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Rove Defense Team

It appears that no one in Washington has bothered to ask why it is that the Republican National Committee is leading the defense of Karl Rove. But it's a good question.

If Rove is really the president's deputy chief of staff in charge of policy, as opposed to a political hack operating within the White House and using taxpayer money to do the work of the Republican Party, wouldn't it make sense that his defenders would be current and retired policy specialists? And since the controversy in which he is embroiled has something to do with national security, wouldn't it be at least a little more assuring if a former Secretary of Defense, National Security Adviser or chief of the Central Intelligence Agency were to speak up on his behalf?

But, no, as the controversy about his leaking of classified information heats up, Rove is being defended, for the most part, by RNC chair Ken Mehlman, a political operative who has never been seriously involved in policy matters – let alone national security issues.

Mehlman is a second-string hack, a veteran of the losing presidential campaigns of George Bush I in 1992 and Mr. Elizabeth Dole in 1996.

To the extent that Mehlman has a reputation is it as a professional "spin doctor" – a party operative who is paid to warp the truth.

That's precisely what Mehlman is doing in his defense of Rove. Instead of trying to muster a defense of Rove's leaking of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to reporters -- apparently in an effort to punish Plame's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, for exposing the administration's lies regarding Iraq and weapons of mass destruction – Mehlman and his team have been busy spreading lies about Wilson.Attacking Wilson is currently mission critical for the RNC. The latest display items on the committee's website are headlined "Joe Wilson's Top Ten Worst Inaccuracies And Misstatements" and "In Case You Missed It: Excerpts From RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman on FOX News' ‘Fox And Friends,' – a Friday morning appearance in which the RNC chair essentially repeated the list of supposed inaccuracies and misstatements.

Here's the problem: It is the RNC, not Wilson, which is guilty of spreading inaccuracies and misstatements. The RNC claims that Rove told Time magazine writer Matthew Cooper that "Wilson's wife" had OK'ed the former ambassador's 2002 mission to Niger in Africa to check out claims that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis had been attempting to buy materials that might be used to develop WMDs. In fact, it was not Plame but the CIA's Directorate of Operations for the Counterproliferation Division, which sent Wilson to Niger.

The folks at the watchdog group MediaMatters, who are working hard to set the record straight, state that, "The Los Angeles Times reported on July 15, 2004, that an unnamed CIA official confirmed that Plame was not responsible for the CIA's decision to send Wilson to Niger, saying: ‘Her bosses say she did not initiate the idea of her husband going. ... They asked her if he'd be willing to go, and she said yes.'"

The second big lie that the RNC is spreading suggests that Rove was leaking information to Time's Cooper in order to prevent the reporter from repeating a supposed false claim by Wilson – that he was sent on the Niger mission by Vice President Dick Cheney.

This is just pure fantasy. Wilson has always been exceptionally precise about how he ended up in Niger. He laid things out in the original op-ed piece for The New York Times in July, 2003, where he explained,

"In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake -- a form of lightly processed ore -- by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office."

How to Oppose a War

Contemporary politicians who are struggling to determine when the time will be right to start talking about withdrawing troops from Iraq would do well to borrow a page from former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, D-Wisconsin.

In the spring of 1964, when only about 16,500 U.S. troops were present in the country as "advisers," and when no one had heard of the Gulf of Tonkin, Nelson was asked by a television reporter to discuss the U.S. presence in southeast Asia. Nelson responded by suggesting that President Lyndon Johnson should reconsider the decision to commit troops to the region, arguing that the time had come to "set some timetable for withdrawal from the situation."

The Wisconsin senator completely rejected the notion that any good would result from an escalation in the U.S. role in the troubled country.

"I don't think that additional men and materials and economic aid ... is going to solve the problem in South Vietnam," asserted Nelson, who repeated his counsel that the time was coming for "an orderly withdrawal."

As the senator's biographer, Bill Christofferson, noted, "Nelson knew almost from the start that the Vietnam War was a mistake."

Even more significantly, Nelson had the courage to express that opinion when few others were willing to do so.

To be sure, Nelson, who died last week at age 89, will be most remembered as the originator of Earth Day. And his role in launching the contemporary environmental movement certainly merits recognition and praise. But it is important to recall that Nelson's green activism was only a part of his broader progressive vision and commitment.

Raised in the Wisconsin progressive tradition of former U.S. Sen. Robert M. "Fighting Bob" La Follette, who courageously and correctly opposed Woodrow Wilson's decision to march U.S. troops into World War I, Nelson emerged in the mid-1960s as an equally courageous and correct critic of Johnson's misadventure in Vietnam.

