October 26, 2005

Much ado about everything

If special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald decides this week not to indict Bush administration officials involved in the leak of a CIA officer’s name, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson won’t even warrant footnotes in the next generation’s history books. On the other hand, should Karl Rove, Scooter Libby or others in the administration be indicted, we will be consumed by an almost unprecedented historical event.

The possibility that the Plame case will be implicitly deemed “politics as usual” would be unfortunate in a civics-lesson sort of way, because it would render moot any further discussion of the posturing of various important national figures. Therefore, in order to record for posterity the desperate paddling of a group whose canoe was teetering on the brink of the Niagara Falls of American politics, let’s review some of the “not ready for Profiles in Courage” statements made by those on the Republican Titanic.

Several years ago, Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle (see: Tom DeLay) indicted then-Texas treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison on campaign law violations. Now the senior U.S. senator from Texas, Hutchison was acquitted on those charges, but if there were a charge of criminal chutzpah, someone ought to indict her again. On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Hutchison said, “I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment, it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime ...”

Maybe we should excuse Sen. Hutchison’s remark, because she clearly is suffering from some kind of memory disorder. How else could she reconcile her Sunday comment with her passionate 1999 speech explaining her vote to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about the non-crime of consensual sex? “If only the president had followed the simple, high moral principle handed to us by our nation’s first leader as a child and had said early in this episode, ‘I cannot tell a lie,’ we would not be here today,” she said. “We would not be sitting in judgment of a president. We would not be invoking those provisions of the Constitution that have only been applied once before in our nation’s history. But we should all be thankful that our Constitution is there, and we should take pride in our right and duty to enforce it.”

Also, for the record, we must recount what President Bush said about the Plame affair in September 2003. At that time he vowed that anyone on his staff found to have been involved in the Plame leak would be dismissed. We now have evidence that Bush already knew Karl Rove had talked about Plame with reporters, and that’s probably why he changed his tune and said, “Anyone who is found to have committed a crime ...” would be fired.

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning how the right-wing spin machine tried to trash Patrick Fitzgerald, even though Bush has continually said that the prosecutor had conducted a “very dignified” investigation. For example, an article in the Daily News about plans to discredit Fitzgerald quoted an anonymous “White House ally” as saying, “(Fitzgerald is) a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things.” (Aside: How does any editor allow such an ad hominem attack to be published without specific attribution?) We have seen this act more often than “Rocky” sequels, but the Bush gang doesn’t know any other moves. Of course, if no indictments are returned this week, Fitzgerald will be canonized by the same people. Heck, he might even be the next Supreme Court nominee after Harriet Miers withdraws.

Finally, there’s the outrageous Republican talking point that the investigation is all about the “criminalization of politics” (see: Fox News). Once again, if the Plame affair ends this week, we should not forget the implications of this mantra: According to the Bush slime machine, character assassination, lying, manipulating media sources, compromising national security, and conspiring to deceive a nation into accepting a war are perfectly acceptable aspects of the American political landscape. This from the “family values” party.

To their credit, many conservative commentators have taken the high road on this impending scenario. People like Tony Blankly, William Kristol, Tucker Carlson and others have conceded the serious nature of the potential charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. These people understand, far better than Sen. Hutchison, that most people want everyone to play by the same rules, and that American democracy is in serious jeopardy if the country’s leaders get to decide unilaterally what is moral and legal.

Meanwhile, while I don’t want to see anyone indicted unjustly, I will feel good for Joe Wilson, Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, Max Cleland, Cindy Sheehan and John McCain — all victims of Karl Rove and his slime machine — if Patrick Fitzgerald makes “Bush’s brain(s)” answer for their serial abuses of power.

Contact the writer at jyarmuth@aol.com