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June 27, 2004: Something is up. Or maybe not. Or maybe so.

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Federal prosecutors interviewed George Bush this week in the Oval office concerning the leak of CIA Agent Valerie Plame's identity, which is the subject of a grand jury investigation.  (Associated Press report here…)  The questioning lasted seventy minutes and was done by chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.  Bush's personal lawyer, Jim Sharp, whom he retained for the occasion, was present. 

The president didn’t use Alberto Gonzalez, White House counsel, in the interview.  He didn’t use Ted Olson, the US Solicitor General, the guy who argues for the government.  He hired a private attorney for this. 

What could that mean? 

Semisolid nitrogenous waste matter seems to be hitting the fan.  Reminds one of the old days with Nixon. 

Remember this? 


The so-called Saturday Night Massacre was the dismissal of special prosecutor Archibald Cox and the forced resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus by U.S.  President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal on the night of Saturday, October 20, 1973. 

Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was appointed by Congress to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972, had earlier issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations that Nixon had made in the Oval Office as evidence.  Nixon initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but on October 19, 1973, he offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise, asking a Senator to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor's office.  Cox refused the compromise that evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. 

However, President Nixon acted to dismiss Cox from his office the next night.  He contacted Attorney General Richardson and ordered him to fire the special prosecutor.  Richardson refused, and instead resigned in protest.  Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he, too, refused and resigned. 

Nixon then contacted the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, and ordered him as acting head of the Justice Department to fire Cox.  Richardson and Ruckelshaus had both personally assured the congressional committee overseeing the special prosecutor investigation that they would not interfere; Bork had made no such assurance to the committee, and complied with Nixon's order. 

Congress was infuriated by the act, which was seen as a gross abuse of Presidential power.  In the days that followed, numerous bills of impeachment against the President were introduced in Congress.  Nixon defended his actions in a famous press conference on November 17, 1973, in which he said, "...in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice.  And I think, too, that I should say that in my years of public life that [sic] I've welcomed this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President's a crook.  Well, I'm not a crook!"

The Independent Counsel Act, passed in 1978, was a direct result of the Massacre.


Now an independent counsel has to talk with Bush, and in response Bush brings in his own outside attorney – just to be safe. 

Ah, I may be reading too much into this. 

But then also there was an announcement in Washington med-week that Ted Olson, the US Solicitor General, the guy who argues the government’s official positions, is resigning.  He’s leaving in July.  Olson lost his wife on 9/11 as she was on the 757 that slammed into the Pentagon.  He dutifully argued last month before the Supreme Court that the president had the absolute right to name anyone, citizen or not, an “enemy combatant” - and then hold that person without any charges and without access to counsel, without any communication to anyone, in secret, for as long as the president decides is long enough, or forever if the president decides so.  Olson argued in the parallel case that anyone we held at Guantánamo has no rights under any of our laws or any international treaties to which we are a party (like the Geneva Conventions) – the matter was outside the United States and no US laws or treaty obligations applied at all.  He argued last year in the University of Michigan affirmative action case that no state-funded university had the right to set up special programs to attract minority students – as that’s picking on the white folk. 

Heck, Olson was the guy who successfully represented Bush in the Supreme Court case in 2000 that halted ballot counting in Florida and confirmed Bush's “election” over Gore.  In his confirmation hearings the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked on Olson’s nomination, 9-9, with Democrats saying he hadn't “been candid” about his involvement all those efforts to dig up damaging material on President Bill Clinton.  The floor resolved that. 

He’s Bush guy.  He’s walking.  Why? 

Inquiring minds want to know. 

Something is up.  Even Dick Cheney is losing it.  The week when lining up for the annual group photograph of the Senate (the Vice President is also de jure President Pro Tem of the Senate) Cheney lost his temper and said a nasty word.  Really. 

As CNN reports it


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Typically a break from partisan warfare, this year's Senate class photo turned smiles into snarls as Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly used profanity toward one senior Democrat, sources said. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was on the receiving end of Cheney's ire, confirmed that the Vice President used profanity during Tuesday's class photo. 

A spokesman for Cheney confirmed there was a "frank exchange of views."

Using profanity on the Senate floor while the Senate is session is against the rules.  But the Senate was technically not in session at the time and the normal rules did not apply, a Senate official said. 

The story, which was recounted by several sources, goes like this:

Cheney, who as president of the Senate was present for the picture day, turned to Leahy and scolded the senator over his recent criticism of the vice president for Halliburton's alleged war profiteering. 

… Responding to Cheney's comment, Leahy reminded him of an earlier statement the vice president had made about him.  Cheney then replied with profanity. 

Leahy would not comment on the specifics of the story Thursday, but did confirm that Cheney used profanity. 

"I think he was just having a bad day," said Leahy, "and I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor."

Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for the vice president, said, "That doesn't sound like the kind of language that the vice president would use, but I can confirm that there was a frank exchange of views."


