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Friday, January 26, 2007


by digby

So, the big news emerging from the Libby trial so far is that Dick Cheney was so obsessively Queeglike about Joseph Wilson that he was even writing out talking points for his little dog Scooter to yap at reporters.

As predicted, this trial has also been fascinating for its insight into the relationship between the White House and the press corps. Cathie Martin, the VP press liason who testified yesterday said some things that had Dana Milbank at the WaPo all a twitter:

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

No kidding.

And let's not forget that Russert was up to his neck in the story and failed over and over again to tell his viewers that and repeatedly put on a little acting performance, pretending surprise and sometimes even referring to himself in the third person. No wonder Cheney was thrilled to use him as his favorite propaganda outlet.

Here's a fun little trip down MTP memory lane from September of 2003, where Cheney engages in his usual lies and delusions, but also pretends that he doesn't really know anything about Wilson.

We now know, of course, that by the time he gave this interview, he had been neurotically pre-occupied with Wilson for months and knew every detail of how the Niger trip went down.

Joe who?

MR. RUSSERT: Now, Ambassador Joe Wilson, a year before that, was sent over by the CIA because you raised the question about uranium from Africa. He says he came back from Niger and said that, in fact, he could not find any documentation that, in fact, Niger had sent uranium to Iraq or engaged in that activity and reported it back to the proper channels. Were you briefed on his findings in February, March of 2002?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I don’t know Joe Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson. A question had arisen. I’d heard a report that the Iraqis had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa, Niger in particular. I get a daily brief on my own each day before I meet with the president to go through the intel. And I ask lots of question. One of the questions I asked at that particular time about this, I said, “What do we know about this?” They take the question. He came back within a day or two and said, “This is all we know. There’s a lot we don’t know,” end of statement. And Joe Wilson—I don’t who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back.

Uhm ... Lie.

I guess the intriguing thing, Tim, on the whole thing, this question of whether or not the Iraqis were trying to acquire uranium in Africa. In the British report, this week, the Committee of the British Parliament, which just spent 90 days investigating all of this, revalidated their British claim that Saddam was, in fact, trying to acquire uranium in Africa. What was in the State of the Union speech and what was in the original British White papers. So there may be difference of opinion there. I don’t know what the truth is on the ground with respect to that, but I guess—like I say, I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him and it never came...


VICE PRES. CHENEY: Who in the CIA, I don’t know.


And here comes some world class bullshit:

MR. RUSSERT: If they were wrong, Mr. Vice President, shouldn’t we have a wholesale investigation into the intelligence failure that they predicted...

VICE PRES. CHENEY: What failure?

MR. RUSSERT: That Saddam had biological, chemical and is developing a nuclear program.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: My guess is in the end, they’ll be proven right, Tim. On the intelligence business, first of all, it’s intelligence. There are judgments involved in all of this. But we’ve got, I think, some very able people in the intelligence business that review the material here. This was a crucial subject. It was extensively covered for years. We’re very good at it. As I say, the British just revalidated their claim. So I’m not sure what the argument is about here. I think in the final analysis, we will find that the Iraqis did have a robust program.

How do you explain why Saddam Hussein, if he had no program, wouldn’t come clean and say, “I haven’t got a program. Come look”? Then he would have sanctions lifted. He’d earned $100 billion more in oil revenue over the last several years. He’d still be in power. The reason he didn’t was because obviously he couldn’t comply and wouldn’t comply with the U.N. resolutions demanding that he give up his WMD. The Security Council by a 15-to-nothing vote a year ago found him still in violation of those U.N. Security Council resolutions. A lot of the reporting isn’t U.S. reporting. It’s U.N. reporting on the supplies and stocks of VX and nerve agent and anthrax and so forth that he’s never accounted for.

So I say I’m not willing at all at this point to buy the proposition that somehow Saddam Hussein was innocent and he had no WMD and some guy out at the CIA, because I called him, cooked up a report saying he did.

That’s crazy. That makes no sense. It bears no resemblance to reality whatsoever. And in terms of asking questions, you bet I do. I’ve seen in times past when there’s been faulty intelligence, because they don’t always get it right; I think, for example, of having missed the downfall of the Soviet Union. And so I ask a lot of questions based on my years of experience in this business, but that’s what I get paid to do.

They got away with this nonsense for years. He said in the same breath that the intelligence services are "very good" at what they do, implying that it was ridiculous to question the intelligence,then says they don't always get it right. He claims that Saddam wouldn't say "come look" --- except he did, they found nothing, and the US invaded anyway. Nobody mentions that in April 2001, it was reported that Cheney's energy task force had been in favor of lifting the sanctions and that Halliburton had done business in Iraq when he was president of the company.

I can sort of understand it. The lies were so spectacularly dense and overwhelming, building one upon the other, that I'm not sure even a skeptical and courageous press corps could have unraveled them in real time. So total was the mendacity, spin and fantasy that it had a sort of paralyzing effect --- in our soundbite world they seemed impossible to effectively rebut, particularly when the Republicans lashed out like rabid dogs against anyone who even tried. They had done an excellent job of co-opting a large number of the opinion makers who could have made a difference before they invaded, (many of whom are still making excuses.) It was a very thorough snow job.

This is the real problem. It's been demonstrated that if an executive is willing to operate without integrity or adherence to democratic norms, he truly can get away with anything. And as we are seeing today with this escalation in Iraq and provocation of Iran, he doesn't even have to be demagogic or popular. He's the decider, he can do whatever he wants. He only answers to "history" (when he'll conveniently be dead) not the people.

These people are proving that a president can get away with anything (but an illicit blowjob) if he's willing to push the envelope. And that is exactly what Dick Cheney set out to do when he chose himself to be the defacto president back in 2000.

The Libby trial may be the only chance we have to see any of this aired in a controlled environment where both sides operate by the same rules, time is not determined by the need to advertise erection cures and people are bound to tell the truth. I'm looking forward to seeing what unfolds over the next few weeks.

And here's hoping that Libby really does call Vice President Queeg to the stand.

Update: Jane Hamsher is back blogging and getting ready to see Dick Cheney on the witness stand rolling those ball bearings between his sweaty little palms. Welcome back!