Posted on Monday 26 February 2007

Smearing Like It’s 2003
By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Even as jurors pondered whether Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff should be convicted for lying about what the Bush administration did to smear one of its critics, there was Cheney accusing another adversary of doing the work of the terrorists.

The fabricate-and-smear cycle illustrated so dramatically during the case of I. Lewis "Scooter” Libby explains why President Bush is failing to rally support for the latest iteration of his Iraq policy. The administration’s willingness at the outset to say anything, no matter how questionable, to justify the war has destroyed its credibility. Its habit of attacking those who expressed misgivings has destroyed any goodwill it might have enjoyed. Bush and Cheney have lost the benefit of the doubt.
The evidence presented at the Libby trial has demonstrated how worried Cheney was that this scheme could unravel. Thanks to Patrick Fitzgerald, the painstaking prosecutor, we know that Cheney was beside himself over former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed article undercutting the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein had sought nuclear materials in Niger.

Whatever the jury decides, Fitzgerald has amply demonstrated that Cheney directed Libby to destroy Wilson’s credibility, partly by leaking that his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA operative who had suggested Wilson was well qualified to investigate the claims in Niger. For Libby, Fitzgerald said in closing his case, Valerie Wilson "wasn’t a person. She was an argument, a fact to use against Joe Wilson."

Libby-Cheney apologists have argued over and over that Cheney had a right to be angry because Wilson said that Cheney had sent him to Niger. But Wilson said no such thing. In his New York Times piece, Wilson wrote only that he had been "informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report.” That was true.

The attack apparatus has now turned on Fitzgerald, whose record is that of a thoroughly nonpartisan prosecutor. Fitzgerald’s perjury rap against Libby, Cheney allies say, is a cheap attempt to criminalize politics.
Whatever price Scooter Libby pays, the country is already paying for the divisive practices of a crowd that wanted to go to war in Iraq in the very worst way — and did exactly that. As a result, we confront the mess in Baghdad and the continued threat of terrorism as an angry, polarized nation.

Yesterday, I was writing something about one of the exhibits in the Libby Trial – something that made it clear that Condaleeza Rice was being sent out to the talk shows with carefully contrived spin. The day in question was the eve of P-Day – the day Valerie Plame was "outed." Dr. Rice was on Face the Nation and The Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer spinning a yarn about the "sixteen Words." It was, in retrospect, ludicrous – the things she said. But the next day, Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney checked Rice’s statements off in their morning session while waiting for Novak’s zinger to be published Rice’s spin spun. It’s been like that for six years – coordinated propoganda speeches, orchestrated from the White House or the Office of the Vice President.

Yesterday also, Condaleeza Rice was on Fox News Sunday, with some worn out Talking Point about Bush supporting our troops in Iraq by defying ignoring Congress. It was interesting to read her four year old version and her modern version at the same time. She’s facile at ignoring questions by saying the same things over and over. But it’s not working so well as it has in the past. And Cheney’s off globe trotting, spewing the same lines as in 2003, but not so many people are listening. The articles in the papers are more like the one above, or analyses of why he got sent overseas during the Libby Trial – to get him out of Dodge.

I don’t know if the tide is turning as much as it seems to me. I’m too biased at this point to even judge. But it has turned a lot. America is waking up from a very deep sleep, none too soon. The questions on the table right now are only how do we dig our way out of this collassal mess, and can we do it sooner than the six hundred plus days that these pretenders have to be in power. It doesn’t seem like we’ve got that long to me. Dionne says it well, "the country is already paying for the divisive practices of a crowd that wanted to go to war in Iraq in the very worst way — and did exactly that. As a result, we confront the mess in Baghdad and the continued threat of terrorism as an angry, polarized nation."

But I, for one, am tired of fighting with our own government. I’m tired of whining day after day about this Administration, and I’m afraid to stop. I’m very tired of listening to Condaleeza Rice speak other people’s word for them. I’m tired of Cheney speaking, period.

A guilty verdict tomorrow would go a long way towards keeping this ball rolling. As right as Dionne is about what this trial has shown us, it’s unfortunately the verdict that’s going to spread the information to where it needs to be spread…

UPDATE: Looks like Condi kind of got to Olberman too. He’s on fire again…

UPDATE: One good reason to keep on whining… 

    February 27, 2007 | 7:21 AM

    Thanks for a terrific recap with Dionne, Olbermann, and Seymour Hersh. What would we do without those guys today?

    February 27, 2007 | 5:17 PM

    Gods, in a time of Cholera…

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