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BUSH ABOVE SCOTTIE! “I want to know the truth,” Bush said. Libs should hit hard on that statement: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2005

SPEAKING OF PATSIES: Good grief! We marveled at Garance Franke-Ruta’s analysis when we saw it posted yesterday. But this morning, we see that Kevin Drum has called it “the best take on why the press corps finally woke up” about Rove and Plame. Here it is, “the best take” on the press corps’ day of revolt:
FRANKE-RUTA (7/11/05): If there is one thing that reporters hate, it's being played for patsies. McClellan has publicly humiliated some of the most prominent reporters in the country by persistently feeding them information that has now been revealed to be false, and I'm pretty darn sure that they are not going to grant him any favors and extend him the benefit of the doubt in the future.
“If there is one thing reporters hate, it's being played for patsies?” This analysis comes straight from Neptune. But Kevin truly is Pangloss when it comes to the conduct of the press corps. We won’t make any predictions ourselves, but those who are “pretty darn sure” that the press will play tough are living in a deep dream state.

One more note on Drum’s take on the press. A few weeks ago, John Harris gave an interview to CJR Daily in connection with his new book on Clinton. (We expect to discuss the book all next week.) Atrios pulled an unflattering quote from the interview, then semi-challenged Harris on it. By contrast, Drum found the one quote from the interview which painted the corps in a positive light. (Completely improbably, Harris claimed that the mainstream press just hated covering the Lewinsky matter.) Harris’ claim seemed absurd on its face—but that was the one quote Drum posted. We marvel at the way this superlative analyst sees no evil when it comes to the press corps.

In our usual excess of fairness, we passed on this matter in real time. Today, with Drum pimping Franke-Ruta’s dream, we decided to go back and cadge it.

IN A NUTSHELL: It’s buried deep in Richard Stevenson’s piece about Rove. But the politics of the past fifteen years is largely explained by this passage:

STEVENSON (7/12/05): Democrats, as the minority party in both the House and the Senate, have no ability to push forward with a formal Congressional investigation. But Mr. Rove is such a high-profile political target that his role is sure to draw intense scrutiny from both Democrats in Congress and liberal interest groups.
At least Stevenson didn’t say that he’s “pretty darn sure” that the press corps will show eternal vigilance. But much of the politics of the Clinton/Bush eras is explained by that highlighted passage. It’s a fundamental problem of our democracy—only the congressional majority can conduct a formal probe. From 1995 on, President Clinton was hounded by clowning probes, in which the never-vigilant press corps were more than happy to behave like patsies. But on the Rove matter, the Dems can’t run a probe. This is a major structural flaw in the working of our democracy. In this very major forum, only one side gets to be heard! It’s a very unwise system—and it helps explain why things were so much harder for President Clinton than they have been for President Bush.

THAT VIRUS SPREADS: Did King Karl say that Plame was “fair game” after her cover was blown by Bob Novak? The facts on that haven’t been established, but Josh Marshall praises a reader’s “good point” on the subject. Here was the reader’s presentation:

TPM READER: If [Rove] referred to her as being “fair game” after her cover was blown, does that not imply that he wasn’t stunned (to say the least) by her status, and there is a good chance that he did know about her status beforehand?

Doesn’t that line of questioning deserve to be raised?

“Good point,” Josh says, after posting this e-mail. But actually, no—it isn’t a good point, except in the viral world the liberal web now seems to be borrowing from the kooky-con right (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/05). Again, we don’t know if Rove told Chris Matthews that Plame was “fair game.” But even if he did say this (or something like it), this tells us absolutely nothing about his state of knowledge before Novak’s column appeared—and it’s absurd to pretend that it does. There are many “good points” to be made about Rove. This, alas, isn’t one of them.

Many thoughts occur to many people, and they zip off e-mails accordingly. But this e-mail doesn’t make really a good point—unless we’ve adopted the world of the kooky-con right, a world in which every bit of “evidence” will be tortured until it proves the guilt of an adversary. The talk-show right got away with this clowning for the past fifteen years because the press corps kept rolling over for them. But the press corps isn’t going to roll over for liberals and Dems, so liberals and Dems have to reason more clearly. Josh is pandering to his readers here. Can’t you just hear him? Hey, rubes!

MORE VIRAL MOMENTS: Liberals and Dems simply can’t afford to play the dim games of the kooky-con right. But all across the liberal web, we find the virus spreading—a virus in which every bit of reasoning, no matter how daft, is accepted as seminal brilliance as long as it “proves” King Karl’s guilt. Yesterday, we were amazed when the sagacious Digby praised this post from John Aravosis:

ARAVOSIS (7/11/05): Perhaps it's legally relevant if Rove "knew" Plame was undercover or not, but it's not relevant in terms of him keeping his job. Rove intentionally outed a CIA agent working on WMD, it is irrelevant whether he did or didn't know if she was an undercover agent. First off, he knew she wasn't THAT public about her identity or there'd have been no need to "out" here—everyone would have known her already.
Aravosis makes some excellent points in his longer post. But that paragraph, which Digby featured, makes almost no sense at all. The last sentence is completely absurd. The second sentence isn’t much better.