After being assured by Sen. J. William Fulbright, the respected chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the Johnson administration would not use the Gulf of Tonkin resolution as an excuse to expand the U.S. mission in southeast Asia, Nelson grudgingly voted for that August1964 measure. Only a pair of maverick senior senators, Oregon's Wayne Morse and Alaska's Ernest Gruening, opposed it. But, as Nelson came to realize that Fulbright had been bamboozled by the president, the Wisconsin senator joined Morse and Gruening in working to end the war.

In May 1965, when Johnson sought a $700 million supplemental appropriation "to meet the mounting military costs of Vietnam," the Wisconsin Democrat broke ranks with the Democratic administration to join Morse and Gruening in opposing the spending measure. Speaking to the Senate, Nelson declared, "Members of the Senate, known as the world's greatest deliberative body, are stumbling over each other to see who can say 'yea' the quickest and the loudest. I regret it, and I think that someday we shall all regret it."

Noting that the administration had failed to make a compelling case that the war was necessary, let alone wise, the senator concluded, "Thus, reluctantly, I express my opposition to our procedure here by voting 'nay.' The support of the Congress for this measure is clearly overwhelming. Obviously, you need my vote less than I need my conscience."

Nelson would continue for the better part a decade to be one of the Senate's most passionate foes of the war. When the fighting was finished in 1973, he said, "Let us hope that our political leaders in both political parties have learned a lesson from this mistaken enterprise and will not involve the country again in a civil war where the vital interests of this country are not at stake."

With U.S. troops stuck in the quagmire that is Iraq, it is obvious that the lesson was not learned. And the only way they will get out alive is if more senators learn the lesson that Nelson taught: Start talking about withdrawal early and don't be afraid to vote your conscience.

Rove Did Leak Classified Information

"The fact is, Karl Rove did not leak classified information." So said Ken Mehlman, head of the Republican Party.

"I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name." So said Karl Rove of Valerie Wilson/Plame last year on CNN.

"He did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." So said Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, after Newsweek reported Rove had been a source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper but before Newsweek revealed a Cooper email that said Rove had told Cooper that "wilson's wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues."

The White House may be stonewalling on the Rove scandal, but the Rove camp--aided by its echo-ists in the conservative media--has been busy establishing the twin-foundation for his defense: he did not mention Valerie Wilson/Plame by name; he did not disclose classified information. The first of these two assertions is misleading and irrelevant; the second is wrong.

Did not disclose her name

According to Cooper's email, Rove told Cooper that "Wilson's wife"--not "Valerie Plame," or "Valerie Wilson"--worked at the CIA. But this distinction has absolutely no legal relevance. Under the relevant law--the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982--a crime is committed when a government official (not a journalist) "intentionally discloses any information identifying" an undercover intelligence officer. The act does not say a name must be disclosed. By telling a reporter that Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA officer, Rove was clearly disclosing "identifying" information. There was only one Mrs. Joseph Wilson. With such information in hand, Cooper or anyone else could easily have ascertained the name of this officer. (A Google search at the time would have yielded the name--and maiden name--of Wilson's wife.) Revealing the name is not the crime; it's disclosing information that IDs the officer. Imagine if a government official told a reporter, "At 3:15, a fellow in a green hat, carrying a red umbrella and holding a six-pack of Mountain Dew, will be tap-dancing in front of the Starbucks at Connecticut Avenue and R Street--he's the CIA's best undercover officer working North Korea." That official could not defend himself, under this law, by claiming that he had not revealed the name of this officer. The issue is identifying, not naming. Rove and his allies cannot hide behind his no-name claim.

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Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Rove and the Plame/CIA leak, the latest GOP pro-Rove spin, how a conservative columnist tried to recruit Corn for Rove's defense, and other in-the-news subjects.

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Did not disclose classified information

A reading of this law also indicates that if Cooper's email is accurate then Rove did pass classified information to Cooper. It's possible that Rove did so unwittingly. That is, he did not know Valerie Wilson's employment status at the CIA was classified information. But he and his posse cannot say the information he slipped to Cooper was not classified.

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime to identify "a covert agent" of the United States. The law defines "covert agent," in part, as "a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information." (My emphasis.)

This definition clearly recognizes that the identity of an undercover intelligence officer is "classified information." The law also notes that a "covert agent" has a "classified relationship to the United States." Since the CIA asked the Justice Department to investigate the Plame/CIA leak and the Justice Department affirmed the need for an investigation and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, once handed the case, pursued the matter vigorously, it is reasonable to assume that Valerie Wilson fits the definition of a "covert agent." That means she has a "classified relationship" with the government.

