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Monday, October 31, 2005

It's Official: He's No Longer Mr. Popularity

I know. Shocking. But it looks like Dick Cheney is now being cast in the role of convenient pariah to take the heat off the Empty Suit Bushie and Unka Karl.

NY Daily News starts with the headline "W Urged to Chain Cheney" -- well, now isn't that special? They go on to report the latest Republican attempt to minimize the damage from the Libby indictment -- by trying to minimize how many people were involved in the mess.

"This is not anything that can't be overcome" to save Bush's second term, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) told CBS' "Face the Nation," but he agreed with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that a probe of Cheney's office by a "nonpolitical person" could help clear the air....

But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said Democrats were fated to be disappointed in the leak case "by the fact that this appears to be limited to a single individual."
Not sure what planet John Cornyn is from, but I counted a number of White House officials among the early witness list for any Libby trial. Back to the talking points drawing board, I suppose.

The Philadelphia Inquirer piles on as well, with a blistering bit of political analysis from Dick Polman, who says that the Bush Administration's rationale for the Iraq War is officially on trial now.

If this case is pursued in open court, it could lay bare the inner workings of Cheney's office, where the most powerful vice president in history worked with top aides to marshal pro-war arguments that have since been judged, in numerous official reports, as baseless. That fact alone - coupled with Bush strategist Karl Rove's ongoing legal limbo - is likely to further distract a White House that has spent two years under legal and ethical clouds.

For President Bush and Cheney, this case sends an embarrassing message. Patrick Fitzgerald, the Republican-appointed prosecutor, is basically alleging that a Republican White House played fast and loose with national security by exposing a classified CIA employee. Fitzgerald said Friday, "Compromising national security information is a very serious matter."
Newsweek has an intriguing behind-the-scenes peek story (or at least as much behind the curtain glimpsing as the WH wants all of us to have through orchestrated anonymous leaking).

Now Fitzgerald's probe is aimed at the operational inner sanctum of Bush's "war presidency"—and, by extension, at Bush's anchoring view of what his administration has been about since the 9/11 attacks. As he prosecutes "Cheney's Cheney" for perjury, false statements and obstruction, Fitzgerald will inevitably have to shine a light on the machinery that sold the Iraq war and that sought to discredit critics of it, particularly Joseph Wilson. And that, in turn, could lead to Cheney and to the Cheney-run effort to make Iraq the central battleground in the war on terror. As if that weren't dramatic enough, the Libby trial—if there is one—will feature an unprecedented, high-stakes credibility contest between a top government official and the reporters he spoke to: Tim Russert of NBC, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time magazine. Another likely witness: Cheney himself. White House officials were admonished not to have any contact with Libby about the investigation. That presumably includes the vice president.
Well, that is quite a story, isn't it? If only this sort of digging had occurred, oh, I don't know, in Bush's first term when this whole story broke in Novak's column in July of 2003?!? (Don't mind me. I'm cranky this morning. Ahem.)

Howard Kurtz does some media analysis of his own this morning in the WaPo, displaying that even handed mushiness that passes for even-handed reporting these days, castigating and complimenting people on both sides of the aisle. But he does hit a few sound notes and references several other articles that are all pointing a big, ugly finger at Darth Cheney's machinations toward war.

Maybe we'll get some retroactive reporting after all, even if it is out of some sort of guilt complex for not having done it earlier when it might have made a bigger difference to the dead and wounded in Iraq.

As for everyone doing the anonymous finger-pointing at the Veep, I just keep waiting for Lynn Cheney to blow a gasket somewhere. Wonder if Larry King is free? Ahem.