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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Memo to Democratic Pundits

I sat through a whole lot of hooey this morning on the Sunday talk shows. And then sat through a bunch of further hooey reviewing some of the quotes from pundits, Republican strategists and other anonymous apologists.

All of which were varying attempts to minimize, discredit or otherwise discount entirely the indictment of Scooter Libby, the continuing investigation into a matter that the CIA felt was serious enough to refer it to the DOJ for further inquiry and criminal prosecution, and/or the implications that this matter has on the Administration and the persons who work for it.

You expect this from members of the President's party, after all Washington, D.C., is a very political place and defending your territory is a second nature response. But I do not expect to see Democrats on shows or in the papers or magazines minimizing this or allowing patently false statements to just be made without taking the person making them to task.

So, consider this my contribution to the would be pundits out there.

When Orrin Hatch or Kay Bailey Hutchinson or any other Republican appear with you on a talk show and say something to the effect of "no underlying crime" or "perjury technicality", you should be ready to respond to them with something other than a "Well, I've known Orrin for a long time," head shake, "and I'm not certain what he's talking about here."

Here's my free suggestion on what you can say. Call it my contribution to the uplifting of American discourse on the law and our country. Or call it "I'm sick of people not knowing what in the hell they are talking about when they represent my party on TV." Whatever. But it's free for the taking -- please just use it.

Here's what you can say:

Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I just heard you say that perjury was a technicality. Is that for everyone? Or only your Republican cronies?
If sarcasm isn't your style, and you want something more erudite, you can try this.
I think I may have misheard you, Senator. I believe you just dismissed the entire notion of the rule of law because one of your Republican cronies was indicted, and I find that appalling. The law applies to every citizen of our great nation. Don't you think that everyone should abide by the laws equally, Senator?
That still doesn't work for you? Well, then, how about something like this.
I'm sorry. I may have missed a recent Supreme Court decision where the rule of law was suspended for Republicans. Are you saying that the serious charge of lying to a criminal investigator or trying to thwart an investigation into a breach of national security matters is only important when it applies to petty criminals -- or especially if you can apply it to a Democrat? So are you saying that anyone who happens to be one of your Republican cronies should not have to follow the law?
See how easy that can be? Here's a good one for someone who has formerly worked as a prosecutor, either in a state position or as attorney general or as a US Attorney.

Well, you've worked as a US Attorney, haven't you _____? (Victoria, Joe, whatever -- name your apologist) How many times did you file perjury or obstruction or false statements against a defendant you were prosecuting, where you felt those charges were trivial and unwarranted? None?

Hmmmm...well, it seems kind of odd that you would put these particular charges in that category when all you know about the case is the same stuff I'm reading in the paper. Maybe you should stop relying on the GOP talking points faxes for your information. Isn't it true, counselor, that prosecutors often use such charges as leverage in criminal conspiracy cases as a means to pressure a lower level operative to flip on someone higher in the conspiracy? (I could go on here, but you get my point, I think.)

But perhaps I should just allow the words of Patrick Fitzgerald to speak for themselves as to whether or not these are serious and appropriate charges.
FITZGERALD: I'll be blunt.

That talking point won't fly. If you're doing a national security investigation, if you're trying to find out who compromised the identity of a CIA officer and you go before a grand jury and if the charges are proven -- because remember there's a presumption of innocence -- but if it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.

And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time.

When I was in New York working as a prosecutor, we brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.

In Philadelphia, where Jack works, they prosecute false statements and obstruction of justice.

When I got to Chicago, I knew the people before me had prosecuted false statements, obstruction and perjury cases.

And we do it all the time. And if a truck driver pays a bribe or someone else does something where they go into a grand jury afterward and lie about it, they get indicted all the time.

Any notion that anyone might have that there's a different standard for a high official, that this is somehow singling out obstruction of justice and perjury, is upside down.

If these facts are true, if we were to walk away from this and not charge obstruction of justice and perjury, we might as well just hand in our jobs. Because our jobs, the criminal justice system, is to make sure people tell us the truth. And when it's a high-level official and a very sensitive investigation, it is a very, very serious matter that no one should take lightly.
I think that is pretty clear all on its own. The law applies to everyone. We are a nation of laws, not of kings.

And for those people who keep insisting that this case is a nothing case, and that no one was harmed and it's just being pushed for a partisan agenda because Valerie Wilson wasn't even a CIA operative, she was some sort of desk jockey? Again, I'm going to
let Patrick Fitgerald speak for himself.
I can say that for the people who work at the CIA and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected. And they have to expect that when they do their jobs, that information about whether or not they are affiliated with the CIA will be protected.

And they run a risk when they work for the CIA that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees.
I think that is very clear. There are several people working for this Administration -- and a whole lot of people schilling for it -- who have a lot to be ashamed of right now. Not the least of which is their blatant disregard for the rule of law in their public statements about this case.

This nation was founded on a rule of law that applied to everyone, no matter their status or connections -- to throw that away for short term political gain is craven and shameful, and I am disgusted watching people twist themselves into ethical pretzels trying to do just that. For shame.

(Woman Holding a Balance, Jan Vermeer, 1664, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Update: Looks like we made the NYT.