Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Personal Aside: The Justice Department, Libby and Patrick Fitzgerald.
To this old ex-federal bureaucrat who has just completed an inside look-see at the Justice Department through several past and present sources, there was something wrong with the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as AG in the first place. Close to George Bush he may be but the indistinct image coming through of a namby-pamby on abortion has bothered social conservatives from the outset. He doesnt speak on the square; looks shifty-eyed; acts like a junior clerk. The frequent lying, misstatements and corrections shows an insecure man at the helm. My one fear was that Bush would name him to the Supreme Court for the next opening. This call for his resignationwhich may very well happencould be a godsend.
To the same old ex-federal bureaucrat, the dust-up in the Justice Department about Patrick Fitzgerald being mediocre smacks of retributionnot for Libby but for political prosecutions that may well have not been favored by the White House. Everybody knows that George Ryan and his politics, apart from his corruption as secretary of state, was acceptable to the Bush peopleand Fitzgerald successfully prosecuted Ryan. In Round #2, Richard M. Daley and George W. Bush are close; and U. S. Attorney Fitzgeralds determination to weed out corruption in City Hall is not conducive to the Odd Couple friendship. Scooter Libby was not just a top aide to the vice president but a vital national security staffer who was a great resource to the presidentand Fitzgerald convicted him.
Increasingly the unpopularto conservativesview comes: If one wants to examine the reason why Scooter Libby faces a jail term, they should forget pillorying Patrick Fitzgerald and look to administration incompetence. The age-old rule is that one never lies to an FBI agent. The fact that the initial leak on Libby came from Richard Armitage doesnt satisfy the surety that Libby lied when lying wasnt needed or necessary. It isnt a matter of forgetfulness; it is a matter of needless cover-up by lying. It doesnt matter if a lie is needless, incidental or not germaneit is a lie and the FBI doesnt like that. I will not say where I got this but it (a) comes from Washington and (b) from a few high conservative sources who realize its unpopular to say this. The anger that has been generated among conservatives comes from the unassailable fact that Scooter Libby has been a great asset to the countrys national security. But increasingly the evidence I saw shows he lied. And thats bad.
In fact the entire Scooter probe is endemic of political incompetence from an administration that has gone punchy from too many troubles. Finally the self-same old ex-federal bureaucrat knows that the CIA has become an armed camp against the Bush people, but particularly Dick Cheney, because Cheney was seen as trying to the agency a black eye. A day before Cheney became involved in the uranium-Niger story, Valerie Plame suggested her husband make an inspection trip before Cheney requested information, January 12, 2002. The beauteous Plame made the request because she had seen a document from the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], a rival of the CIA and wanted to scotch it in behalf of her agency.
Her husband, pretty boy Joe Wilson, a Democratic operative and one of Washingtons most inveterate party-goers and high livers, reported that there was ample evidence that Iraq had approached Niger officials for a uranium bid. Then he changed his tune out of vindictiveness. After rumors circulated that such documents that existed on the sale were forged. Coneolezza Rice, then national security director, said that low-level people in the CIA might have known they were forged but not the higher ups. Taking umbrage that he was being referred tohowever anonymouslyas a low-level person, Wilson blew up and decided to seek his revenge which ended up with a full-blown op ed story in the New York Times. Judith Miller testified that Libby was upset with the Wilson op ed, believing the CIA was trying to justify itself and discredit the administration. The vice president then reacted by saying nobody in the administration knew Wilson was going to Niger. Following which, Robert Novak reported that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative which was taken to mean a covert one (which she wasnt). The charge then was made that the administrationand Cheneywas trying to pay back Wilson by uncovering his wifes supposedly covert job and the fat was in the fire. But the leak to Novak came from Armitage who was a Colin Powell aide and no firm friend of either Cheney or Libby.
The CIAs top man then reacted wildly by asking for a prosecutor to find out who leaked the story about Plame. AG Ashcroft recused himself; Fitzgerald was picked. He became aware that Libby had seemingly contradicted himself and then lied to the FBI which was a special case. He told Armitage to shut up about his leak. The ordeal went on and Libby was convicted.
All this shows that politics tore up the CIA, the vice presidents office and Justice but this doesnt mean the system stinks, just the people. Those purists and naifs who plea piously that the Justice Department should be run by one not beholden to the political destiny of the president dont know their history. The very first AG, Edmund Jennings Randolph, was an outsider as far as Washington was concerned and displeased the first president by ruling against the legitimacy of the National Bank so he was kicked upstairs as secretary of state after Thomas Jefferson quit in a huff after having lost a number of struggles with Alexander Hamilton. Washington tossed Randolphs Bank ruling in the wastebasket and used his cronya genius named Alexander Hamilton who was also treasury secretaryto justify the National Bank. Thus it has always been government of croniesand whats wrong with that? The only trouble today is that some of Bushs cronies arent as smart as earlier cronies Bobby Kennedy to his brother JFK, Homer Cummings, and Francis Biddle to FDR.
The trouble with Gonzales is hes not very adroit, a little guy with a nervous tic. Besides, which he looks dumb and acts dumb.