Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why No Denials About Bush From The White House?

I have been thinking that there is something very suspicious about how the White House is handling the "Plamegate" scandal.

You would think that if President Bush had no contemporaneous personal knowledge of Karl Rove's Joe and Val Wilson bashing, The White House would have come right out and said so explicitly. Everyone knows about Bush's loyalty towards his people, but this would be carrying it to the level of absurdity. If Bush wasn't involved, one way or another, there is no way in hell he would allow this matter to decimate his poll numbers and credibility without sticking up for himself.

I know some people would claim Bush is not smart enough to figure this out. But unless it is just George W. and Karl alone against the world, someone would have insisted he distance himself from "Plamegate" by asserting his innocence.

Just when I was thinking that I had been missing something, the New York Times today publishes an article touching in an off-hand way on this very issue:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 - In the hours before the Justice Department informed the White House in late September 2003 that it would investigate the leak of a covert C.I.A. officer's identity, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, gave reporters what turned out to be a rare glimpse into President Bush's knowledge of the case.

Mr. Bush, he said, "knows" that Karl Rove, his senior adviser, had not been the source of the leak. Pressed on how Mr. Bush was certain, Mr. McClellan said he was "not going to get into conversations that the president has with advisers," but made no effort to erase the impression that Mr. Rove had assured Mr. Bush that he had not been involved.

Since then, administration officials and Mr. Bush himself have carefully avoided disclosing anything about any involvement the president may have had in the events surrounding the disclosure of the officer's identity or anything about what his aides may have told them about their roles. Citing the continuing investigation and now the pending trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, they have declined to comment on almost any aspect of the case.

The issue now for the White House is how long it can go on deflecting the inquiries and trying to keep the focus away from Mr. Bush.

The establishment New York Times then takes great pains to steer the article away from the explosive intimation hinted to above:

While there has been no suggestion that Mr. Bush did anything wrong, the portrait of the White House that was painted by the special counsel in the indictment of Mr. Libby was one in which a variety of senior officials, including Mr. Cheney, played some role in events that preceded the disclosure of the officer's identity.

Mr. Bush was not mentioned in the indictment. But the fact that so many of his aides seem to have been involved in dealing with the issue that eventually led to the leak - how to rebut or discredit Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had challenged the administration's handling of prewar intelligence - leaves open the question of what the president knew.

The White House has also kept a tight lid on information about what Mr. Bush learned afterward about any involvement that Mr. Cheney, Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove and others may have had in the leak.

The Times later finds it necessary to wheel out a Republican tool:

"A White House that is aggressively on message is an unstoppable political tool," said Rich Galen, a Republican consultant. "Just as the Clinton White House got itself back together in '95 and after impeachment, this White House will get itself together, too."

Whatever political problems the Libby indictment creates, he said, "It's a long way from the Veep's office to the Oval. No one has ever hinted that President Bush was involved in this or was even aware of it. I really don't think the issue will have legs beyond the next couple of weeks."

It seems that the Times wants to spin the story further away from Bush:

The administration's supporters point out that Mr. Bush has repeatedly emphasized that the White House will cooperate fully with the special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald. The administration raised no issues of executive privilege when it came to documents sought by investigators. Mr. Fitzgerald had given no indication that he was denied any information on the ground of national security. No officials are known to have taken the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating themselves.

Therefore, allies of the White House said, it would be hard to make a case, legally or politically, that there was any organized effort to cover up what happened, despite Mr. Libby's indictment on charges of trying to do just that. And assuming that Mr. Fitzgerald does not indict Mr. Rove in the next few weeks, Mr. Bush has a natural firebreak available to him.

If I was Bush and was innocent of any illegal involvement, I think that I would mention it.


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