issue of whether Bush was aware of any effort by his aides to use the CIA officer's identity to undermine the standing of her husband, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration of twisting its prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program.

For the last several weeks, Bush and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, have declined to address the leak in any substantive way, citing the continuing federal criminal investigation.

But Democrats increasingly see an opportunity to raise questions about Bush's credibility, and to reopen a debate about whether the White House leveled with the nation about the urgency of going to war with Iraq. And even some Republicans say Bush cannot assume that he will escape from the investigation politically unscathed.

"Until all the facts come out, no one is really going to know who the fickle finger of fate points at," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster.

The case centers on how the name of a CIA operative came to appear two years ago in a syndicated column by Robert Novak, who identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. The operative, who is more usually known as Valerie Wilson, is married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration eight days before Novak's column of twisting some of the intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq. Under some conditions, the disclosure of a covert intelligence agent's name can be a federal crime.

The special prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, has kept a tight curtain of secrecy around his investigation. But he spent more than an hour in the Oval Office on June 24, 2004, interviewing Bush about the case. Bush was not under oath, but he had his lawyer for the case, James Sharp, with him.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department has said what Bush was asked about, but prosecutors do not lightly seek to put questions directly to any president, suggesting that there was some information that Fitzgerald felt he could get only from Bush.

Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington, said the lesson of recent history, for example in the Iran-Contra case under President Ronald Reagan, is that presidents tend to know more than it might first appear about what is going on within the White House.

"My presumption in presidential politics is that the president always knows," Lichtman said. "But there are degrees of knowing. Reagan said, keep the contras together body and soul. Did he know exactly what Oliver North was doing? No, it doesn't mean he knew what every subordinate is doing."

Although it is possible that other officials will turn out to have played leading roles in the leak case, the subordinates whose actions would appear to be of most interest to Bush right now are Rove and Libby, who as Cheney's chief of staff had a particular interest in protecting the vice president's interests.

According to accounts by people involved in the case, Rove spoke in the days after Wilson went public with his criticism in July 2003 to both Novak and Matthew Cooper of Time, the first two reporters to disclose that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Cooper has said he also spoke about the case with Libby.

By September 2003, as a criminal investigation was getting under way, McClellan was telling reporters that Rove had nothing to do with the leak, saying he had checked with Rove about the topic.

Around the same time, the president was saying he had no idea who might have been responsible. Asked by a reporter on Oct. 6, 2003, whether the leak was retaliation for Wilson's criticism, Bush replied: "I don't know who leaked the information, for starters. So it's hard for me to answer that question until I find out the truth."

Asked the next day if he was confident that the leakers would be found, Bush, alluding to the "two senior administration officials" cited by Novak as his sources, replied: "I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth."

Republicans said the relationship between Bush and Rove was so deep and complex that it was hard to imagine the president cutting ties with him barring an indictment.

"Can you survive being involved in something you probably shouldn't have been involved in where you didn't break any laws?" Fabrizio said. "Well, you probably can, especially if you are Karl."

Fabrizio said that even if Rove left the White House, he would continue to consult with Bush "unless they put him in a tunnel."

McClellan and other White House officials have repeatedly declined to answer when asked if Rove or Libby had told the president by October 2003 that they had alluded to Wilson's identity months earlier in their conversations with the journalists.

But Bush's political opponents say the president is in a box. In their view, either Rove and Libby kept the president in the dark about their actions, making them appear evasive at a time when Bush was demanding that his staff cooperate fully with the investigation, or Rove and Libby had told the president and he was not forthcoming in his public statements about his knowledge of their roles.

"We know that Karl Rove, through Scott McClellan, did not tell Americans the truth," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and a former top aide in the Clinton White House. "What's important now is what Karl Rove told the president. Was it the truth, or was it what he told Scott McClellan?"

Bush has also yet to answer any questions publicly about what he learned from aides about Joseph and Valerie Wilson in the days after the former ambassador leveled his criticism of the administration in an op-ed article in the New York Times on July 6, 2003.

Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times
Sunday, July 24, 2005

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