By disclosing Valerie Wilson's relationship to the CIA, Rove was passing classified information to a reporter.

"There is little doubt," says Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, that the employment status of an undercover CIA officer, "is classified information." He notes that the "most basic personnel information of the CIA--the number of personnel, the salaries--is classified. Anything more specific--like the identity of a NOC [an officer working under "nonofficial cover," as was Valerie Wilson] or the numbers and identities of officers working in a particular region of the world--is classified."

To sum up, it does not matter if Rove did not mention Valerie Wilson by name, and it is not true that the information he passed to Cooper was not classified.

Rove may still have a defense against criminal prosecution. Under the law, a government official is only guilty if he or she discloses information "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies" a "covert agent." Rove could claim that he was not aware that Valerie Wilson was working at the CIA as a covert official. After all, there are CIA employees--analysts, managers, and others--who do not work under cover. If special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicts Rove or anyone else, the most difficult part of the case will likely be proving that the person charged with the crime meets this he-knew-she-was-undercover test.

Not all wrongdoing is a crime. But leaking classified information is always serious business. George W. Bush took an unambiguous stand on the leaking of classified information when he was asked on September 30, 2003, about Karl Rove's possible role in the Plame/CIA leak. Bush noted,

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.

Well, now Bush knows. Rove, according to the Cooper email, did not leak a name but he did leak classified information. Much of his defense is in tatters. And where is Bush's "appropriate action"?

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there..

The Gender Gap

Twenty-five years after the gender gap first appeared as a factor in American politics, it's worth reflecting on whether as some in the GOP said after last November's election the gap has shrunk to the vanishing point.

Let's be clear: The gender gap didn't disappear in 2004, but it diminished significantly. John Kerry narrowly won the women's vote last year when he defeated Bush by a margin of 51 percent to 48 percent. Contrast this to the 2000 presidential election, in which Al Gore ended up with an 11-point margin over Bush among women voters.

Which begs the question: Is the gender gap a thing of the past? The short answer is a resounding "no."

Two recent polls show that women voters are, if anything, turning away from the GOP--and that the Democrats have an opportunity to expand the gender gap and win back those women voters and more in the 2006 mid-term elections and beyond.

The first poll, a Democratic survey that was done by Lake Snell Perry Mermin & Associates Inc. this spring, revealed, as reported in the Washington Post, that "the public's agenda has shifted from homeland security and terrorism to domestic concerns such as jobs and the economy." In 2004, Bush used fear to score points with voters. But, while Karl Rove and Bush are still stoking the fears that Democrats can't be trusted to prevent terrorism, their message is no longer resonating in quite the same way. The London bombings may bring about a short-term shift in women's attitudes, but strong signs suggest that doubts about Bush's security policies are growing.

"Women, if left to their own devices, are going to tend and trend Democratic," the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway explained to the Washington Post's Brian Faler. "...Women are still congenitally Democratic, and I'm the Republican pollster saying that."

The second survey, "Women at the Center of Political Change," was conducted in May by EMILY's List Women's Monitor. As one of the most comprehensive post-election looks at the attitudes and motivations of female voters, the poll showed that in the past six months alone the GOP has lost a lot of ground with women voters.

Fifty-five percent of women said they believed that the country was heading in the wrong direction--and they held the GOP responsible as the party in power. And just as the Lake poll discovered, women cited as their chief concerns domestic priorities like Social Security and health care.

Republicans have done a lot of overreaching in recent months--from the Terri Schiavo case to fierce talk about gutting reproductive rights and cutting Social Security benefits. And perhaps the key insight that the survey offers is that women voters "overwhelmingly uphold the value of privacy for individuals and families, while rejecting government intrusion on issues involving religion and morality."

Sixty-two percent of women said that "questions of religion and morality should be left up to the individual, and it should not be the role of government to impose any particular religious or moral point of view on the country." And, the survey reveals, "women voters believe that the government has gone too far in dictating personal morality and even those whose own values are conservative are discomforted."

Women have moved away from the Republican Party because they believe that the GOP has overstepped the bounds on the relationship between religion and science. Even women who are uncomfortable with abortion rights feel strongly that the government shouldn't dictate morality and that scientific progress shouldn't be proscribed by religion. Most women believe in science and want the US to remain a leader in technology and innovation. (Think stem cell research.) That explains, then, another one of the survey's findings-- one-third of women who voted for Bush in 2004 won't vote Republican in 2006.

