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Restoring Dignity?

July 20, 2005
By Ken Sanders

Back when he was running for president, Bush the born-again straight-shooter promised to restore dignity to the White House, tarnished and sullied by the oversexed and hair-splitting presidency of Bill Clinton. But recent events compel one to wonder (again) if Bush has restored, or is even capable of restoring, dignity to the office of president.

The recent events all revolve around the question of who in the White House outed CIA agent Valerie Plame in an alleged plot to injure Joseph Wilson for criticizing Bush's plan to invade Iraq. Last week, Bush's puppet-master, Karl Rove, was named as the first person to tell Time reporter Matthew Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. This weekend, Time further revealed that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was Cooper's other source.

The revelation of the involvement of both Rove and Libby in the Plame affair is significant if only because for two years the White House adamantly denied that either official had any involvement in Plame's outing. In fact, so certain was Bush that no one in his administration, including Rove and Libby, were involved in outing Plame that on June 10, 2004, he answered a succinct "yes" to the unambiguous question of whether he stood by his pledge to fire anyone who leaked Plame's identity. Now, a little over a year later, Bush has back-pedaled and will only fire someone if they "committed a crime."

President Bush's qualification of an earlier and unambiguous vow to fire anyone who revealed Plame's identity, regardless of criminal liability, is telling. Bush's qualification can and should be read as the White House's tacit admission that Bush's ventriloquist and Cheney's "Scooter" leaked Plame's identity to Time's Cooper. Bush's retreat still provides him with an out if either Rove or "Scooter" are indicted since to be charged with a crime is far different than to have committed a crime. Therefore, if either Rove or "Scooter" end up being indicted, don't be surprised if they remain on the payroll.

The involvement of these two "public servants" is further significant because it lends additional credence to Wilson's allegations that his wife's safety was jeopardized by the White House as retribution for Wilson's sin of candor. To be sure, Wilson has certain credibility problems, not the least of which was his failure to mention that his wife, not Cheney's office, recommended him for the trip to Niger.

Wilson's credibility issues, however, pale in comparison with those of the Bush administration's. What has been, but should not be lost in "Plamegate" is that despite Wilson's admonishment that allegations of Saddam's attempt to purchase uranium from Niger were "bogus," the White House nonetheless included the claim in its pre-war sales pitch. The claim was included in Bush's State of the Union addres, no less.

Once the the Niger claim was revealed to be fabricated and false, the White House pled scrivener's error and George Tenet took the fall. In honor of his distinguished service in misleading the public, Tenet was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Kudos for a job well-done.

The Niger claim, however, was only a part of the Bush administration's overall fabrication of bases for invading Iraq. The revelations in the Downing Street Memos that Bush & Co. "fixed" the intelligence around the policy of regime change in Iraq reveal a broader scheme by the White House to falsify and fabricate intelligence to justify the administration's predisposition to invade Iraq.

The White House has never denied the Memos' authenticity nor attempted to explain the Memos' claim of fixed intelligence. The press has not insisted that it do so. Indeed, the White House has yet to be pressed to explain anything about the Memos, much less about how or even if the White House manipulated intelligence to garner support for the Iraq war. For the most part, the press still takes the word of the White House as the gospel truth. Knowing this, the Bush administration has little to fear.

Born-again and sober as a judge, Bush promised to deliver us from Clinton's legacy of sin and debauchery. Instead, Bush defrauded the nation into an intractable war in Iraq, resulting in tens of thousands of dead and wounded, and likely increasing the terrorist threat to our national security in the process. To conceal his Ponzi scheme, Bush and his cronies endangered the life of a CIA operative and her contacts, as well as further undermined national security.

The question, then, is this: who will restore dignity to the White House following the damage done by the Bush administration?

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