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October 23, 2005 - Perhaps More of a Squib

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Perhaps this political bombshell is more of a squib:


1 a: a short humorous or satiric writing or speech - b: a short news item; especially filler: FILLER
2 a: a small firecracker - b: a broken firecracker in which the powder burns with a fizz
3: a small electric or pyrotechnic device used to ignite a charge


The item, Wednesday, October 19, was part of the swirl of speculation given that no one yet knows what will come of the investigation of the leak of that CIA agent's name. There were lots of rumors going around the day before. Would Cheney resign? Would Bush name Condoleezza Rice Vice President? Just who was going to be indicted, and for what? How high up was this going to go?

So the New York Daily News prints an item that suggests the president himself, in spite of all he has said, knew all along exactly what happened and who did the deed. This was bylined Thomas M. DeFrank, Daily News Washington Bureau Chief. There's more on DeFrank and his background here from Josh Marshall - DeFrank was big with the former President Bush, co-wrote a book with James Baker and was considered for a position or two, so he's an insider. Of course, on the other hand, his name could be translated, "from France."

So, he answers the basic question. Did this President Bush know all about Karl Rove's involvement in the outing of Valerie Plame, all along? He says yes.

Note this from September 29, 2003 - White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says "the president knows" that Rove wasn't involved in the leak. "It was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place."

Now that it is clear the woman's was leaked to two reporters Scott McClellan is refusing to comment.

October 8 the Associated Press reports Bush knows nothing about Rove doing anything like that. Citing "people familiar with Rove's statements," they say Bush asked Rove in the fall of 2003 to reassure him that he was not involved in any effort to divulge that woman's identity - and their "sources" said that Rove gave Bush the assurance Bush ask for.

Well, there are sources and then there are sources.


DeFrank suggest the AP folks were punked, with this:


An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.

"He made his displeasure known to Karl," a presidential counselor told The News. "He made his life miserable about this."

Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President's rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world.

As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald nears a decision, perhaps as early as today, on whether to issue indictments in his two-year probe, Bush has already circled the wagons around Rove, whose departure would be a grievous blow to an already shell-shocked White House staff and a President in deep political trouble.

Asked if he believed indictments were forthcoming, a key Bush official said he did not know, then added: "I'm very concerned it could go very, very badly."

"Karl is fighting for his life," the official added, "but anything he did was done to help George W. Bush. The President knows that and appreciates that."

Other sources confirmed, however, that Bush was initially furious with Rove in 2003 when his deputy chief of staff conceded he had talked to the press about the Plame leak.

Bush has always known that Rove often talks with reporters anonymously and he generally approved of such contacts, one source said.

But the President felt Rove and other members of the White House damage-control team did a clumsy job in their campaign to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, the ex-diplomat who criticized Bush's claim that Saddam Hussen tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger.

A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.

"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way," the source said.

None of these sources offered additional specifics of what Bush and Rove discussed in conversations beginning shortly after the Justice Department informed the White House in September 2003 that a criminal investigation had been launched into the leak of CIA agent Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak.

A White House spokesman declined to comment, citing the ongoing nature of Fitzgerald's investigation.


That's it.  Short and sweet.  Karl's been in the doghouse because he handled this badly.


The implication is the boss felt there were better ways to "discredit" that Wilson guy. This leaking crap to the press was a lousy way to smear the guy, or not sneaky enough, or something.

But Bush knew what was up. Does that make him, putting aside his anger at Rove, part of a conspiracy that revealed the name of an undercover CIA agent? Maybe.

This is most curious.

He did say this, September 2003 –


Listen, I know of nobody - I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action.


And February 2004, this


"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference during a fund-raising stop in Chicago, Illinois. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.

"I welcome the investigation. I am absolutely confident the Justice Department will do a good job.

"I want to know the truth," the president continued. "Leaks of classified information are bad things."

He added that he did not know of "anybody in my administration who leaked classified information."


So maybe DeFrank is lying, or he himself has been punked.  Who are you going to believe?

