Keep Off The Hippies
Ron Brownstein and Matt Cooper were on Hardball today (a refreshingly excellent show when it's hosted by David Gregory instead of you-know-who) discussing the Plame hearing. Brownstein is a good reporter who usually gets it right, but today he betrayed a little bit of that beltway reflexive dismissiveness of anything "the left" finds important. He said that Waxman needed to pick his battles better because playing to the liberal blogosphere with hearings like this will create the same problems for Democrats that Republicans found themselves in when they went after Clinton. Setting aside the fact that the Republicans' "problems" resulted in them holding all three branches of government for six years, this sounds to me like one of those tired GOP talking points that reporters love to parrot because it distances them from the hippies.
It's especially ironic since we've just seen the mainstream press sporting dripping oozing egg yolk all over their faces over the US Attorney scandal, which they also dismissed as a figment of hippy conspiracy mongerer's imaginations. This knee jerk loathing of the left tends to lead them astray and they should check themselves before they do it.
Matt Cooper and David Gregory ably argued that the Democrats can hardly be called overly zealous since this is only the second hearing the congress ever held on the issue and Cooper pointed out that this is hardly a settled issue what with the possible pardon and all. Furthermore, the underlying "crime" that Waxman is getting at isn't the covert agent act which the lying Gorgon Toensing insists on arguing every five minutes. The crime was lying and misleading the United States of America into war, something that the congress damned well should be investigating. Valerie Plame's outing is a window into that crime and the Democrats are wise to explore her story to show just how far the administration was willing to go to cover their tracks. What a prosecutor cannot do --- prosecute a political crime --- the congress surely can.
There is a huge need for the Democrats to develop the record on this administration's many crimes. It's important for our future and it's important for history. What they have done should never, ever be repeated. You had the highest reaches of the white house casually revealing what was clearly "need to know" classified information (which they had no "need to know" in the first place) to reporters, for purely political purposes. The same people who did this later turned around and said that reporters for the Washington Post and NY Times should be investigated by the Justice Department for revealing classified information that was not released purely to punish a political enemy, but rather in true whistleblower fashion, to tell the nation what its government was illegally doing.
We now know that in the case of the NSA spying stories, the Attorney General personally intervened to stop an internal investigation of the program when it came too close to him, but allowed those who were investigating that alleged treason of the NY Times to carry on.
This is all part of a very large mosaic of government secrecy, political backstabbing and abuse of power. Those of us who were screaming about this until we are hoarse were dismissed out of hand when we argued that no administration should be allowed to seize such unchecked power and the assumption among the establishment was that it was just more of our "unhinged" hysteria.
It wasn't. This stuff happened and it's likely only the tip of the iceberg. If the press can get past their loathing of the dirty hippies for five minutes they will see that not only have we been right, we have been flogging some amazingly good stories for the past six years that had they bothered to report them would have been journalistic coups. We really aren't that nuts --- and the Bush administration really is that bad.