"The Republican drop-off encompasses virtually every demographic subgroup of women," EMILY's List reported, including "key segments of the women's electorate for 2006 and beyond" from social conservatives to non-college educated whites to Catholics. Women voters are dissatisfied with the status quo and want elected leaders to spend more of their time tackling domestic problems.

But if the political terrain is shifting away from the GOP the Democrats have yet to close the deal. The Democratic challenge is to create an agenda that both addresses women's economic concerns and "respects families and care giving to take full advantage of the opportunity that they have been granted."

As the ‘Women's Monitor' survey argues, women want politicians who will demonstrate personal accountability, care about people in need and provide equality of opportunity. According to the poll, Democrats also need to understand that women consider themselves "the arbiter of family values" and the "central caregivers" in their families, not the government.

The next few months could be crucial. The divisions in our electorate are going to come to a head in the fight to confirm a judge to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. The rightwing of the Republican Party will seek its reward for what it did in 2004, and Bush and the embattled Rove could pander to their base by sending up a Scalia clone. The GOP has already alienated many women, but if Bush nominates a right-wing judge to replace O'Connor--one who fails to respect religious differences, families' privacy and ordinary Americans' economic problems-- he could find himself in even bigger trouble with women voters. He might feel the consequences in the 2006 mid-term elections and his party could take a big hit in 2008.

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Tribute to Judy MannAs I finished writing, I learned that former Washington Post columnist Judy Mann had died. Mann was a great supporter of womens' rights, an unapolegetic liberal and feminist. She liked to say that her columns were "frequently unpopular and very often at odds with mainstream orthodoxy." In her last one, published in December 2001, Mann expressed regret that "there are so few liberal columnists left in the media and so few women writing serious commentary. I have always felt," she added, " that the media mirror society and that a society in which women are invisible in the media is one in which they are invisible period."

Mann acted on her words--fighting for pay equity and promotion of women in the newsroom. The Post obituary fesses up to the rough time Mann faced at the paper: "When the paper's editors were thinking about cancelling her column, her readers and supporters called and wrote letters on her behalf. When her column moved from its position on the third page of the Metro section to the back of the Style section--first adjacent to the comic strips and later to the bottom of a nearby page--readers noticed, but the paper made no change." According to former Post reporter Claudia Levy, "she was furious, of course, but took it with good public grace."

After retiring, ill with breast cancer, Mann moved to a farm in Shenandoah Valley which she called "Gender Gap."

Here's hoping that The Post will honor Mann's work by promoting more women through its ranks as editors and journalists. As a start, how about putting an unapolegetically liberal and feminist columnist on the Op-Ed page?

White House Stonewalls on Rove Scandal

I advise all students of political speech to read the transcript of the press briefing conducted by White House press secretary Scott McClellan today. It was a smorgasbord of stonewalling. He entered the White House press room at 1:00 p.m., his eyes darting about, and started off by reading a statement from President Bush on the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica. Then the subject changed. Rather abruptly. Reporter after reporter asked McClellan about Karl Rove and the news--broken by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek--of a July 11, 2003, e-mail written by Time's Matt Cooper that noted that Cooper had spoken to Rove on "double super secret background" and that Rove had told him that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's "wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues." The e-mail is proof that Rove leaked to a reporter information revealing the CIA employment of Valerie Plame (a k a Valerie Wilson).

This puts Rove and the White House in a pickle. Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, says that Rove did not mention Valerie Wilson's name to Cooper. But this is a rather thin defense. (I explain why here, and I also note why George W. Bush, if he takes his own rhetoric seriously, has no choice but to dismiss Rove.) But legal and criminal difficulties aside, the e-mail is undeniable evidence that Rove leaked national security information to a journalist to discredit a critic (Joseph Wilson). How does that square with White House policy as it has been previously stated? Well, it doesn't. And the journalists in the White House press room knew that. Many had a list of previous McClellan statements at the ready. I was there, and I had a list, too. Here are some of the past White House statements I had collected.

On September 29, 2003, Scott McClellan said of the leak (which first appeared in a Bob Novak column on July 14, 2003):

That is not the way this White House operates. The President expects everyone in his Administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing.

Asked then about the allegation Rove had been involved in the leak, he said,

Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion.... It is simply not true.... And I have spoken with Karl Rove.

He also said that the White House would not stand for such conduct:

If anyone in this Administration was involved in [the leak], they would no longer be in this Administration..

On October 1, 2003, McClellan reiterated the White House position:

The president certainly doesn't condone the leaking.

