Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Simon Rosenberg's 5 Points

Here are Simon Rosenberg's 5 points to emphasize concerning the Rove Affair:

1. Whatever the outcome, the White House has been caught in a lie. McClellan’s 2003 assertion that it was ridiculous to think that Rove had anything to do with the leak was blatantly untrue. Did McClellan know this at the time? Did he purposely lie? What else has he lied about? And why did Rove let this lie stand? Are lies from this White House so common that when one was committed there was no reason to correct what was said? Should McClellan now be immediately fired for lying to his country?

2. Valerie Plame was undercover at the time. Rove’s allies are spinning that she no longer had covert status. But it was the CIA who asked the Department of Justice to pursue the case. The intelligence community believed she was under cover and that is all that really matters.

3. Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush campaign for leaking information to Robert Novak. Rove’s status as a vicious operative willing to distort, lie and smear is well-documented. His previous disclosure of unauthorized information to one of the journalists at the heart of this case only confirms that this is but the latest chapter in a long history of ethically bankrupt political dealings.

4. Despite the White House’s repeated assertion that Rove had nothing to do with the affair, he has in fact testified or been questioned under oath on five different occasions. Is it really possible that he did not warn the President, Dick Cheney, Andy Card or anyone else that the White House’s line on this affair differed substantially from what he was saying under oath in these five instances? Why was McClellan so unprepared last week?

5. If anyone on the White House staff is indicted, it gives validity to Wilson’s claim that the administration strategically lied in its run-up to Iraq. If they were willing to expose an undercover CIA agent, cover it up and lie about it for so long what were they protecting? Their behavior suggests they have something to hide. If the indictment comes, look for a national re-examination of their story leading to war.

Three Prongs of Attack

As usual, Stirling has excellent advice for Democratic strategists inside and outside the beltway--advice which fits nicely with Frank Rich's Sunday op-ed. Stirling suggests Democrats have the upper hand in what might just be the greatest Whitehouse scandal in American history. Republicans only have a defensive position; it is only possible for them to obfuscate, which on the surface is the simpler course of action, but is also limited, especially in the face of a determined special prosecutor.

Democrats, on the other hand, have at least three different fronts on which to attack. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, but as each is confronted by its inherent limitations, the others can proceed depending on the situation:
The Democratic Party has a more diverse body of messages. First because the Democratic Party has different desired outcomes, and second because the side on offense has to send prongs into the defense from a variety of angles. This helps the scandal, because it means that when one prong gets bogged down, another front moves forward. The Democratic beltway message is "abuse of power" - since this is their 2006 campaign theme. The Democratic outside the beltway crowd wants this focused with laser like precision on Rove, since that is the one thing they think everyone can agree on: Rove broke the law. The Democratic Party base wants to connect this with the big picture - the scandal of Iraq itself. Each line has its merits and problems.
Rich's op-ed most reflects this latter view, that is, the view of the Democratic Party base. For him, Cooper and Miller, Plame and Wilson, Rove and Libby, are all subplots in the more significant drama surrounding how the administration manipulated facts, and attacked anyone who contradicted their representation of reality, in order to make the case to invade Iraq. Unlike some NYT reporters, he admits at the outset that Rove did it, but:
Even so, we shouldn't get hung up on him - or on most of the other supposed leading figures in this scandal thus far. Not Matt Cooper or Judy Miller or the Wilsons or the bad guy everyone loves to hate, the former CNN star Robert Novak. This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.
Following Stirling's advice, the important matter is to combine the three different fronts, to link Rovegate to GOP corruption to Iraq--they are all pieces in a larger puzzle:

And taking a step back, one can see how these three layers of message can work in harmony. The beltway attack is a logos message - it only works if you can logically explain how all of this web of stuff fits together. To believe it, people have to first feel it and want it.

Which drills down to the "Roveroveroveroveroverove" message: it is fundamentally a pathos attack, to turn people's feelings. "Look he violated national security!"

And beneath all of these is the "Republicans Lie" message. This attacks the ethos of the matter. It blows the Republicans off the board by saying "all you do is spew".

This means that the way to make these messages work, is to harmonize them:

1. First, and in a general almost broad brush way, attack Republican lies. Don't support it, just assert it as too obvious to be explained. This is how "big picture" message helps: by giving the Democratic base a secure and unshakeable belief that Republicans lie, and enough shotgun factoids to blow any objections off, it creates shock troops.

