I wish I could take more pleasure in watching George W. Bush squirm amid one of the worst weeks in his presidency, but I can’t. The situation is too serious for partisanship.
The indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, last Friday on five charges centered on his alleged impeding of a grand jury investigating the disclosure of a CIA operative’s name to journalists was truly startling.
The charges, though they could have been “much worse,” paint a portrait of a White House apparently very willing to cover up whatever it was that was going on regarding information gathering about the leaked CIA operative’s husband, former ambassador and Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson. If the charges hold up in court, it shows that Libby knowingly lied about the disclosure of the CIA operative’s identity, which begs the question regarding the act of disclosure in the first place. But let’s not get excited.
Earlier that week, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court was withdrawn after a hilariously unsuccessful introduction period that had the lawyer-only candidate mocked openly by lawmakers, media pundits and everyone else in the country.
The mystery of why the unqualified Miers was nominated in the first place remains unanswered, but the embarrassment of withdrawal is clear enough. By a wide margin, conservatives, liberals and the folks in the middle consider an unqualified lawyer who has never been a judge unfit to be a Supreme Court justice. Go figure.
The most startling factoid of the week, however, came when the Pentagon announced that the U.S. troop death toll in Iraq had surpassed the 2,000 mark. This turning point in the war comes after several polling groups are beginning to show, at least, an American public increasingly confused about our future in Iraq. At worst, the polls show an American public regretful that we went to war in the first place.
In either case, the death of 2,000 American soldiers for a cause nobody’s that passionate about is a national disgrace. In most cases, Republicans who I talk to about Iraq never really seemed too thrilled about the war. It’s always a defensive conversation for them, as if it’s their obligation to prove that it’s not ridiculous that we’re there.They’re right, and it is. Sadly.
I know I should be taking more pleasure in the kinda-collapse of this presidency in recent weeks, but it’s hard to put a smile on my face in light of such tragedy.
The Harriet Miers thing was bad enough. Reading her written responses to some of the basic elements of a questionnaire about her possible new position made it seem like the president’s staff was completely unaware that this was the right Harriet Miers when they chose her to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Whoops.
The CIA leak investigation is far more than a partisan witch-hunt meant to bury the president. In fact, nobody thinks of it that way. Almost universally, the reaction to the special prosecutor’s work up to this point, including the president’s, has been admiration. Democratic leadership have said essentially said nothing, and maybe they don’t need to.
If what some people have alleged is true, if the vice president’s office knowingly attained information about Wilson’s CIA operative wife and passed it along to a journalist who had the deliberate intention of outing her, then that’s horrible. Such an action presents a clear and present danger to the United States that must be rooted out.
In an administration so hell-bent on proving its obsession with national security, this seems like a bit of boondoggle – even for the knuckleheads at the top. It shows that people who voted in 2004 for President Bush because of his ability to lead and keep us safe because of his strong emphasis on national security were voting on an erroneous principle.
The larger issue in the CIA leak investigation obviously relates to the Iraq war and its being sold to the American public as a prudent cause. If Wilson was targeted because of his New York Times column that attacked the U.S. cause for war in Iraq, then the war in Iraq is in a heap of trouble. Anything that needs to use criminal means to be sold to a group of people must have its share of inherent content flaws.
I hope that during the course of Libby’s trial that detail surrounding the White House’s case for war in Iraq becomes public. The American public deserves to know why the Bush administration wanted so badly to sell something that no one wanted to buy.
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.