And he said of Rove:

I made it very clear that he didn't condone that kind of activity and was not involved in that kind of activity.

On October 7, McClellan noted that prior to previously telling the press that Rove and two other White House aides--National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby--were not involved in the leak, he had spoken to each of the three and determined they had not been part of the Plame/CIA leak:

I had no doubt of that...but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.

How could McClellan defend such a record? His strategy was clear: don't even try. When the reporters began firing Rove-related queries at him, he refused to answer any of them. The first query came from Terrence Hunt of Associated Press: Does Bush stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the Plame/CIA leak? McClellan replied that "while the [leak] investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it." Hunt tried again: "Excuse me, but I wasn't actually talking about any investigation. But in June 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak.... And I just wanted to know, is that still his position?"

McClellan would not say: "We're not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation." He claimed that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had "expressed a preference to us" that the White House not comment on the matter. (I later called Fitzgerald's office and asked it to confirm whether Fitzgerald had made such a request. A spokeswoman for Fitzgerald said he would not have any comment regarding any part of the investigation. "Not even to back up what the White House said?" I asked. "No," she replied.)

Next up in the press room was John Roberts of CBS News. He asked if McClellan was contradicting himself since he had freely discussed the matter in the fall of 2003 when he claimed it was "ridiculous" to believe Rove had been involved in the leak. McClellan said, "I appreciate the question." (That was clearly not the truth.) He went on: "I remember very well what we previously said, and at some point would be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete."

NBC's David Gregory then piped up: "Did Karl Rove commit a crime?" Again, McClellan went to Index Card No. 1: "This is a question relating to an ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to that investigation." Did McClellan stand by his previous statements? No answer. A frustrated (justifiably) Gregory noted, "Scott, I mean, just--I mean, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium, or not?" McClellan: "There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time."

That was for sure. Other reporters took similar swings at McClellan. He just stood there, counting the minutes, perhaps silently trying to convince himself that he was in his happy place and that he was not being beaten into a pulp. One reporter asked when Fitzgerald had requested the Bush White House not to talk about the investigation. McClellan said the request came in the fall of 2003. A-ha, one reporter said; Bush spoke about the leak investigation in June 2004 and renewed his pledge to fire anyone involved. Had Bush violated the White House policy against speaking about the probe? "You have my response," McClellan said. Of course, the reporter did not.

Carl Cameron of Fox News asked if Bush continues "to have confidence in Mr. Rove?" McClellan wouldn't even touch this down-the-middle pitch: "Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you've heard my response on this." And when another reporter asked McClellan to describe the importance of Rove to the Bush Administration, he replied, "Do you have questions on another topic?"

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Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Rove and the Plame/CIA leak, Blair's poodle problem and other in-the-news subjects.

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By the time my turn came, I realized I was not going to be able to cause any crack in the wall. But I had to try, and I attempted to slightly redefine the issue. I noted,

There's a difference between commenting publicly on an action and taking action in response to it. Newsweek put out a story, an e-mail saying that Karl Rove passed national security information on to a reporter that outed a CIA officer. Now, are you saying that the President is not taking any action in response to that? Because I presume that the prosecutor did not ask you not to take action, and that if he did, you still would not necessarily abide by that; that the President is free to respond to news reports, regardless of whether there's an investigation or not. So are you saying that he's not going to do anything about this until the investigation is fully over and done with?

In other words, how about forgetting the crime and focusing on the leak? He responded,

Well, I think the President has previously spoken to this. This continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States. And we're just not going to have more to say on it until that investigation is complete.

But Bush has not said what he intends to do about Rove now that there is public evidence that Rove leaked information on Valerie Wilson. (And if Bush wants to get to the bottom of this, shouldn't he just whistle Rove into his office and ask, "Karl, what gives?") So I pushed on:

But you acknowledge that he is free, as President of the United States, to take whatever action he wants to in response to a credible report that a member of his staff leaked information? He is free to take action if he wants to?

But there would be no such acknowledging. McClellan said,

Again, you're asking questions relating to an ongoing investigation, and I think I've responded to it.

He hadn't. But then why should my question receive special treatment this day?

Other Rove-related questions were hurled at him. He refused to touch a single one. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post took a stab as well:

Scott, I think you're [being] barraged[d] today in part because we--it is now clear that twenty-one months ago, you were up at this podium saying something that we now know to be demonstratively false. Now, are you concerned that in not setting the record straight today that this could undermine the credibility of the other things you say from the podium?

