Saturday, October 29, 2005

It's Hard Times at the White House

This has not been the best of weeks for the Bush Administration. In fact, it could be argued that this has been the worst week the White House has experienced in a grueling year of setbacks.

Firstly, the fighting in Iraq is going badly and demonstrators all over the country just observed a gruesome benchmark, the 2,000th casualty of that conflict. The vast majority of Americans no longer support the military effort in Iraq. Furthermore, in poll after poll, they express no confidence in Bush’s handling of the war. Indeed, Bush is still experiencing his worst approval ratings, which now seem to be in a free fall.

And FEMAs dismal handling of various domestic disasters has pushed approval ratings even lower. As has the discovery of how many truly unqualified political appointees now hold high-ranking positions in the government. To Bush, cronyism always trumps actual competence.

And Bush’s latest pick for the Supreme Court only highlighted this. Harriet Miers just withdrew her name under pressure from Bush’s base, to whom he usually caters. Principled conservatives were enraged that the President picked somebody based more on personal friendship than qualifications.

Other Republicans are also in trouble. Tom DeLay and his Texas colleagues have been indicted on charges of money laundering and making illegal donations to Texas campaigns. DeLay’s friend and ally, Jack Abramoff, a well-heeled Washington lobbyist, is facing corruption charges for his work on behalf of an Indian tribe and gambling interests. And even Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader, is under a cloud of suspicion pertaining to the timing of when he sold stock in his family’s business and whether he had inside information that caused him to sell it when he did.

And now on top of all these other troubles, Vice President Cheney’s top aide has been indicted for lying to prosecutors, the FBI and the grand jury about whether he outed the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

As the indictment makes clear, because of Libby’s alleged lies, the cover up of the actual release of this information was successful. Because he lied, prosecutors can’t discover whether Libby or anybody else in the Administration was responsible for releasing Mrs. Wilson’s identity.

So, although he might be found guilty of perjury, we’ll never know whether Libby also violated federal law and released the identity of a covert CIA agent. Also, we may never know whether Karl Rove, Dick Cheney or anybody else also was responsible for this act.

However, whoever did make this information public was not only guilty of breaking federal law. They also violated the public’s trust. These all are people with the very highest top-secret security clearances. They broke all kinds of vows just to retaliate against a political foe.

In addition, they not only risked the life of a CIA agent, compromised her cover and ruined her career (quite a bit actually), but they also risked the lives of any covert contacts who might have aided her. To my mind, they are guilty, at least morally, of high treason.

Mark Twain once observed that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. And unfortunately, this White House and the Republican Party have had more than their fair share of genuine scoundrels in places of trust and responsibility. So, if it’s a tough week for the White House, it’s an even harder one for those who entrusted this Administration to do the right thing.

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