That featured paragraph makes no sense—except in a viral world, a world in which every bit of “logic,” no matter how daft, automatically “proves” the guilt of the adversary. Pseudo-cons have played this game for years. Libs and Dems need to be smarter.

Special report—How to proceed!

BUSH ABOVE SCOTTIE: For our money, Bush’s past statements are much more relevant to the present situation than the past statements of Scott McClellan. (Bush is a more important figure.) For that reason, we think it’s worth looking at his full remarks on the Plame matter from September 30, 2003. At this point, there was no special prosecutor:

QUESTION (9/30/03): Do you think that the Justice Department can conduct an impartial investigation, considering the political ramifications of the CIA leak, and why wouldn't a special counsel be better?

BUSH: Yes. Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. 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.

And so I welcome the investigation. I'm absolutely confident that the Justice Department will do a very good job. There's a special division of career Justice Department officials who are tasked with doing this kind of work; they have done this kind of work before in Washington this year. I have told our administration, people in my administration to be fully cooperative.

I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business.

Yes, let's see, Kemper—he's from Chicago. Where are you? Are you a Cubs or White Sox fan? [Laughter.] Wait a minute. That doesn't seem fair, does it? [Laughter.]

QUESTION: Yesterday we were told that Karl Rove had no role in it—

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: Have you talked to Karl and do you have confidence in him—

BUSH: Listen, I know of nobody—I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.

And again I repeat, you know, Washington is a town where there's all kinds of allegations. You've heard much of the allegations. And if people have got solid information, please come forward with it. And that would be people inside the information who are the so-called anonymous sources, or people outside the information—outside the administration. And we can clarify this thing very quickly if people who have got solid evidence would come forward and speak out. And I would hope they would.

And then we'll get to the bottom of this and move on. But I want to tell you something—leaks of classified information are a bad thing. And we've had them—there's too much leaking in Washington. That's just the way it is. And we've had leaks out of the administrative branch, had leaks out of the legislative branch, and out of the executive branch and the legislative branch, and I've spoken out consistently against them and I want to know who the leakers are.

Yes, the Bush Admin will torture the language, saying (perhaps correctly) that Rove didn’t “leak classified information.” But over and over, Bush said he wanted people with information to come forward. “I want to know the truth,” he said. And: “We can clarify this thing very quickly if people who have got solid evidence would come forward and speak out. And I would hope they would.” But two years went by, and Rove didn’t come forward—or if he did, Bush kept his trap shut. Rove flirted with jail time for Matt Cooper; he may have put Judith Miller in jail. (The Admin will say that Rove signed that blanket waiver.) But the question here seems obvious—and it’s the question libs should be asking. When Bush said he wanted the truth, why didn’t he get the truth from his number-one top adviser? Or did he actually get the truth? Did he actually get the truth, then keep the truth to himself?

McClellan’s statements are much less important than Bush’s. Two years ago, the sitting president said, “I want to know the truth.” Obvious question for a Bold Leader: Why are we just starting to get the truth two years after this public statement? And: What do you plan to do to the person who kept you in the dark?

UNFORTUNATELY, ORIN WAS SEMI-RIGHT: Unfortunately, for all Rove’s misconduct (which may not be criminal), this isn’t a perfect case for liberals. Unfortunately, almost everything Deborah Orin said on last night’s Hardball is true, or at least semi-true. If Dems and libs want to deal with reality, they need to understand these facts. We’ll discuss them in more detail tomorrow. But here’s what Orin said:

ORIN (7/11/05): Democrats are always dreaming that they have got a new Watergate. This is not a new Watergate.

What has come out pretty clearly so far, I think, is—there is an issue of whether Karl Rove told the truth and the whole truth. But what`s more important is, it is clear that Joe Wilson didn`t tell the truth. We have a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report that says, on virtually every point that Joe Wilson made, starting from denying his wife had him sent on the trip, which turns out to be not true—

MATTHEWS: Right. She did.

ORIN: She did. And to claiming that he found that there was no ties with Iraq and that he reported that, which he did not report. He reported, if anything, the opposite.

To claiming that he reported there were forged documents, which was not true, because he never even saw the documents. So, Joe Wilson`s credibility is seriously in question. And what we now see is, what Karl Rove appears to have been doing was to be pointing out to Time magazine that Joe Wilson could not be trusted, rather than trying to get even with Joe Wilson.

And it is sort of fascinating, because, you know, for a year, the press reported Joe Wilson`s charges. And then, when the Senate Intelligence Committee said they were all false, it didn`t.

Orin is stretching a bit on various points. But unfortunately, much of what she said last night is true or semi-true (including that final comment about the press, by the way). On the newly-viral liberal web, it’s heresy to discuss this, of course. But Joseph Wilson has been a severely flawed messenger. If libs and Dems want to be smart, not viral, they’ll want to understand that fact. More on the topic tomorrow.

TOMORROW: Wilson’s warts. And oh yeah—why did you hear so little about those blanket waivers?