McClellan showed no such concern:

Again, I'm going to be happy to talk about this at the appropriate time. Dana, you all--you and everybody in this room, or most people in this room, I should say, know me very well and they know the type of person that I am. And I'm confident in our relationship that we have. But I will be glad to talk about this at the appropriate time, and that's once the investigation is complete.

Everybody in the room--and out of it--should review McClellan's exchange with the reporters to see how he and this White House do business. After what transpired, no reporter should take McClellan's word at face value (if they ever did). Moreover, the larger issue is not his--and Bush's--credibility but the wrongdoing committed by a senior White House official and the apparent lack of a response from the White House. (And remember, Bob Novak's column outing Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer cited two unnamed senior Bush Administration officials.) The White House is adopting a familiar media strategy: say nothing, don't fuel the story, wait for it to pass--and ignore the substance of the issue. Bush aides must be hoping that the media lose interest and are not provided any further reasons to headline this story. They are probably also hoping that the Democrats fail to create the sort of political storm that would compel journalists to continue to give the Rove scandal prominent play. Maybe their stonewall will hold. And what's the alternative? Tell the obvious truth and admit that Bush's most important adviser committed an act that Bush has said warrants dismissal? But what's the percentage in that? With McClellan providing no answers related to the Rove scandal, the question is whether the White House's we-can't-comment stance will allow it to dodge yet another troubling and inconvenient reality.

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there..

More Bush Lies

In his recent Nation web piece, "Profiles in Cowardice," William Greider rightly took aim at Democrats who may be "preparing to take a dive on the issue they have righteously hammered for four years--repeal of the estate tax."

If any more evidence was needed that Dems need to hang tough on this defining issue, they should read David Cay Johnston's stunning, and inexplicably buried New York Times article "Few Wealthy Farmers Owe Estate Taxes, Report Says." (In my edition it was published on page A 30.)

Johnston is America's premier journalist on the inequities of Bush's tax policies. His clear reporting has consistently exposed how the working class is getting screwed by an Administration which gives hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest one percent, while cutting back on health care, education, affordable housing, veterans' needs and programs for everyone else.

Remember back in June 2001, Bush said he'd talked to farmers who told him the estate tax (or in GOP doublespeak, "the death tax") had destroyed their family farms? And you know all those Republican spinners like Grover Norquist and Frank Luntz who prattle on about how the estate tax is destroying family farming? Well, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released last week, they're not telling us the truth. Listen to Neil E. Harl, an economics professor at Iowa State University whose expertise in estate tax planning for famers has made him a household name in the farm belt: The Congressional study, Harl tells Johnston, "adds to the weight of the evidence that this is a myth that has been well-spun."

According to Johnston, the CBO study contradicts assertions that the estate tax burdens family farms. Its findings show that "the number of farms on which estate tax is owed when the owners die has fallen by 82 percent since 2000, to just 300 farms, as Congress has more than doubled the threshold at which the tax applies."

And here's a stunning rebuke to those GOP hypocrites who preach fiscal responsibility while increasing our debt burden for future generations to bear: "All but 27 farmers left enough liquid assets to pay taxes owed, and the CBO hinted that the actual number might be zero." That means we may well be looking at zero farmers affected by an estate tax whose abolition is incessantly justified by the purported threat it represents to the very existence of family farming in America.

More facts, according to Johnston: "The estate tax raised an estimated $23.4 billion last year. Repeal would shift part of the burden of taxes off the fortunes left by the richest one percent of Americans, some of whose fortunes were never taxed, onto the general population." And according to Michael Graetz, a professor of Yale Law School who was a tax policy official in the Bush Administration, repeal would primarily benefit people with large estates held in stocks and other securities---very few farmers among them.

Here's another crucial fact that those who are assaulting the very foundations of our country don't want you to know: "Because of details in the repeal bill," Johnston reports, "it would also force a large majority of farms and small businesses to pay larger tax bills in the future." John Buckley, the chief tax lawyer for the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, told Johnston that he was critical of "farm and small business groups [for] not explaining to their members that the repeal as written would cost them money while primarily benefiting those with vast fortunes.

For those who believe Democrats pay a huge long-term price for failing to serve as credible defenders of the economic interests of ordinary Americans, here is a chance to take a stand. Don't compromise on the estate tax's provisions. Build a moral social contract with those who want a fair shake--the 99 percent of Americans who will get screwed, again, by an Administration that isn't telling the truth to its farmers.

Bugged by the Brits

Conservative radio and television personalities in the United States were unsettled after last week's bombings in London -- not because of the terrorist attack on a major western city, but because too few Londoners were willing to serve as props to support the right-wing ranting of the Americans. After one stoic Brit, who had blood on the side of his face, calmly described climbing out of a smoke-filled subway station, a Fox anchor exclaimed, "That man's obviously in shock."