2. Second, establish that "Rove breached Security". The message here is two words "Rove talked". Connect this with every "loose lips sink ships" form of message. "We are at war, and Rove talked."

3. Third, elaborate outwards, once one has the logical floor. Remember that people will listen to endless explanation - as right wingers are already boning up on long obfustications. But only once there is trust, and an emotional need to have the logical apparatus.

The Republicans, playing defense, have a simpler, but more cramped, project. They need to generate counterplay - change the subject, smear the sources, or create a fog of complications and hope the Democrats misstep. But there is a big difference between chess and politics - in chess the other side can only make one move at a time. Where as, given the three prongs of Democratic message - there can be multiple attacks in the same time period.

The other problem the Republicans have is that this scandal is breaking loose: Scooter Libby, named last year, is back in the mix as another Cooper source. And Cooper's testimony flatly contradicts earlier White House denials. Even the right wing apologists can't hide that.

For my perspective, sooner or later, one gets back, not to 2003 and the Seven Days in July of the Plame outing, nor even the 2002 run up events in "fixing intelligence". But back to the roots of the scandal.

To 2001, when the Executive first started trading in forged documents to get Saddam.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Politics in Rovewell's 2005

Armando links to a Newsweek article by Howard Fineman which gets to the heart--as much as Fineman ever has--of the mechanics of Rove's political machinations. I especially like this tidbit:
In the World According to Karl Rove, you take the offensive, and stay there. You create a narrative that glosses over complex, mitigating facts to divide the world into friends and enemies, light and darkness, good and bad, Bush versus Saddam.
This one quoted by Armando is also good:
. . . You use the jujitsu of media flow to flip the energy of your enemies against them. The Boss never discusses political mechanics in public. But in fact everything is political--and everyone is fair game.
Yes, Rove as Sunzi (Sun-tzu). And here is Armando's take:
There is no ethic, law, decency or national interest that trumps the political fortunes and powers of the GOP in Rove World. Indeed, in that sense, this is the most corrupt Administration since Nixon. Unfortunately, unlike the Nixon Administration, it appears that there is and was not one competent official involved in GOVERNING rather than politics in the Bush Administration. This combination of incompetence and lack of respect for law, ethic, truth and decency has proven a disastrous combination, leading to the worst administration in American history. And I say this without hyperbole.
There is more. Here is the complete Fineman article.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Who deserves to remain anonymous?

For all those who are loyally distorting reality in order to protect the Rovian dream, here is a response from some Republican registered CIA insiders:
It is shameful on one level that the White House uses the news media, its own leaks, and junior Congressmen from Georgia, among others, to levy attacks on Ambassador Wilson. Moreover they discount what he has to say, his value in the Niger investigation, and suggest his wife's cover is of little value because she was "a low-level CIA employee". If Wilson's comments or analysis have no merit, why does the White House feel the need to launch such a coordinated attack? Why drag his wife into it?

Not only have the Bush Administration leakers damaged the career of our friend but they have put many other people potentially in harm's way. If left unpunished this outing has lowered the bar for official behavior. Further, who in their right mind would ever agree to become a spy for the United States? If we won't protect our own officers how can we reassure foreigners that we will safeguard them? Better human intelligence could prevent any number of terror incidents in the future, but we are unlikely to get foreign recruits to supply it if their safety cannot be somewhat assured. If more cases like Mrs. Wilson's occur, assurances of CIA protection will mean nothing to potential spies.

Politicians must not politicize the intelligence community. President Bush has been a decisive leader in the war on terrorism, at least initially. What about decisiveness now? Where is the accountability he promised us in the wake of Clinton Administration scandals? We find it hard to believe the President lacks the wherewithal to get to bottom of this travesty. It is up to the President to restore the bonds of trust with the intelligence community that have been shattered by this tawdry incident.

We joined the CIA to fight against foreign tyrants who used the threat of incarceration, torture, and murder to achieve their ends. They followed the rule of force, not the rule of law. We now find ourselves with an administration in the United States where some of its members have chosen to act like foreign tyrants. As loyal Americans and registered Republicans we implore President Bush to move quickly and decisively against those who, if not apprehended, will leave his Administration with the legacy of being the first to allow political operatives to out clandestine officers.
I would simply add that Bush never would have made it to power if it wasn't for those very political operatives. And the question still remains: What did Bush know and when did he know it? Is he really ignorant of what his chief political strategist does to keep him on the throne?

