George H.W. Bush gave us Lee Atwater who gave us Willie Horton to smear Michael Dukakis. George Bush gave us Karl Rove who gave us Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to smear John Kerry. And now, according to today’s NY Times, Karl and his Republican pals are cooking up their encore: a smear campaign against the investigation should Fitzgerald dare to indict Libby and Rove:
…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.
[They] 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…
Someone might argue that the story doesn’t literally say that a smear is in the works. But you can tell by the types of half-baked arguments advanced that whatever they do ain’t gonna be pretty. Take this bit of brilliant legal reasoning from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison:
…Speaking on the NBC news program “Meet the Press,” [she] compared the leak investigation with the case of Martha Stewart and her stock sale, “where they couldn’t find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn’t a crime.”
Ms. Hutchison said she hoped “that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”
First we should give credit where credit is due to the subtle and precise phrasing used by Texas’ august senior senator. Phrases like: “they couldn’t find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn’t a crime” or that veritable epigram that is her final sentence.
We saw how woefully out of touch the Republicans were with both medical practice and the American people in the Terry Schiavo circus. Now we see the same here regarding their grasp of federal law. Bringing perjury certainly does NOT mean that Fitzgerald doesn’t have a strong case. It means it the case most likely to succeed. If I kill someone but am only indicted for lying to the police about my whereabouts on the night of the crime that doesn’t mean I didn’t murder. It means I was damn lucky to get off scot free with my life because the prosecutor only felt certain he could nail me for lying.
As for Hutchison’s stupid comment about Martha Stewart: she engaged in insider trading. Everyone knows that. But the prosecutor in that case felt certain he could make a charge of lying stick and that’s what she was convicted of. It doesn’t mean she wasn’t guilty of the larger offense.
And don’t ya just love that phrase “perjury technicality?” You mean to tell me the whole Niger-WMD story was a fraud? Ah, but it was only a “technicality.” I’m afraid Senator Kay that the law doesn’t make that distinction. Perjury is a criminal offense just the same as outing a CIA agent.
None of this speaks to my certainty that Rove and Libby wouldn’t have had to concoct their shoddy, perjurious testimony if they hadn’t done what they are charged with doing (though not by Fitzgerald yet): outing Valerie Wilson.
If the Repubicans first time out smearing the investigation is any indicator, they will have to do a lot better with their next efforts. Next time, tell their spinsters to at least speak so people can follow what they’re saying. Once they can articulate an idea they should try to understand the law rather than insulting it.
Given the track record, can a smear of Pat Fitzgerald not be far behind? Of course, this will be difficult since he was appointed by the Justice Department itself and serves at the pleasure of Gonzales and Bush. Not to mention that Bush has praised his work several times (that won’t happen again). But smear him they will. The guy works so hard he keeps his old clothes in his desk drawers. Let’s see how they can twist that into something odious. He never married–you can see where this could go.
All this means that the rats are starting to scurry around the deck of the ship just after it’s hit the iceberg. Those rats are desperate and will stop at nothing to ensure they get out alive.