Actually, the man appeared to be completely in control of his faculties, as did the British journalists who appeared that evening on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor." Host Bill O'Reilly, the king of the hysterics, had a hard time with the Brits, who simply were not as feverish as he had hoped -- and who were genuinely bemused when he started ranting about how much he hated Britain's highly regarded Guardian newspaper.

O'Reilly, like too many other American radio and television commentators, expected the British attacks to provide a new opportunity to hype support for the war in Iraq, gripe about "open borders" and generally spin sorrow and fear into political gold for the conservative cause.

It didn't happen, though not for lack of trying by the folks at Fox.

The Fox commentary following the London bombings was surreal. Brit Hume babbled about how the dip in stock values after the attacks meant it was "time to buy," Brian Kilmeade suggested that a deadly terrorist attack on a country where the G8 leaders were meeting "works to our advantage," and John Gibson bemoaned the fact that the bombs hit London and not Paris. "They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?" chuckled Gibson, the host of one of the network's "news" shows.

But the Fox personalities and their allies in right-wing talk radio found few takers among the British for their efforts to politicize the gruesome developments in the British capital.

Try as American conservative commentators did to get Londoners to echo their pro-Bush, pro-war line, the British generally refused to play along.

This does not mean that most Brits who were interviewed embraced calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq or other alternatives to the Bush administration's misguided approach to the so-called "war on terror." But it does mean that, instead of parroting propaganda, the Brits preferred to engage in thoughtful discussions about what had happened, why the terrorists targeted London and what ought to be done to prevent future attacks. Few topics were off limits.

Veteran journalist Gary Younge suggested that the attacks were "Blair's blowback" -- the bloody wages of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to back President Bush's disastrous decision to invade Iraq. Some members of parliament called for Britain to quickly withdraw its troops from the quagmire. Others suggested that Britain needs to get more engaged in promoting the Middle East peace process. There was no single response, no lockstep approach, because the Brits were angry enough -- and determined enough -- to put everything on the table.

Unfortunately, a thoughtful, nuanced discussion that was focused on finding solutions -- rather than merely venting or promoting a particular political agenda -- didn't fit into the Fox format.

The inability of American right-wing media to recognize honest discourse prevented most U.S. media outlets from recognizing that which was genuinely meaningful and moving about the British reaction.

For instance, U.S. media pretty much missed the one truly Churchillian response to the attacks -- that of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a committed socialist and anti-war activist, who issued the following statement on the day of the attacks:

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing about the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy. That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness. I will be in continual contact until I am back in London.

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith -- it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony.

Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others -- that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfill their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before, because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

Why Bush Has to Fire Rove

In a weekend posting I asked if it was time to get ready for the Karl Rove frog-march. The question was prompted by a Newsweek article by reporter Michael Isikoff that disclosed the first documentary evidence showing that Rove revealed to a reporter that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. In a July 11, 2003, e-mail that Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper sent to his bureau chief, Cooper noted he had spoken to Rove on "double super secret background" and that Rove had told him that Wilson's "wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues." "Agency" means CIA. This is not good news for Rove and the White House.

The e-mail--which Time had turned over to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is investigating the Plame/CIA leak--may not be enough to prompt Fitzgerald to indict Rove. Under the narrowly written Intelligence Identities Protect Act, Fitzgerald would have to show that Rove knew Valerie Wilson (a k a Valerie Plame) was working at the CIA under cover--that is, as a secret employee--which she was. But Fitzgerald still could build such a case upon other evidence. And Rove also could be in legal peril if his previous testimony to Fitzgerald is contradicted by this e-mail--or the other material Time surrendered, over Cooper's objections, to Fitzgerald or by Cooper's forthcoming testimony to Fitzgerald's grand jury. (Last week, Cooper declared his source, presumably Rove, had given him permission to testify before the grand jury.)

But let's put aside the legal issues for a moment. This e-mail demonstrates that Rove committed a firing offense. He leaked national security information as part of a fierce campaign to undermine Wilson, who had criticized the White House on the war on Iraq. Rove's overworked attorney, Robert Luskin, defends his client by arguing that Rove never revealed the name of Valerie Plame/Wilson to Cooper and that he only referred to her as Wilson's wife. This is not much of a defense. If Cooper or any other journalist had written that "Wilson's wife works for the CIA"--without mentioning her name--such a disclosure could have been expected to have the same effect as if her name had been used: Valerie Wilson would have been compromised, her anti-WMD work placed at risk and national security potentially harmed. Either Rove knew that he was revealing an undercover officer to a reporter or he was identifying a CIA officer without bothering to check on her status and without considering the consequences of outing her. Take your pick: In both scenarios Rove is acting in a reckless and cavalier fashion, ignoring national security interests to score a political point against a policy foe.

