Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Groundwork Set By His Spin Machine, Bush Officially Changes Policy (Again) On Firing White House Leaks

Would President Bush fire a White House leak under any circumstance, or just if a crime has been committed?

The President, and those representing him, have been unclear about this, leading to a lot of misinformation -- from across the political spectrum.

A brief review on the administration's statements regarding the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the media:

On Sept. 29, 2003, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said of actions against potential leaks: "The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."

But the next day, Bush, speaking at the University of Chicago, qualified McClellan's words, saying: "And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

Bush then contradicted himself on June 10, 2004. Speaking at the G-8 summit, he had this exchange with a reporter:

Q Given -- given recent developments in the CIA leak case, particularly Vice President Cheney's discussions with the investigators, do you still stand by what you said several months ago, a suggestion that it might be difficult to identify anybody who leaked the agent's name?

BUSH: That's up to --

Q And, and, do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?

BUSH: Yes. And that's up to the U.S. Attorney to find the facts.

That led to yesterday, when, during a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Singh, Bush again offered the qualified version of his policy:

Q Mr. President, you said you don't want to talk about an ongoing investigation, so I'd like to ask you, regardless of whether a crime was committed, do you still intend to fire anyone found to be involved in the CIA leak case? And are you displeased that Karl Rove told a reporter that Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked for the Agency on WMD issues?

BUSH: We have a serious ongoing investigation here. (Laughter.) And it's being played out in the press. And I think it's best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. And I will do so, as well. I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who's spending time investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.

***

Now, here's the funny thing. The conservative spin machine wanted you to forget McClellan's comments on firing a leak. It also wanted you to forget Bush's 2004 comments, which offer an equal, unqualified policy for firing.

Instead, the spin machine wants you to remember Bush's 2003 comments -- with the qualified rules on firing a leak.

How do we know this? Because even before Bush's comments today -- his first clear comments on firing policy since the June 2004 exchange -- numerous media outlets offered the qualified Bush policy, skipping over the other statements.

How can that be? How can it be that the CBS Evening News, and the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post -- what conservative mythmakers say are four of the most "liberal" media outlets in the country -- each repeated Bush's "qualified" firing policy comments in the four days prior to Bush's comments July 18?

There's only one conclusion to draw. The White House press corps, even as they cover the leak story, has been told for several days that the president has consistently said he would fire anyone who "committed a crime" in the course of leaking information. And four reporters took the bait, ignoring the White House's flip-flops on the subject.

***

Of course, this is moot if special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald determines that either Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, or another as-yet-unidentified senior administration official knowingly "committed a crime" in leaking Plame's name or identity.

***

This is one of several attempts to qualify whether what Rove, Libby or another senior administration official did.

Here's what you need to know:

Federal law prohobits goverment officials from divulging the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. But in order to bring charges, prosecutors must prove the official knew the officer was covert and nonetheless outed his or her identity.

So what has the conservative spin machine been up to? It's a large shell game, trying to come up with out-clauses for the various suspected leakers -- out-clauses that can potentially allow Bush to say that the leaker did not commit a crime, and thus does not have to be fired.

In the court of public opinion (which one hopes will not sway Fitzgerald):

-- You have Rove lawyer Robert Luskin offering the qualifier that Rove did not "knowingly" disclose information.

-- You have some conservatives suggesting that Plame's wife, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, admitted that his wife was not covert at the time of Novak's column. This story was helped along by a faulty Associated Press story, which took comments Wilson made to CNN's Wolf Blitzer out of context. The AP story was later corrected, but the conservative spin machine has pretended not to notice.

Confused? You don't have to be. All you need to know comes from this July 22, 2003 article in Newsday:

"Intelligence officials confirmed to Newsday yesterday that Valerie Plame, wife of retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, works at the agency on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity -- at least she was undercover until last week when she was named by columnist Robert Novak."

-- You have conservative spinners suggesting this is a Democratic witch hunt. But that makes no sense, because it was the CIA that asked for the investigation.

From an Oct. 1, 2003, article in the Washington Post:


"The decision to open the investigation was made by career counterespionage section chief John Dion, without the consultation of the attorney general, as is standard practice, the department said. The Justice Department asked the FBI and the CIA to preserve relevant records; requests were apparently not made of the Pentagon or the State Department."

