Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Bushies on PlameGate: Deny, Rationalize, Change

In the wake of last Friday's grand jury indictment of "Cheney's Cheney" Scooter Libby, the Republican Party and its spin machine have experienced the first two phases of a three-phase process when faced with scandal. According to Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, the first phase is denial, when the party flat out refuses to acknowledge the charges against it as if they don't exist. This was the case leading up to the indictment, when administration officials, conservative pundits and talking heads claimed that Rove, Libby and others have little to worry about because special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's 22-month investigation was nothing more than a partisan witch-hunt lacking any evidence of wrongdoing.

Shrum, speaking on MSNBC's Hardball Thursday, said the second phase, rationalization, is when the embattled party acknowledges the existence of the charges and the potential legal troubles it faces, but attempts to minimize the significance of these charges and justify them at the same time. This phase can be evidenced by the spinners' claim that the underlying crime--exposing a covert CIA agent's identity--was never committed because "Plame was not a covert agent," as both the NY Post's Deborah Orin and GOP strategist Ed Rogers declared on Hardball. Therefore, they claim, the "mushier" charges of perjury, falsifying statements, and obstruction are essentially baseless.

But as Fitzgerald said in his post-indictment press conference last week, he could not make a case for the central crime of outing Plame because Libby repeatedly lied to the FBI, to investigators and to the grand jury, and obstructed the investigation.

That brings us to the last phase, change. This is when the administration under fire recognizes it's in a losing legal, political and or public-relations battle and sweeps house. As Ronald Reagan did after the Iran-Contra scandal, presidents often replace cabinet members and key advisors in an effort to put its troubles behind it. A such, the Washington Post reported Thursday that Bush is considering the fate of Deputy Chief of Staff and top political advisor Karl Rove, who remains under grand jury investigation. Rove lied to Press Secretary Scott McClellan two years ago; probably lied to Bush; and has lied to the American people. Is this a person who should be in one of the administration's highest positions? Even staunch conservative Sen. Trent Lott (Miss) asked, "should he be the deputy chief of staff for policy under the current circumstances?"

"I'm not sure the standard of employment in the White House should be that you're not yet indicted," Shrum said. "There ought to be a higher standard than that."

As we wait to see just what Fitzgerald has up his sleeve, four key questions remain: what was Libby's motive to lie and obstruct (was he covering for his boss Cheney?); why would Libby falsify statements, lie under oath and impede the investigation if he was truly innocent;? is PlameGate a narrow crime committed by just one individual, or is it the opening into a much wider scandal involving VP Dick Cheney and others;? and will Libby "turn" evidence to escape 30 years in jail. Only time will tell.


Gouda said...

Can Bush pardon Libby (assuming Libby loses his court battle) when he leaves office in 2008?

I don't know.

If he can, it seems Libby (and/or Rove) can do or say anything he wants right now without consequence.

Anonymous said...

If I were Libby, I'd squeal like a pig!!!!!!!!

Unless he knows that Bush will pardon him, why would he want to spend 30 years in jail at the age of 55?


The Ostroy Report said...

Sure, Bush can pardon Libby before he leaves office in '08. But two things are important to note: (1) Bush's whole political currency, to himself, is based on his faith, honesty and integrity. Given these self-imposed holier-than-thou traits, it's possible he would not pardon a criminal simply because he once was a trusted ally, but rather because he now feels betrayed; (2) even with a pardon, given the timeline for the trial and sentenecing, Libby would most likely still face at least a year in jail. And a year's a helluva long time, especially when you're used to a nice cushy, powerful DC existence. My bet is no pardon, and Libby turns evidence to avoid jail time.

All_I_Can_Stands said...

Well, it is all coming together now. I was not willing without evidence to accuse Fitzgerald of any wrongdoing here, but now we have the picture. On Hardball last night Bob Shrum was talking about how Fitzgerald was shooting for an October surprise before the '04 election, but that some of the witnesses were dragging their feet and delayed it. I don't know what political affiliation Fitzgerald has, but it is now becoming obvious that this was all about him and what big fish he could bring down.

