Monday, October 24, 2005

CIA Leak Defense Prepares Spin

The spin doctors were out in force yesterday, probing for potential defense strategies that may work if indictments are handed down this week in the CIA leak scandal. (New York Times: Republicans Testing Ways to Blunt Leak Charges). Special investigator Patrick J. Fitzgerald is expected to conclude his investigation and possibly issue indictments by Friday of this week.

Senator Hutchinson (R-TX) on "Meet the Press" referred to a possible perjury indictment by comparing it to the Martha Stewart case "where they couldn't find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn't a crime." That would appear to be the first major spin being placed on the investigation. Ironically, it's not too far removed from the argument posed during former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial for lying to a grand jury. That argument was hollow then and it is hollow now.

The second popular defense being floated is an attack on the prosecution, claiming the investigation is the result of an over zealous prosecutor. If that sounds familiar, it's because it is. The same defense is being used in the Tom DeLay case. That, too, is a hollow argument. Accusing the prosecution of doing their job - i.e. investigating a possible crime and handing down indictments based on the results of that investigation - only serves to worsen the effects of the scandal for those involved.

There is strong speculation that those indicted will resign their positions and the White House is already preparing for the aftermath of those resignations. (Washington Post: Resignations May Follow Charges). Senator Allen (R-VA) said yesterday that he expects both Rove and Libby to resign if indicted, however he cautioned, "Let's see what happens rather than get into all this speculation and so forth." Both Rove and Libby have already been warned that they face serious legal challenges, and Fitzgerald has opened a web site for the case which would suggest that he intends to issue indictments.

It is imperative that the White House not attempt to spin any indictments. Learning from history is not the strongest suit for any administration, however there are some lessons to be learned by Nixon's handling of Watergate and Clinton's handling of his impeachment investigation. Spin only compounds the issue. Nixon wasn't on the verge of impeachment because of the Watergate break-in, he was on the verge of impeachment because of the subsequent cover-up. Americans have a very high tolerance for leaders that stand up, admit they erred, and take take full responsibility for their actions. Americans have no tolerance at all for cover-ups, skirting responsibility, or blame misdirection.

Popular history will not remember the names Rove, Libby, or Plame. Popular history will most certainly remember how the Bush administration deals with the aftermath of any indictments. If you don't believe me, try naming the Watergate burglars. Five men were arrested for that break-in, but I will be shocked if the average person can name even one. That is the lesson history has to offer. Let's see if this administration can learn from it. (For the record, the answer to that question is Bernard Barker, Virgilio González, Eugenio Martínez, James W. McCord, Jr. and Frank Sturgis. How many did you get right?)


No comments :