***

Of course, all of this is also moot if Fitzgerald determines that either Rove, Libby, or another as-yet-unidentified senior administration official knowingly "committed a crime" in leaking Plame's name or identity. Stay tuned.

***

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

10 Comments:

Anonymous JollyRoger said...

The lying liar tells yet another lie.

We all know what El Shrubbo does with failures-Rove is liable to become the Attorney General, or perhaps even a seat on the SCOTUS. A Medal of Freedom awaits him at the very least.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I'm glad you drug this one out into the light, David. I'm also heartened that the mainstream is not letting this slide. AP reported the story with these gems:

"The phrasing was unusual for the president, who campaigned for office in 2000 on a pledge 'to restore honor and dignity' to a White House he implied had been sullied by scandals of the Clinton administration."

"Democrats said Bush in his new comments had 'lowered the ethics bar' for his administration."

and...

"Only a fourth of Americans believe the White House is fully cooperating with the investigation, according to an ABC News poll released Monday."

It never ceases to amaze me how the hubris of the Republican party seems to force them to reach too far. every single time! It's like they lack the ability to ever know when to stop themselves! As a Dem I couldn't be happier with the Bush/McClellen circus show. It couldn't be more illustrative of this administration's true nature.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously the CIA started this investigation because they hate our freedom.

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The press does it again.
JABBS posted the initial press conference on the McClellan shakedown over Plamegate.
The follow-up McClellan grilling yesterday is too lengthy to post here, but here is a link to the transcript.
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000980698

As a so-called "liberal," I'm filled with glee that it is taking this scandal to FINALLY wake up the masses to the recognition that the Bush Administration manipulated and lied the public into this war in Iraq. Let the tribunals begin.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree the Bush Administration lied us into Iraq, but I don't see how Plamegate proves that.

Can you elaborate?

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slate actually points out that he was equivocating on this a while back, too. See the Karl Rove death watch part 4.

I think he'll move the bar again. "If someone has committed a crime and is sent to jail for no less than 15 years, I will consider firing them."

10:34 AM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

A letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, posted at http://www.yubanet.com/artman/publish/printer_22933.shtml, suggests that Bush should take some action now, regardless of the ongoing prosecution efforts from Fitzgerald.

I'm sure the Bush Administration will respond that they won't act based on "a trial being played out in the media."

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media has almost completed ignored the WRITTEN court decisions of the federal second circuit court that required the reporters to divulge
their sources. The two judges involved were privileged to all the confidential evidences Fitzgerald has in the case in order to render their decisions on whether the underlying matters were serious enough to require the reporters to go to jail.
The judges clearly and repeatedly wrote that they believed a, and I quote, "crime" had been committee. The judges also believed the ONLY motivation of the reporters' sources had been to discredit Wilson by outing the identity of his covert CIA wife. They even referred to the action as "criminal."
The main justification for requiring the reporters to divulge their sources because they believed, and I quote in almost exact words, "to discourage this very kind of leak was in the greater public good" than protection of sources.
To me it is a mystery why these decisions have not been getting more play in the media.
They seriously undermine the Republican argument that this entire investigation is frivolous, a Democratic witchhunt, etc. or that it is silly to even THINK Rove or other administration officials acted to punish Wilson by outing her covert CIA wife. It seriously undermines the argument that the Bush Administration heroically only wanted to steer the reporters off the wrong course in reporting on Wilson's comments.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Joe Wilson (no. not that one) said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To above blogger: The Plamegate case adds more proof to a long trail of documented evidences demonstrating Bush Administration lied to the country to win support for Iraq at any costs, not limited to manipulating or "fixing" intelligence on Sadaam WMDs and Al-Quaeda-9-11 connection, while failing to listen to any dissenting opinion and attacking anyone daring to offer such opinions.
For evidences, look to historical record of related events surrounding Clarke, ONeill, National Security Council, several other Washington insiders, Senate Committee Report, Downing Street Memos, The Bush Administration fall 2002 bombings on Iraq, the forced premature withdrawl of the U.N. inspectors etc. etc.
I could go on and on. But I side with true professional commentators and observers in the media who frequently sigh how exhausted they've become outlining the evidences. Like the case with trying to counter Bush spin on Iraq, the MSM and the Bushies will not allow you to trust your own eyes and ears, much less your own sound judgment, rational, common sense and reasoning.

7:30 AM  

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