Court Defectors

by digby

Sidney Blumenthal has written a devastating piece on the current state of the Imperial presidency which rightly notes that in small, incremental ways (and some large ones) the executive theory of the Bush presidency is being legally dismantled. (I suspect we'll be living with the fallout for a long time, however, if they pay no price --- they are zombies with this stuff.)

Blumenthal makes some news, at least to me, and it's quite interesting because it sheds some light on what might be motivating some of the Scooter Madness that I find so bizarre:

In private, Bush administration sub-Cabinet officials who have been instrumental in formulating and sustaining the legal "war paradigm" acknowledge that their efforts to create a system for detainees separate from due process, criminal justice and law enforcement have failed. One of the key framers of the war paradigm (in which the president in his wartime capacity as commander in chief makes and enforces laws as he sees fit, overriding the constitutional system of checks and balances), who a year ago was arguing vehemently for pushing its boundaries, confesses that he has abandoned his belief in the whole doctrine, though he refuses to say so publicly. If he were to speak up, given his seminal role in formulating the policy and his stature among the Federalist Society cadres that run it, his rejection would have a shattering impact, far more than political philosopher Francis Fukuyama's denunciation of the neoconservatism he formerly embraced. But this figure remains careful to disclose his disillusionment with his own handiwork only in off-the-record conversations. Yet another Bush legal official, even now at the commanding heights of power, admits that the administration's policies are largely discredited. In its defense, he says without a hint of irony or sarcasm, "Not everything we've done has been illegal." He adds, "Not everything has been ultra vires" -- a legal term referring to actions beyond the law.

The resistance within the administration to Bush's torture policy, the ultimate expression of the war paradigm, has come to an end through attrition and exhaustion. More than two years ago, Vice President Dick Cheney's then chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and then general counsel David Addington physically cornered one of the few internal opponents, subjecting him to threats, intimidation and isolation. About that time, the tiny band of opponents within approached Karen Hughes, newly named undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, hoping that the longtime confidante of President Bush, now assigned responsibility for the U.S. image in the world, might be willing to hear them out on the damage done by continuation of the torture policy. But she rebuffed them.

Two weeks ago, Hughes unveiled her major report, extolling "our commitment to freedom, human rights and the dignity and equality of every human being," but making no mention of detainee policy. The action part consists of another of her campaign-oriented rapid-response schemes, this one a Counterterrorism Communications Center, staffed by military and intelligence officers, to rebut the false claims of terrorists. Asked whether the administration's policies might be a factor contributing to the problem, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, replied, "You're always going to get people criticizing policy."

If the walls are tumbling as Blumenthal suggests, then keeping Scooter out of jail becomes part of this internecine battle. I'm not sure, based on the information in this piece, how all that fits together, but it seems logical to me that Scooter has an awful lot of leverage at the moment.

This doesn't excuse the airheaded pundits who are doing his dirty work for him in the name of not "criminalizing politics" (or whatever other lame lines they've been fed indirectly by Barbara Comstock) but it does explain the rather frenzied, incoherent desperation of Libby's Republican defenders. I'm not sure anybody knows who their friends are anymore and the question is which rats are going to jump ship and start squeaking.

Read all of Blumenthal's piece for his discussion of the dissolving of the legal justifications for Bush's excesses. It's really good. And be sure to read Emptywheel's take on this, which includes some very entertaining speculation as to who these disgruntled, high level former Bush officials might be.