Friday, July 15, 2005

What is Judith Miller trying to protect?

To some (and to herself?), Judith Miller is the upholder of the freedom of the Press to protect anonomous sources. That is really not what she or her brethren at the NYTimes are fighting for--it is not what the majority in the media salivate over. Read these three articles in print today, from the NYTimes, "Rove Reportedly Held Phone Talk on C.I.A. Officer," the Washington Post, "Rove Confirmed Plame Indirectly, Lawyer Says," and the AP, "Rove Learned CIA Agent's Name From Novak."

The idea that Rove actually learned about the identity of Valerie Plame from Novak rather than the way it truely happened is now circulating around the web and to every media outlet in the country. Just do a google search on news stories about Karl Rove. This lie is being repeated ad infinitum even though the reporters of all three of the aforementioned stories merely relied on a single source (presumably the same one), a
person who has been briefed on the matter (NYT), a lawyer involved in the case (WP), a person who works in the legal profession and spoke only on condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy (AP). As Empty Wheel says:

Now, with the exception of the WaPo, which did some reporting using an anonymous source attached to Libby and an anonymous source attached to Cooper (kudos Mike Allen!), these stories all rely on one source--presumably the same "person in the legal profession" who happens to be a "lawyer" that "has been briefed in the matter" and therefore "has knowledge of the conversations between Rove and prosecutors" (for the sake of simplicity, perhaps we should call this anonymous person "Loquacious Luskin"). These stories--coupled with Mehlman's revealing statement--typify White House behavior in this Plame Affair...and more generally.

Obviously, these stories are the product of a deliberate effort to push back against the heat on Karl Rove, to buy some time, at least until Fitzgerald makes indictments, and perhaps to throw suspicion elsewhere (Libby and Judy sitting in a tree, L-E-A-K-I-NG). As with the original Plame leak, the White House has managed to get its spin--virtually unchallenged--into the papers of record and the main newswire. Even with the issue of sourcing and spin occupying such a central role in the Plame case, these journalists couldn't resist the bait.
He goes on, "It's not just Judy Miller who loses credibility when she relies exclusively on anonymous sources with a clear agenda. It's the whole profession. And it's a habit the press, like anonymous source junkies on a long waiting list to get into a methodone clinic, are desperate to break."

Liberal Oasis chimes in:

The news today should be about how a Bush Administration leak of the name of an Al Qaeda member turned double agent in Aug. 2004, hurt a British counterterror operation, allowing suspected terrorists to escape -- including possibly the eventual London Bombers.

As the leak was part of justifying a politically timed terror alert, right after the Dem Convention, this would be a second example of the Bush Administration misusing classified information for political purposes, harming our national security.

But more likely, the punditocracy will ignore the pattern that’s emerging, and flock to today’s NY Times report, claiming that Karl Rove didn’t leak Plame’s name to Bob Novak, but Novak told it to Rove.

It is stupefying that the NY Times would print this story.

It clearly comes from a single anonymous White House source, at a time when all White House officials are refusing to answer questions publicly.

Basically, the NY Times is picking up where its own Judith Miller left off – giving the White House free ink to distribute its talking points.

It is clear that Judith Miller is not really fighting for protection of the First Amendment; rather, she is using it in support of her true desire: access to power. She and her brethren will do anything to get their access, to maintain their privilege in the court of King George, who is playing them like the fools they are.

I have been reading quite a bit as of late about the king's ancestor, Louis XIV. In his court, courtiers competed for the attention of the king, and access to his inner chambers, the most privileged were admitted entry into his bedroom. Louis exploited this competition for his own ends; he winked at one and frowned at another. His every gesture had profound symbolic power, and could make or break the position of the most high and mighty.

It is no different in 21st century America. The journalists are those courtiers, competing for the attention of the king, careful not to do anything which would result in their banishment from the Court. Bear in mind, they are not in our service; they do the bidding of the establishment. As such, they are acting as part of the machine that they are mandated to expose.

How can we have a truely independent and alternative Press in America--a necessary condition to a flourishing democracy--when the single-source stories like the ones above are allowed to come into print?

See also Krugman's take today on Karl Rove's America.