For Bush apologists the Libby indictment is no big deal. That a White House Chief of Staff gave false information, obstructed an investigation and “lied repeatedly” in front of a Grand Jury doesn’t resonate with them. It wasn’t so long ago that lawmakers defending this administration claimed perjury to be a serious threat to our system of laws even managing to contort a lie about sex into a high crime and misdemeanor. Now this same group says nothing serious happened in the Libby case; perjury has for them morphed into just a technicality.
The problem with such arguments, aside from the obvious hypocrisy, is that they miss the central point – – by lying and giving false testimony Libby, and possibly others, impeded an investigation into more serious matters. While Special Counsel Fitzgerald specifically did not tie the issue of faulty intelligence and the invasion of Iraq to the indictment, he did make the point that sharing classified information which was then made public affected the status of an undercover CIA operative and compromised national security.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the White House leaks and the relentless reprisals it wreaks on any who dare oppose its policies is its refusal to defend its positions from a logical or truthful vantage point. Remarks by Republican pundit, Tucker Carlson crystallized the administration’s usual approach. ‘By giving Fitzgerald high marks for being a fair-minded, even-handed prosecutor’, he said, ‘the White House had made a “tactical error” because they lost the ability thereafter to question Fitzgerald’s person and credibility’. Those remarks speak volumes about Republican tactics – – don’t try to defend your position on its merits, just do your darndest to destroy the messenger.
President Clinton, in his keynote address at the Texas Book Festival this past weekend, made reference to the “absence of rigor” in political discourse saying that “reason and underlying facts not just assertions” should govern debate about important issues. Although such polemic weakness isn’t just a one-party failing, it is at the moment, the preferred approach of the Republican leadership in what Clinton described as the “party of the nine commandments”, the one about “not bearing false witness” having been discarded.
During the presidential campaign John Kerry’s military service was denigrated in a series of scurrilous attacks President Bush did nothing to discourage, and John Edwards was lambasted for being just another slick lawyer, although the new Chief Justice Roberts was applauded for his lawyering skills. Joe Wilson has been repeatedly attacked for his public disagreement with administration assertions. However, the CIA concurred with Wilson’s conclusions and warned the president to refrain from using the “yellowcake” argument in his State of the Union speech, advice the president chose to ignore.
What is so disturbing about all of this is the growing awareness that this White House and it congressional majorities continue to use every device short of facts and truth to advance their agenda. Now, to massage the ego of the right wing, President Bush has nominated an ultra-conservative, Samuel Alito, to The Supreme Court. Even though the country is philosophically more centrist, it may be saddled with the views of a vocal minority that seeks to run our schools and our government according to their radical, particularized vision.
The nomination of Alito may be the president’s attempt to emerge from the morass in which he currently finds himself. By appealing to his right-wing base he no doubt hopes to reassert his conservative credentials. He could find, however, that the corruption in Congress and under his nose may overtake that goal and that Republicans may be confounded in the long run by a party defined as the instrument of narrow-minded ideologues.

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