First, after a few weeks into the investigation he sees that the original charges were never going to hold water so he requests that the investigation be expanded. So instead of closing down the investigation at that time and passing up an opportunity for fame and glory he proceeds for 2 more years. He targets the election to bring his indictments, because conviction later or not, he would be famous for bringing down Bush.

At the end of two years with nothing to go on except Libby making one statement and Russert making a different one, he indicts Libby instead of going away empty handed. The Libby indictments is all about saving face. Since Fitzgerald has made clear statements that this has nothing to do with the war in Iraq and backed away from the outing a CIA agent, he can save a little face by at least trying to prosecute. If there were no indictments, the left would have cried foul regardless of the facts.

The left can live in their fantasy world on this all they want, but in the end it will yield nothing. And yes, if Libby is convicted then the last week of Bush's presidency he will pardon him. We will then see if the media is bias to the left or right. They gave Clinton a pass for pardoning Rich, and for giving a pardon to buy votes for Hillary.

All_I_Can_Stands said...

Oh, just a curious mini poll here. If you had your choice: that we could guarantee arriving at the total truth about the Plame, Wilson issue and the Iraq/WMD issue vs. bringing Bush down regardless of the truth; which would you choose?

For me, I would choose the truth even if it meant Bush going down. I just don't believe the blogs on the left or the MSM are interested in the truth here. When truth and a partisan agenda collide, which one do you want to win?

Gouda said...

"nothing to go on except Libby making one statement and Russert making a different one,"

Doesn't this show then that someone is lying? And wouldn't Fitzgerald be derelict if he didn't hold to account one or the other? Why in the world would a lead investigator, when faced with a count of perjury, go "away empty handed"?

It's about more than saving face, it's about holding people to account. I, for one, prefer a government that comes clean, and holds people to account.

Gouda said...

You have a point, Andy. If Bush claims (truthfully) that he didn't know what was going on, he might feel betrayed. On the other hand, if Bush knew what was going on, then he's complicit in any wrongdoing.

All_I_Can_Stands said...

Gouda and the rest,

I have consistently stated that if someone can be proven to have broken the law, they should be punished. Unless there is more here than is being shown, knowing how our justice system has gotten to the point where it is really tough to get convictions I do not believe he will be convicted. Even if he is, I suspect it will get overturned. If that is the case, guilt was not proven and it is not likely to be proven until after Bush is gone or about to go. In a situation where 2 people give inconsistent testimony, there are conclusions to draw than just one committed perjury. If as in Clinton's case (sorry, but here it makes a clear point) it is a matter of testifying whether you had sex with someone, unless there are just SO many partners memory does not come into play. You know who you had sex with. I think of my work schedule and all the meetings and interviews I have and I am sure my memory would be fuzzy on exact details. In Libby's case, if you are hearing the same fact from several sources it is not reasonable to expect you to remember specific details and time sequences. With Russert, it is the same thing. He hears a lot of facts from many different sources. It is not reasonable for him to remember these details perfectly either. And as a reporter he might document what he hears, but he does not necessarily document what he says. So Fitzgerald could have just as easily indicted Russert because their stories conflicted.

I am not making claims that all in this administration concerning this are proveably innocent. I just don't see provable guilt. From my perspective I don't see the left as being truth seekers, but rather grasping for anything that will take Bush down. I never see outrage when your guy does something wrong and the outrage when my guy may have done something wrong seems blatantly contrived, manufactured and shallow.

Gouda said...

I'll go along with you there, lying isn't the only conclusion from contradicting testimonies.

I realize Libby will use that as a defense, poor memory. And I think you may be right, it will be hard to prosecute that.

But a secret clearance is a big deal. It takes a lot of interviewing and character analyzing and background checking to get one. People who have one are instructed how to operate with it. Libby knows, or should know, not to disclose classified information, much less chat to reporters about it. Even confirming information, that is, not offering it up, is considered a breach of the clearance.

Anonymous said...

As Shrum said on hardball last night, the "I forgot" defense might work once for a guy like Libby, but not the 4, 5, or 6 times Libby's "forgotten" the details of his statements and conversations.

Gouda said...

Touche, bojay!