The web of politics
This is the last of three pieces that describe the incompetence, deceit and politics that entwine the Wilson/Plame/Libby case.
By May 2003, Wilson was firmly part of the Democratic Party sphere. He attended the May 2, 2003, Democratic Senate Policy Committee hearing at which New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof was a guest. The Wilsons met with Kristof and agreed to let him write about the Niger trip, not using Wilson’s name. Also in May, Wilson joined the Kerry presidential campaign as an unpaid adviser. Later, in July, Wilson penned the New York Times article that challenged the 16 words in Bush’s State of the Union speech about Iraq and uranium. By deceptively substituting "bought" for "sought" and "Niger" for "Africa" Wilson gave the article "legs." Wilson’s actual observation substantiated Iraq’s 1999 attempt and a Senate investigation later determined Wilson’s claims were untrue.
Personal crusades often take precedence over one’s job. For instance, deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage undermined the administration by not disbursing Radio Liberty funding President Bush had released. Members of the CIA who disapproved of presidential policy undermined it through leaks to reporters like Mary McCarthy is reported to have done with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest. Paths to oppose presidential policy often are incestuous. In one instance, Dana Priest’s husband runs the Center for International Policy (CIP), a Fenton Communications client. Fenton’s Iraq Policy Information Program (IPIP), designed to get out the anti-war message, kept Joe Wilson as a featured speaker. Fenton set up the Tides Foundation, heavily contributed to by John Kerry’s wife, Theresa Heinz. Mel Goodman, a former CIA staffer, worked for CIP and was a Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity member. Other VIPS members like Larry Johnson and Ray McGovern are regular talking heads for mainstream media like NPR or CNN, but their anti-Bush predilections are overlooked, even when Democrats trundle them out for congressional hearings.
Plausible deniability of political connections is important when engaged in political dirty work. Melanie Sloan, former counsel of the Judiciary Crime Sub-committee under Charles Schumer, heads CREW. CREW timed and conflated exposing the Mark Foley emails and instant messages. CREW cheered the special prosecutor who chased Libby. Schumer is prominent in the Democratic Senate Policy Committee that heard Wilson in May 2003. Schumer shepherded Comey’s appointment to acting Attorney General. Schumer urged the Fitzgerald investigation on through early, strident public letters. Yet years later, when told just before Libby’s trial that Fitzgerald had known about Armitage from the beginning, Schumer feigned surprise. Schumer’s "surprise" was as implausible as Libby’s surprise "hearing [about Plame from Russert] as if for the first time" except that Libby earned a felony conviction. Schumer diminished Bill Clinton’s grand jury lie, factually exposed by the stained blue dress, but is outraged by Libby’s less demonstrable one.
Politicians posture outrageously. The press reports the posturing as news. The voters tolerate the politicians and the pseudo-news. Senator John Kerry pontificated about the Libby result, "This verdict brings accountability at last for official deception and the politics of smear and fear." Rubbish. Smear is the name Washington Democrats give to inconvenient truth. Wilson was no whistleblower. He worked with Democrats and for them. He perpetrated a political smear as a gambit to bring down the Bush administration in the middle of a war in the vain hope for political office had Kerry been elected. The sound you hear is press credibility evaporating as it allows Wilson’s false storyline to continue in succeeding reports. Such is the record of the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and the NBC television network. While sometimes vanity, economics, or ignorance lead to abuse, former Democratic staffer Chris Matthews’ show on MSNBC deserves to be called "Hardball" not because of tough political reporting, but for the partisan hardball he plays.
Libby was found guilty of perjury. He also fell victim to political opportunists. Special prosecutors are designed to punish. Those efforts can obscure the public learning what happened. The inconvenient truth is that incompetence facilitated deceit that allowed political manipulation. Since the election a new congressional majority enjoys the partisan friendliness of a sympathetic press. Little changed. Many congressional leaders are tired, worn, venal hacks whose windy verbosity goes unnoticed in the press, to the detriment of a public that seems to have given up hope or not to care.
Should it matter? New York City got on for years in the early 1990s tolerating graffiti, broken windows, and slack behavior. Like the Big Apple, behavior won’t change until you do what the Rome Sentinel does here — warn politicians, staffers, and sycophant journalists that their pattern of behavior is unacceptable.