Monday, February 26, 2007

That Was Then; This Is Now

E.J. Dionne notes that the Bush administration — specifically Dick Cheney — is up to its old tricks.

Even as jurors pondered whether Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff should be convicted for lying about what the Bush administration did to smear one of its critics, there was Cheney accusing another adversary of doing the work of the terrorists.

The fabricate-and-smear cycle illustrated so dramatically during the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby explains why President Bush is failing to rally support for the latest iteration of his Iraq policy. The administration’s willingness at the outset to say anything, no matter how questionable, to justify the war has destroyed its credibility. Its habit of attacking those who expressed misgivings has destroyed any goodwill it might have enjoyed. Bush and Cheney have lost the benefit of the doubt.

Yet Cheney has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. His latest demon is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he accuses of validating al-Qaeda’s objectives.


The attack apparatus has now turned on [Patrick] Fitzgerald, whose record is that of a thoroughly nonpartisan prosecutor. Fitzgerald’s perjury rap against Libby, Cheney allies say, is a cheap attempt to criminalize politics.

Really? Here’s what Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) had to say about perjury: “Lying under oath is an ancient crime of great weight because it shields other offenses, because it blocks the light of truth in human affairs. It is a dagger in the heart of our legal system, and indeed in our democracy. It cannot, it should not, it must not be tolerated.”

Ros-Lehtinen made that statement not about Libby, but to justify the impeachment of Bill Clinton back in 1998. I have no idea where she stands on the Plame-Wilson case. But it’s certainly amusing that so many who were eager to throw Clinton out of office for perjury and obstruction of justice when he lied about sex are now livid at Fitzgerald for bringing comparable charges in a controversy over the rationale for war. Do they think sex is more important than war?

What a silly question; of course they do.

The attempt to smear Fitzgerald is laughable, especially when you compare his plodding and methodical work to that of Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who went after Bill Clinton. Starr made no secret of his contempt for Mr. Clinton and gleefully went after him with all the grace and dignity of the paparazzi, including leaking documents and intimidating witnesses. But that was okay for the Republicans because Starr was their guy, it was all about sex, and anything that could possibly destroy Bill Clinton was fair game.

So they’re trying the same tactics with Pelosi, Fitzgerald, and anybody else. What is amazing is that they didn’t learn from their past mistakes. They didn’t get Clinton, they destroyed the trust of the American people about the war, and now they’re trying it all over again.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head and say, “WTF?”