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Pre-Emptive War Against Patrick Fitzgerald
By Congressman John Conyers
As if spin and character attacks were a viable justification for a massive breach of national security, Republicans have already decided to smear Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald rather than take responsibility for their own misdeeds. Prevailing wisdom expects grand jury indictments to be issued this week. Any criminal charges will likely reach deep into the White House.
Over the weekend, the GOP spin machine gave us a preview of what we can expect from the Republican Party when we finally learn who outed CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson.
The New York Times reports that "allies of the White House suggested Sunday that they intended to pursue a strategy of attacking any criminal charges as a disagreement over legal technicalities or the product of an overzealous prosecutor" and that, in what appears to be a coordinated Congressional and White House attack, "allies of the White House have quietly been circulating talking points in recent days among Republicans sympathetic to the administration, seeking to help them make the case that bringing charges like perjury mean the prosecutor does not have a strong case."
Before the Congress and the American people can consider the possibility of a White House cover up, it will have to penetrate the smokescreen of character assassination and RNC talking points. This sort of misdirection is nothing new to this White House. The weapons they will use will be the same used to defame Ambassador Joe Wilson; in the words of a Republican Congressional aide months ago, "it's slime and defend."
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was tapped to test drive the strategy on this weekend's edition of "Meet the Press." As if insider trading were at all comparable to alleged treason, Senator Hutchinson attempted to draw parallels between the Fitzgerald investigation and the Martha Stewart trial: mere perjury under oath shouldn't really bring criminal sanctions, she argued, "where they couldn't find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn't a crime." Senator Hutchinson further expressed her hope that the grand jury would not "go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."
Much like the war in Iraq and the clumsy smear of Joe Wilson, the campaign against Patrick Fitzgerald appears doomed from the outset. First and foremost, if the grand jury does choose to bring indictments, neither Senator Hutchinson and her band of White House apologists nor the general public yet know what the scope of those indictments will be. It is quite possible that Patrick Fitzgerald could indict under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to disclose classified information to someone not authorized to received it. The smear artists are already arguing about technicalities-as if perjury under oath were somehow not criminal behavior. Is espionage enough of a crime for Senator Hutchinson? Is conspiracy? Is outright treason?
If senior White House advisors are, in fact, charged with perjuring themselves, why isn't that enough for Republicans? It was enough for Senator Hutchinson to vote to remove President Clinton from office, when she said "Lying is a moral wrong. Perjury is a lie told under oath that is legally wrong....[t]o say otherwise would be to severely lower the moral and legal standards of accountability that are imposed on ordinary citizens every day. The same standard should be imposed on our leaders....I will not compromise this simple but high moral principle..." The American people are simply smarter than Senator Hutchinson gives them credit-we remember the high moral principles brought to bare against the Clinton Administration. We will not be fooled by terms like "perjury technicality."
What about President Bush, whose Administration is being so disingenuously defended? When the story first broke, the President told the nation: "If there's a leak 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." The President did not make a distinction between some crimes and other crimes.
And how do those who claim Patrick Fitzgerald is an overzealous prosecutor reconcile that view with the statements made by the President they so ruthlessly seek to protect? Not one week ago, President Bush again addressed the country: "The special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation. He's doing it in a very dignified way, by the way, and we'll see what he says."
The American public should be outraged-not surprised, but truly indignant-if the grand jury has uncovered evidence that the advisors closest to the President placed politics and petty revenge over national security. Time will tell. The only certainty, it seems, is that Republican leaders are less willing to confront the facts on the ground then they are to smear the character of a decent and dedicated public servant.