Monday, October 24, 2005

The Plame Investigation: What to Expect

We have no idea what to expect from Patrick Fitzgerald. But we have a fairly good idea of what to expect from the administration's apologists:
1. Argue the facts.
For instance, claim that Joe Wilson lied. Larry Johnson at Crooks and Liars has a good rebutal for that one. Another argument is that everyone knew Valerie Plame worked for the CIA already. If so, then why were White House officals giving her name out?
Ronald Reagan once said that fact are stubborn things. One of the most stubborn facts in this case is that the so called documentary evidence that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was forged. Were administration officials trying to keep that from the public?
2. Argue the law.
As the NYT reports, White House allies are "seeking to help them make the case that bringing charges like perjury mean the prosecutor does not have a strong case." A basic problem with this argument is that the public is so used to the notion that scandals often involve the coverup more than the crime. Also, we should keep in mind that perjury to cover for previous lies is less likely to be seen as trivial.
A related argument is that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is "criminalizing a political disagreement." That will be hard to do, given the almost universal protrayal of Fitzgerald as a hard-working straight arrow who runs a tight ship and doesn't leak a thing to reporters, for instance this from a Washington Post profile:
Yet in a case with huge political stakes for the White House, a portrait is emerging of a special counsel with no discernible political bent who prepared the ground with painstaking sleuthing and cold-eyed lawyering.
3. Pound on the table.
The NYT reports that Republicans are arguing that this is inside politics that people don't care about:
Congressional Republicans have also been signaling that they want to put some distance between their agenda and the White House's potential legal and political woes, seeking to cast the leak case as an inside-the-Beltway phenomenon of little interest to most voters."
I think we just need to stick to our knitting on the topics and the subjects the American people care about," Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, said on "Fox News Sunday."
The difficulty with this argument is that people do care, which is why the White House went after Joe Wilson in the first place. There are two necessary conditions for a scandal to take hold in the public imagination: The first is that the crime has to be understandable. Screwing a critic is something people can relate to. The second is that the crime has to be something people care about. War in Iraq is not inside baseball; it affects people deeply.

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11:35 AM, December 14, 2005  

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