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Mr. Cheney, Tear Down This Wall
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times
At the Republican National Convention in 2000 that nominated him for vice president, Dick Cheney told a rapturous crowd that Democrats "will offer more lectures, and legalisms, and carefully worded denials. We offer another way, a better way, and a stiff dose of truth."
So, Mr. Cheney, now that the Scooter Libby trial is raising doubts about your own integrity, you owe the nation an explanation. Here are a few questions to help frame your explanation of your activities:
Mr. Vice President, did you push Mr. Libby to dig into Joe Wilson’s background and discredit him? Mr. Libby made such a major effort to gather materials from the C.I.A. and State Department about Mr. Wilson — both before and after you told him on June 12, 2003, that his wife worked at the C.I.A. — that it seems likely that you commanded the effort. True?
What did you mean when you wrote, in a note to Scott McClellan that has been entered into evidence, "not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy the Pres. that was asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of incompetence of others."
First, you wrote that it was "the Pres." who had asked Mr. Libby to do this, and then you crossed out those two words. Did President Bush indeed ask that Mr. Libby take charge of the effort to discredit Ambassador Wilson? And is it true, as was hinted at in the trial, that the White House tried to block the release of this document?
When you discussed Joe Wilson with Mr. Libby on Air Force Two on July 12, 2003, what instructions did you give him?
Trial testimony indicates that on that flight, Mr. Libby looked over some questions a reporter had sent in about Mr. Wilson and then said: "Let me go talk to the boss and I’ll be back." After consulting with you, Mr. Libby later called reporters to feed them a skewed version of Mr. Wilson’s trip.
Mr. Cheney, on that plane, did you specifically tell Mr. Libby to leak to reporters the fact that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the C.I.A.?
Deborah Bond of the F.B.I. has testified that Mr. Libby acknowledged in one of his interviews that on that flight, he might have talked to you about whether to tell the news media about Valerie Wilson. So did he?
Since Mr. Libby is renowned for his caution, it seems highly unlikely that he would have leaked classified information twice to reporters right after talking to you, unless you had sanctioned the leak.
During the leak investigation, were you aware that Mr. Libby was telling the F.B.I. apparently false information?
You rode to work with him nearly every day in your limousine, and the issue never came up? Or did you ask Mr. Libby to protect you because you didn’t want it known that in fact you were the one who had told him about Ms. Wilson? Was there some other information you wanted kept secret?
Were you trying to cover up your own reliance on misinformation about Iraqi W.M.D. by blaming the C.I.A. and anybody else within range, like Mr. Wilson?
More than anybody, Mr. Vice President, you made the argument in the run-up to the war that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And one senses, in the indictment and the trial testimony, that by the early summer of 2003, there was panic in your office that the W.M.D. had failed to materialize.
So when Ambassador Wilson came forward, you seem to have been infuriated. You tried to blame the C.I.A., and then your office tried to discredit Mr. Wilson by arguing that he had simply enjoyed a junket arranged by his wife.
Robert Grenier, a C.I.A. official, told the court that he thought the White House was “trying to avoid responsibility for positions that they took with regard to the truth about whether or not Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Niger.” So did this all arise from an attempted cover-up?
So when are you going to come clean?
When Richard Nixon was accused of misusing campaign contributions in 1952, he gave his famous Checkers speech. When questions rose about Spiro Agnew’s conduct in 1973, he repeatedly addressed them in public. (Look, you know you’re in trouble when the press tries to hold you to the same standards of transparency and integrity as Nixon and Agnew.)
I’m not accusing you of committing a crime. But there are serious questions here, and you owe the nation not legalisms, but that "stiff dose of truth." If you continue to stonewall, then you don’t belong in office and you should resign.
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