For the Bush administration what has transpired in the last several weeks has been a nuclear meltdown. It’s as if its deceit, arrogance and incompetence had suddenly been crystallized into one giant matrix of blunders casting doubt not only on its ability but also its right to govern and representing a betrayal of the American people to whom it had promised sound government and moral rectitude.
Why, people keep asking, would Scooter Libby have been so foolish as to lie to a grand jury and to FBI investigators about something that had ceased to be the original subject of inquiry? And why did Attorney General Gonzales lie about the removal of those eight U.S. attorneys when, as Republicans keep reiterating they serve “at the pleasure of the president” and can be removed at any time with or without cause?
The answer seems to be they lie because beneath the spin and the rationalizations, beyond claims of executive privilege and positions of seemingly unassailable power the actors are involved in things far more serious than perjury, and they know it. That awareness, call it a guilty conscience, or perhaps more accurately guilty knowledge, induces them to invent rationales that defy logic and serve to exacerbate situations that might otherwise have been left to the inroads of time and elicited less critical scrutiny.
In Libby’s case supporting the vice president meant discrediting Joe Wilson’s assessment that Saddam Hussein was not reconstituting his nuclear arms program by purchasing yellow cake from Africa. Outing his wife, a CIA operative, and suggesting that it was she who sent him to Africa was a means of questioning the legitimacy of his mission although that seems an extraordinarily devious way of addressing Wilson’s assertions. But Cheney and Bush worried that the colorful image Condi Rice had invoked with the ‘smoking gun that could become a mushroom cloud’ would be undercut.
Thus, while everyone and his brother was leaking the Plame story, Libby and others knew why it was important and understood that the ramifications of Wilson’s report could poke holes in the administration’s justification for war. The CIA had told President Bush not to include the dubious yellow-cake claim in his State of the Union speech, but he ran with it anyway; the Wilson op ed appeared, followed by the outing of his wife. Much time has been spent by right-wing media and administration hacks on whether Plame was undercover; her status covert or classified, but the real story was the administration’s march to war based on whatever it could dredge up as a Casus belli – – no interference was to be countenanced.
In the Gonzales dustup new tidbits of information surface on a daily basis, for example discussions about dismissing all 93 attorneys and then hiring some of them back. What possible reason could there be for such an odd procedure? That this was occurring in the middle of a second term and not at the beginning of a new administration as is commonly the case along with complaints from ousted attorneys raised suspicions. That some of those dismissed were engaged in investigations embarrassing to the administration or that others had not acted on allegations about Democrats before the November elections are disturbing aspects of the way the Justice Department has been functioning.
Once again the dissembling, the cover-up, the defensive feints are about something profoundly disturbing – – the likelihood that the reasons for dismissing the attorneys had nothing to do with their legal abilities or their general performance. Rather it would seem these attorneys failed in their most important role as abject supporters of the president – – not just with respect to legitimate issues of concern to the administration but in their approach to partisan matters that should have no place in the conduct of judicial affairs.
Sometimes people lie just because it’s easier and they can get away with it, or engage in seemingly careless distortion. But in the case of the current administration misinformation, disinformation and a general disregard for honest debate have not only led the country into a dangerous war but advanced the theory of a unitary executive, accountable to no-one, in a lust for power that threatens the foundations of our form of government.
And so in the end it isn’t surprising administration foibles are coming to the fore. They have been festering just below the surface for years. The lies are lies to protect its turf and attempts to make an end run around the truth and maintain the tangled web of deception in which this White House operates.

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