Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Getting Dick

From the Washington Post:

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent’s name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney’s office, according to lawyers familiar with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that suggests Cheney’s long-standing tensions with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.


It is not clear whether Fitzgerald plans to charge anyone inside the Bush administration with a crime. But with the case reaching a climax — administration officials are braced for possible indictments as early as this week– it is increasingly clear that Cheney and his aides have been deeply enmeshed in events surrounding the Plame affair from the outset.


Starting in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the vice president was at the forefront of a White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that invading Iraq was central to defeating terrorists worldwide. Cheney, a longtime proponent of toppling Saddam Hussein, led the White House effort to build the case that Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed a dangerous arsenal of weapons.

Before the war, he traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings, an unusual move that some critics interpreted as an effort to pressure intelligence officials into supporting his view of the evidence. After the war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on faulty information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.

So it all boils down to a struggle between the Vice President and the CIA about going to war in Iraq. That’s all? As Josh Marshall notes, this sort of news “suggests volumes but says frustratingly little.” And also, the usual suspects in a case like this are not the big fish but the lieutenants and staffers who handle the day-to-day information and keep it off the desk of the boss. But they also might be the ones who are doing the testifying.

It is tempting to draw a parallel between the circumstances of the late Spiro Agnew, the first Vice President in the Nixon administration who was forced to resign in October 1973 after pleading nolo contendre to accepting a bribe, and Vice President Cheney. However, Agnew’s case had nothing to do with Watergate, which was also building to its climax at the time Mr. Agnew resigned. Agnew’s crimes were committed when he was the governor of Maryland. As far as history records, Agnew was not involved in any of the activities in the Watergate events other than being the good soldier in defending President Nixon. Indeed, that seems to have been his only job in the Nixon administration; being the badass on the stump for the hardball politics is the job that falls to the Vice President. Mr. Cheney, on the other hand, has been involved in the day-to-day operation of the Bush White House to a degree that may prove to be a big problem.

The one place where the paths of Spiro Agnew and Dick Cheney cross is in proving that while a vice president is rarely seen as a tangible asset in electing a president, they can become a huge liability on their own.