Tim Grieve tries to unravel it here:


The New York Daily News says that Bush and Rove had discussions about Rove's involvement in the Plame case "beginning shortly after the Justice Department informed the White House in September 2003 that a criminal investigation had been launched into the leak." If that's true, then Bush may have been telling something less than the full truth during a Cabinet meeting on Oct. 7, 2003, when he told reporters that he didn't know who leaked Valerie Plame's identity. "I mean this town is a -- is a town full of people who like to leak information," Bush said then. "And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official [who leaked Plame's identity to Robert Novak]. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is."

Of course, the Bush-Rove conversations that the Daily News alleges occurred may not have happened by Oct. 7, 2003. But if they happened, they happened long before Bush sat down for an interview with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in June 2004 - an interview in which Murray Waas' sources say Bush insisted that Rove had assured him that he wasn't involved in outing Plame.

If the Daily News is right, Bush lied to Fitzgerald. If the Daily News is wrong, Rove lied to Bush. Unless we're missing something, Mr. President, those are the only possibilities. Which is it?


This is enough to make your head hurt.

What to do? Ask questions. Ask White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

That's what the press did, Wednesday, October 19, with this result:


Question: Is it true that the president slapped Karl Rove upside the head a couple of years ago over the CIA leak?

McClellan: Are you referring to, what, a New York Daily News report? Two things: One, we're not commenting on an ongoing investigation; two, and I would challenge the overall accuracy of that news account ...

Question: So what facts are you challenging?

McClellan: Again, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Question: You can't say you're challenging the facts and then not say which ones you're challenging.

McClellan: Yes, I can. I just did ...

Question: Well, if you want us to say it's inaccurate, you need to give us a reason why, or it wouldn't be responsible to report it.

McClellan: Well, there's an ongoing investigation, and as you know, our policy is not to comment on it. So that's where we are ...

Question: Based on your personal knowledge, based on your opinion, based on your frustration with the story - what caused you to [challenge the accuracy of the story]?

McClellan: No, I mean, I read the story and I didn't view it as an accurate story.

Question: Why not?

McClellan: Again, I'm not going to go any further than that. There's an ongoing investigation. This is bringing up matters related to an ongoing investigation.

Question: After you read the story, Scott, did you check with either of the two people mentioned, the president or Rove, to ask them? Is that what you base –

McClellan: I don't have any further comment.


Well, that was illuminating.

Where do you go for real information?

As mentioned in the roundup of Tuesday rumors, the word is that a certain staffer of the Vice President, one John Hannah, had been "flipped" – to get out of trouble he was ratting out his bosses.  Now there's word of another, one David Wurmser.


David Wurmser, has agreed to provide the prosecution with evidence that the leak was a coordinated effort by Cheney's office to discredit the agent's husband. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, was one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq war.

The sources say that Hannah and Wurmser were given orders by senior officials in Cheney's office in June 2003 to leak Plame's covert status and identity in an attempt to muzzle Wilson. The former ambassador had been a thorn in administration's side since May 2003, when he began questioning claims that Iraq was an imminent threat to the U.S. and its neighbors in the Middle East.


It's a hall of mirrors.  Who knew what, and when?  And who ordered this thing be done?

And why do it?

Well, that's at least clear. The rubes needed to know they were sending their sons and daughters to face death for "a good reason." Wilson and the careful CIA folks were messing up the narrative - queering the deal. And the con was working. Or maybe these guys conned themselves - and sincerely believed the questioners and "facts" people had to be silenced for the safety of the nation.

That second possibility is scarier than anything else.


And note this from John Dean:


It is difficult to envision Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuting anyone, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, who believed they were acting for reasons of national security. While hindsight may find their judgment was wrong, and there is no question their tactics were very heavy-handed and dangerous, I am not certain that they were acting from other than what they believed to be reasons of national security. They were selling a war they felt needed to be undertaken.


In short, I cannot imagine any of them being indicted, unless they were acting for reasons other than national security. Because national security is such a gray area of the law, come next week, I can see this entire investigation coming to a remarkable anti-climax, as Fitzgerald closes down his Washington office and returns to Chicago.


Move on folks, nothing to see here?  There's no deep conspiracy here.


What if they believed some things had to be "emphasized and reinforced" and other ideas dismissed, for our own good.  They would see that as a conspiracy to "persuade."  It was then the right thing to do, even if some people get hurt.  It's all how you look at it.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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