There Is A Cancer On
The Presidency
Watergate Redux

By Alan Bisbort
Hartford Advocate

In the early days of the Watergate scandals -- before Congress investigated the matter on live TV -- John Dean, then the president's legal counsel, told Richard Nixon, "There's a cancer on the presidency." His advice, sage and pragmatic, was to surgically remove the cancer, come clean to the public and distance himself from the spreading disease.
Instead, Nixon covered up, circled the wagons, paid hush money and conducted damage control. Nixon, like Karl Rove (aka "Bush's brain"), was canny enough to know that the attention span of the American people for political scandal is about 10 minutes (unless it involves semen on devilishly blue dresses). So, he paddled water until the political heat hopefully dissipated. But then, in a Shakespearean twist, Nixon made it known that he was going to allow others, including Dean, to take the fall for him. That was a big mistake. Dean began to sing like a canary to the federal investigators. Others followed suit to save their feathers.
Now, we have another cancer on the presidency. It began in July when it was learned that "two senior White House officials" -- many have pointed fingers at Karl Rove, some at Dick Cheney -- had leaked to journalists the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame (a felony, perhaps treason). As everyone knows, the leak was no simple case of incompetence. It served as nasty political revenge against Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who would not take the fall for the claim that Saddam had received uranium from Niger. He had, in fact, investigated this claim by going to the sources and verifying that it was fraudulent, and apprising both Cheney and CIA director George Tenet of this.
Nonetheless, those "yellow cake" claims ended up in Bush's State of the Union address one year ago. They became the pretext for an invasion of a nation that posed no imminent threat to our nation, in violation of every international treaty or code of conduct to which we have ever subscribed.
The only journalist of the several contacted by the "senior White House officials" who did the White House's dirty work was Bob Novak. With partisan glee -- one is tempted to say with pornographic glee -- he printed Plame's name in his column knowing full well what he was doing. Plame is one of the CIA's foremost experts on keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. "Outing" her is a disastrous breach of national security. Though we may never know how much damage was done, it's estimated that as many as 70 deaths of her "assets" around the world may have resulted from Novak's revelation.
When the story of the leak broke in September (Novak's story ran in July), Bush feigned cooperation with a Department of Justice probe. Bush did what he does best: lied with a straight smirk. That is, he actually told a roomful of reporters, "I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administrative official. This is a large administration and there's a lot of senior officials." (Never mind that that's suspiciously close to an excuse my 3-year-old son would use.)
Now, months later, Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the probe and turned it over to a Chicago-based investigator.
And yet, for the three months that Ashcroft sat on the case, things had been allowed to go on as they always had with this administration. A castrated press dutifully files press releases as news stories, accepting denials of criminality by the White House staff. Clearly, something is rotten in Denmark, and no doubt Rove and Cheney are slithering around the back cubicles of the Executive Office Building like Shakespearean villains looking for fall guys.
It is time for Bush's own John Dean to level with him, to tell him in no uncertain terms that there's a cancer on his presidency and it is growing. More to the point, there's a criminal loose in the White House, a person (or persons) so dangerous that they would gladly jeopardize national security for short-term political gain.
If Congress had any spine whatsoever its members would already be discussing the possibility of open public hearings. And if the previous script were followed properly, and George W. Bush had prior knowledge and gave tacit approval to the leak about Plame, then impeachment hearings must, by Constitutional edict ("high crimes and misdemeanors"), commence.
In the meantime, as Bill Scher at notes, the Democrats should be hammering away: "It's the time for Dems to turn up the heat and say things like this: 'There is most likely a criminal working in the Administration who has compromised our national security.'"
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