It seems Cheney shouted “GO F**K YOURSELF!” at Leahy.  (No, the missing letters do NOT mean the word here is “firetruck.”)

Damn.  What next? 

Here’s a good question someone asked me about this - If this is somehow on tape, and if Howard Stern played it on his radio show - who would the FCC fine?  Cheney or Stern? 

Inquiring minds want to know. 

All in all one senses things disintegrating – entropy and chaos theory at work in the halls of power. 


Will Cheney apologize?  On Fox News he said no.


Cheney said he "probably" used an obscenity in an argument Tuesday on the Senate floor with Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and added that he had no regrets.  "I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it," Cheney told Neil Cavuto of Fox News.  The vice president said those who heard the putdown agreed with him.  "I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue."


Comity and dignity return to Washington after the madness and excess of the Clinton years?




And Cheney is playing to his base by refusing to apologize.  You “trust the man” – and you don’t ask questions or raise issues.  And you slap down silly children with stupid questions.  Cheney is playing the “strong father” card here.  Folks understand that.


Then there is this analysis of the situation:


Profanity, Cheney, and the Criminal Law


Some jurisdictions make it a crime to utter a public profanity (at least if the profanity disturbs or might disturb others) -- laws of dubious constitutionality that some courts have nonetheless upheld.  Dick Cheney is leading the way toward a new defense to such charges: profanity as therapy, a form of self-defense or medical necessity.


Cheney admits he "probably" tossed the F-word at Senator Leahy this week, but says he "felt better afterwards."  Good for him.  And good for all the criminal defense lawyers who can now say in a closing argument: "If the Vice President can say that word in the Senate chamber as a stress reliever, how can my client be guilty of disorderly conduct for saying the same word?  Isn't he entitled to a little therapy too?"


A big thanks to Dick Cheney for making clear a fact we've always known: even Republicans swear, and it's not a big deal -- making it an effing shame that people sometimes get charged with a crime for using language that others find disagreeable.


Therapy as a defense?  Cool.


Well, the Republican National Committee urged John Kerry to apologize after he use this F-Word in a Rollin Stones interview a few months ago – and argued that using such language made Kerry temperamentally unfit for office.  The RNC is silent now.


Oh well.  Get used to this sort of thing. 


Questioning those in power results in righteous anger – understandable and appropriate whatever its form.  When in power you don’t owe anyone an explanation of anything.  When you are not, as Kerry was not, must have brass balls and no brains – you must be a real loose cannon – to use such words.


The problem? 


One senses that we’re coming down to, on one side, is half the country being those who “trust the man” and ask no questions, and feel deeply patriotic for that stance, and, on the other side, those who ask questions and say things like “let’s look deeper in to this,” and ask why do this or not do that.  The seething resentment the first group feels for the second is clear.  In their eyes this second group is making trouble and endangering us all – it’s almost treason that they see.  Cheney’s outburst was perfectly understandable.


The second group sees the first as mindless sheep - and endangering us all.  Cheney’s outburst shows a dangerous guy really ticked off that’s he’s not getting his way.




Late update:


The White House is furious over the interview that Carole Coleman did with George Bush on Irish TV last Friday night?  In fact, they're so furious about the fact that Coleman dared to follow up with critical questions that they've withdrawn a planned interview with Laura Bush?


Discussed here by Kevin Drum:


all the questions were submitted in advance.  Bush knew exactly what she was going to ask.


It's unbelievable.  We have a president who apparently feels uncomfortable doing an interview with a foreign journalist unless he knows beforehand what she's going to ask, and then behaves childishly when she actually follows up and insists on genuine answers to the prescripted questions instead of the usual talking point pabulum that the American press laps up.  How dare she interrupt the president of the United States and demand real answers!


Can you imagine Tony Blair refusing to do an interview unless the questions were submitted in advance?  Or John Kerry.  Or Bill Clinton.  Or George Bush Sr.  Or Margaret Thatcher.  Or pretty much any other world leader of the past 20 years?


It's just embarrassing. 


Yep, click on that item and you can drill down to links to the interview and much else.


This fellow may feel embarrassed by what happened.  But he just doesn’t get it.


They are not furious.  Not at all.  Nor is Cheney embarrassed by what he said.


I would suggest what happened in Ireland was carefully staged to show the base of the party – the first group mentioned above – that Bush is strong and doesn’t take crap from pesky kids with stupid questions.  Not from a foreigner.  Not from a woman.  You proudly trust him, the man, and trust America, and God, or you get slapped down.  It plays well back home.

It plays well back home to the half of the country he needs to get out and vote and assure another four years.


Bush tells off and then punishes the Irish reporter?  Cheney seems to lose his temper and uses a “bad word?”


These are no accidents.  This is “energizing the base” as they say in politics.


Yeah, something is up.  An election.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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