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Between the Lines

October 06, 2003

‘The universe of possible culprits is quite small’

Joshua Marshall nails quite precisely the nature of the Valerie Plame Wilson affair, in which an undercover CIA operative was identified publicly. You’ll recall that two “senior administration officials” apparently were responsible for this.

“It's next to certain that the president --- like the rest of those who read [columnist Robert] Novak's original column or heard about it --- knew this in mid-July. But it's absolutely certain he's known about it since September 27th,” Marshall says.

“And what has he done about it? Nothing.

“All mumbo-jumbo to the contrary, the universe of possible culprits is quite small. I suspect the identity of the two is already well-known in the White House. But even if that's not the case, the president could quickly figure out who they are --- probably by demanding that they come forward, and certainly by reviewing phone logs and emails. Yet he has done neither. …

The president has said he wants to get to the bottom of this. Yet he has done nothing to get to the bottom of it. The only credible explanation is the obvious one: that he doesn't want to get to the bottom of it.

OK, Marshall is liberal, you’d expect him to say something like that. But even hard-right William Kristol of the Weekly Standard gets it:

“Revealing the identity of covert CIA agents is a crime under certain circumstances. But given the strict stipulations of the relevant statute, it seems unlikely that the Justice Department investigation will ever lead to a successful prosecution of the leaker or leakers. That doesn't make the political reality or the moral responsibility any less urgent. … Surely he should do his utmost to restore the White House's reputation for honor and integrity by calling together the dozens of more-or-less ‘senior’ administration officials and asking whoever spoke with Novak to come forward and explain themselves. Presumably the relevant officials -- absent some remarkable explanation that's hard to conceive -- should be fired, and their names given to the Justice Department. The president might also want to call Mrs. Wilson, who is after all a government official serving her country, and apologize for the damage done to her by his subordinate's action.”

Apologize! What a concept.

Kristol sets his call for the administartion to clear up the Plame Wilson matter in the context of the need for an administration shakeup because of its constant internecine bickering, seeming inability to carry through on policy and faulty decision-making.

“To govern is to choose,” Kristol writes. “Only one man can make the choices necessary to get the administration back on course. President Bush has problems with his White House, his administration's execution of his policy, and its internal decision-making ability. He should fix them sooner rather than later. Time is not on his side.”

Blogger Mark A.R. Kleiman, as usual, is all over the Plame Wilson affair and has this rundown on the sequence of events as they’re known so far.

Brian Flemming’s blog has a funny day-by-day chronology of White House action on Plame Wilson (scroll down to "76 Days"). But I wonder if Bush is laughing.

If things are going so well in Iraq, why do we need this?

Because the President doesn’t think they’re going so well, apparently. That’s the nut of this New York Times story reporting yet another reorganization of our approach to rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, this one to be controlled directly from the White House by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

“The creation of the group, according to several administration officials, grew out of Mr. Bush's frustration at the setbacks in Iraq and the absence of more visible progress in Afghanistan, at a moment when remnants of the Taliban appear to be newly active,” The Times reports. “It is the closest the White House has come to an admission that its plans for reconstruction in those countries have proved insufficient, and that it was unprepared for the guerrilla-style attacks that have become more frequent in Iraq. There have been more American deaths in Iraq since the end of active combat than during the six weeks it took to take control of the country.”

The new Iraq Stabilization Group undercuts both the Defense Department, which so far is in charge of the Iraq cleanup, and the State Department, which is in charge in Afghanistan.

It’s certainly true that success or failure in Iraq and Afghanistan ultimately is the responsibility of the president. But the more firmly he grasps this tar baby, the more difficult he’ll find it to extricate himself from the consequences of his policies. If things work out well in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’ll be a hero. If not, he may become the third one-term president in the last quarter-century.

The California mess: Was Davis an 'office batterer?'

Jill Stewart, a writer and commentator on California politics, said in a piece in the L.A. Daily News over the weekend that Gov. Gray Davis is an "office batterer" who mistreats loyal employees so harshly that one vowed never to work in the same room with him again and required psychological treatment.

Her piece, however, suffers from the same problem -- the anonymity of the accusers -- as did the L.A. Times story last week detailing Schwarzenegger's groping of women. It is, nonetheless, worth reading.

Slate blogger Mickey Kaus asks whether Arnold was really behind the recall effort from the beginning and makes an entertaining case that ought to give conspiracy buffs some fodder.

Bill Whalen in the Weekly Standard avoids exploring why anyone would want to vote for Schwarzenegger (other than that he isn’t Gray Davis) and gives the media some bad gas, a much easier proposition.

And that's all about our neighbors to the south ... for today.

Posted by tbrown at 01:18 PM




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