Friday, January 26, 2007

A Confederacy of Dunces

Dan Froomkin highlights these quotations from Neil Lewis's article about the Libby Trial's opening statements (paragraphs from the article are rearranged and highlighted for a higher quality of snark):
Mr. Libby, Mr. Wells said, complained to Vice President Dick Cheney that he was being set up as a fall guy. Mr. Cheney supported that view, Mr. Wells said, and handwrote a note saying, "Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

Interpreting the vice president’s note, Mr. Wells said that "incompetence" was a reference to the fact that the C.I.A. had mistakenly allowed the White House to use inaccurate information in Mr. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech about Iraq’s efforts to obtain uranium in Africa. The staff official whom the vice president believed should not be protected, he said, was Mr. Rove. Mr. Libby had been assigned to speak to reporters to straighten out the confusion from Mr. Bush’s speech, a chore Mr. Cheney likened to sticking his head in the meat grinder.
This is a perjury trial, unfortunately, and not a congressional investigation into the false beginnings of a war. But what is briefly referred to here as CIA "incompetence" was the direct result of unrelenting pressure put directly on the CIA by Dick Cheney. In particular, the nuclear claim had been a political football between the White House, CIA, and Pentagon from at least October 2002 until the State of the Union speech in January 2003. People at the CIA had threatened to quit their jobs unless phrases related to Iraq's nuclear ambitions had been removed from assorted speeches.

But now it is shown that Cheney believes it can all be traced to the incompetence of others, despite his direct involvement on the wrong side of the argument.

In addition, Cheney and Libby's arrogance led towards another false conclusion.
This incident appears to have occurred in fall 2003, when Mr. Libby was troubled that Scott McClellan, then the White House press secretary, had publicly said that Mr. Rove had not been involved in the leak but had initially declined to do the same for Mr. Libby and others in the administration. At that time, Mr. Rove had a major role in guiding Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign.
McClellan, who was considerably smarter than he appeared, went directly to the people concerned, and got their flat denial of involvement. He then went to the press room and passed on their statements. As a consequence, he is enjoying his time out of the White House, and he has never needed to hire a lawyer.

What they interpreted as deliberate inaction was simply the result of Rove's celebrity. McClellan didn't decline to do anything for Libby; no one was asking about Libby at that time. McClellan wouldn't have noticed anything either, since he had gotten Cheney's "word" that he was not involved.

Libby's lawyers should be smarter about discussing that note of Cheney's. Another way to translate his note is "The White House is willing to lie to protect Rove, but not my staffer, Libby. Therefore, he should be lying to protect himself."

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