This ought to get Rove fired--unless he resigns first.

Can George W. Bush countenance such conduct within the White House? Consider what White House press secretary Scott McClellan said on September 29, 2003, after the news broke that the Justice Department was investigating the leak. McClellan declared of the Plame/CIA leak, "That is not the way this White House operates. The president expects everyone in his Administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing."

Apparently, it is how the White House operated--or at least how Rove operated. If he violated White House rules (and presidential expectations) that prohibit such skulduggery, he should be booted.

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Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Rove and the Plame/CIA leak, Blair's poodle problem and other in-the-news subjects.

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McClellan also maintained at the time that "the president knows" that Rove wasn't involved in the leak. And he said that the allegation that Rove was involved in this leak was "a ridiculous suggestion" and "it is simply not true."

McClellan was wrong. Did that mean that Rove had lied to McClellan about his role in this? That Rove had also lied to Bush? Or was McClellan knowingly misinforming the public? If the latter, then there should be two resignations.

Days later, Bush took a clear stand on the Plame/CIA leak. He said:

There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. If there's leaks out of my Administration, I want to know who it is, and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of.

According to Cooper's e-mail, Rove did leak classified information, wittingly or not. Did he share that fact with Bush? If McClellan can be believed, Rove did not. If that's true, Bush should dismiss Rove for holding out on him. But it Rove did talk to Bush about his participation in the leak, what did he tell Bush? And what actions did Bush take? Did Rove tell Bush how he had come to know about Valerie Wilson's position at the CIA? Did he disclose to Bush who else knew about it? Did he tell his boss whether anyone else was passing this information to reporters? In the first column that disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA identity, Bob Novak referred to "two" senior Administration officials. So who in addition to Rove might have revealed this information to Novak?

Bush also said at the time that any government official with knowledge of the leak should "come forward and speak out." Rove certainly did not follow that presidential order. He should be pink-slipped for that, too.

But before Rove is cast out of the White House, Bush ought to demand that he come clean and--if he has not done so--tell Bush everything that happened with this leak. Then Bush should "come forward and speak out" and share the details with the American public. And an apology to Valerie and Joseph Wilson would be a nice touch.

Fitzgerald is handling the Plame/CIA leak as a criminal matter, as he should. That's his job. But the leak--whether a crime or not--was serious wrongdoing. The White House has taken no steps to address that in the two years since the leak occurred. But it need not wait for Fitzgerald to conclude his investigation. Rove may end up not guilty of a crime, but he is guilty of significant misconduct. With the disclosure of this smoking e-mail, Bush has no excuse for inaction. Newspaper editorial boards and members of Congress (OK, Democratic members of Congress) ought to be howling for a White House response to the news that its current deputy chief of staff revealed national security information to a reporter in order to discredit a critic. The only appropriate response for such a thuggish infraction of White House policy and common decency would be to send Rove back to Texas.

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there..

O'Connor, Rehnquist and the Future of the Court

On Friday, newsrooms nationwide were abuzz with rumors that Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was set to announce his resignation, only one week after his colleague Sandra Day O'Connor had given President Bush his first Supreme Court vacancy. Rehnquist hasn't done it yet but is still widely expected to do so, maybe as early as tomorrow.

O'Connor's resignation alone has already ignited an epic struggle over the direction of the Court with the future of legal abortions, affirmative action for minority groups, government aid to religious schools and other issues that have long divided US society potentially at stake.

In anticipation of Bush meeting with Senate leaders to discuss potential new nominees, IndependentCourt.org, a project of the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary, drafted an open letter signed by more than 75 national organizations, stressing the importance of meaningful consultation with both parties as well as the critical--and legitimate--role the Senate should play in the confirmation process. Click here to read the full text of the letter and, if you agree with it, click here to add your name to the list of signatories.

Two groups--the Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way--are out in front in organizing opposition to any picks who might hew to the same far-right ideological cloth as Bush appellate court selections like William Pickering, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers (to name just a few). So check out their websites to keep up on the liberal community's response to whoever Bush nominates.

The Daily Kos, one of the world's preeminent liberal bloggers, also posted recently a very useful checklist of things you can do today to help in the first Supreme Court nomination battle in more than a decade.