September 28, 2003

Impeachment Time

Daniel Drezner writes about the Plame affair:

danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner: Let me make this as plain as possible -- I was an unpaid advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, and I know and respect some high-ranking people in the administration. And none of that changes the following: if George W. Bush knew about or condoned this kind of White House activity, I wouldn't just vote against him in 2004 -- I'd want to see him impeached. Straight away.

The highly intelligent and usually very thoughtful Daniel Drezner has not thought this through. Whether or not he knew about it beforehand, for two and a half months--ever since two senior White House officials called six reporters and got Robert Novak to take the bait in his July 14 column--George W. Bush has "condoned this type of White House activity." No heads have rolled. No sanctions have been applied. The White House's posture has one of hunkering down: that this is no big deal, that this will pass, that nothing internal has to change, and that this is a tempest in a teapot.

Whether or not George W. Bush knew beforehand, his reactions since July 14 put him well over the line of "condoning." We don't need to write, "If George Bush knew about or condoned..." We need instead to write, "Since George Bush condoned..."

Posted by DeLong at September 28, 2003 02:10 PM | TrackBack

Comments

But that would assume he knew of the column. What if that wasn't part of the news summary from Condi that day? I mean he already admitted he doesn't actually read the news (or watch the news...). (We'll ignore the problems of depending on Condi to provide one's news. A case of the incompetent leading the ignorant?)

Posted by: Rob on September 28, 2003 02:24 PM

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I pretty sure a tax cut would fix this . . .


Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 28, 2003 02:56 PM

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Damn straight, Brad! Very well said. I will link to this.

Posted by: Politus on September 28, 2003 04:06 PM

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NOBODY has thought this through.

Suppose somebody --for the sake of argument, somebody pretty high up--takes the fall for this.

1) Whoever that is will be pardoned. cf. Nixon, Poindexter, Weinberger, etc.

2) The Administration will not be chastened or pull in its horns.

3) Mr. Bush's people (never forget that there are 140 million of them, never forget that THEY are the problem) will commence fifty years' mechanical parroting of "partisan frame-up, just like Watergate".

4) Nothing will get any better.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on September 28, 2003 04:31 PM

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Brad,

When Novak broke the story, he cited "two senior administration officials". That phrase could have meant White House staff, but it could have also meant others in the executive branch (check Tom Maguire's chronology for more details, including Scott McClellan's July 22nd denial of White House involvement). What's new about the recent spate of stories is the allegation that the two senior officials worked for the White House.

Bush, as head of the executive branch, is theoretically responsible for the actions of all his senior officials. But if the origins of the leak came from the White House, then chain-of-command issues become much more relevant.

Posted by: Dan Drezner on September 28, 2003 05:45 PM

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I find myself in the awkward position of defending Incurious George.

We know from the Fox News interview that Bush does not read the papers. He likely never saw the Novak piece.

Instead of reading, he relies on his aides to report the news to him. Those aides, it seems likely, are the very persons at risk if the President heard the news that Valerie Plame had been burned by administration officials.

What are the chances that the leakers decided that the Novak story was one of the news items Incurious George needed to hear?

Posted by: dwight meredith on September 28, 2003 06:22 PM

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I find myself in the awkward position of defending Incurious George.

We know from the Fox News interview that Bush does not read the papers. He likely never saw the Novak piece.

Instead of reading, he relies on his aides to report the news to him. Those aides, it seems likely, are the very persons at risk if the President heard the news that Valerie Plame had been burned by administration officials.

What are the chances that the leakers decided that the Novak story was one of the news items Incurious George needed to hear?

Posted by: dwight meredith on September 28, 2003 06:26 PM

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I find myself in the awkward position of defending Incurious George.

We know from the Fox News interview that Bush does not read the papers. He likely never saw the Novak piece.

Instead of reading, he relies on his aides to report the news to him. Those aides, it seems likely, are the very persons at risk if the President heard the news that Valerie Plame had been burned by administration officials.

What are the chances that the leakers decided that the Novak story was one of the news items Incurious George needed to hear?

Posted by: dwight meredith on September 28, 2003 06:26 PM

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The part of this story that I have never understood is why "outing" Valerie Plame was supposed to discredit Wilson. I mean, I kind of get that saying "the guy was only sent to Niger because of his wife" makes Wilson's mission look less serious than it might otherwise, but surely that reflects much worse on the Administration which sent him to Niger.

More to the point, doesn't knowing that Wilson's wife was a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction" make his findings about Niger seem more credible, not less? To me, the smear seemed not just illegal but also completely ineffective.

Posted by: James Surowiecki on September 28, 2003 06:34 PM

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You go Brad!!

oh, and James Surowieki, I often disagree with your new yorker pieces but I couldn't agree more with your point here. However, there has been a sort of discussion of just this point on the bloggs and someone (can't remember who or where) pointed out that many of the Bush/Rove smears essentially seem pointless until you look at them a certain way. Surely it was pointless to accuse a reporter of being both "gay and canadian" as a way of discrediting his reporting on Iraq? Surely it was improbable to discredit Max Cleland as "soft on defense" and a traitor? Nevertheless, they have done it, and done it zestily. In this case, as someone else has pointed out, the implication seemed to be that Wilson didn't wear the pants in his family, or that the mission wasn't "real" because he was "sent" by his wife. This is all just code-talk. The funny thing to me is that novak ever bothered with it and that no one made ruthless fun of its base logic (and I mean that in both senses of the word base) at the time of the first story.--Kate Gilbert

Posted by: Kate Gilbert on September 28, 2003 06:50 PM

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I find myself in the awkward position of defending Incurious George. Perhaps he was simply unaware of the Novak column and the controversy surrounding the question of who burned Valerie Plame.

We learned in the Fox News interview that Incurious George does not read the papers or watch the news. He relies, instead, on his top aides to tell him what the news is.

If, as seems likely, those top aides are also the leakers, what is the chance that they decided that the news item the President needed to know about was the one that implicated them in multiple felonies?

Posted by: dwight meredith on September 28, 2003 07:04 PM

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As Wilson himself has pointed out, the purpose of "outing" Valerie Plame is to intimidate anyone else who might otherwise come forward.

Posted by: bad Jim on September 28, 2003 07:04 PM

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I find myself in the awkward position of defending President Bush. Perhaps he was simply unaware of the Novak column and the controversy surrounding the question of who burned Valerie Plame.

We learned in the Fox News interview that Incurious George does not read the papers or watch the news. He relies, instead, on his top aides to tell him what the news is.

If, as seems likely, those top aides are also the leakers, what is the chance that they decided that the news item the President needed to know about was the one that implicated them in multiple felonies?

Posted by: dwight meredith on September 28, 2003 07:10 PM

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Dwight: the mysteries of SDJ are like this: write and copy your comment, click "post", wait a few seconds, then then close the comment popup box. Almost always the post will be successful, but a third to half the time I take another look at the comment thread to make sure it really took. (If not, I can paste what I copied and repost).

This is a little initiation ritual Brad has devised for us. We've all been there.

Nice to see you here, BTW.

Posted by: Zizka on September 28, 2003 07:56 PM

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dwight meredith writes:
>
> I find myself in the awkward position of defending
> President Bush. Perhaps he was simply unaware of the
> Novak column and the controversy surrounding the
> question of who burned Valerie Plame.

1) Get out of that akward position. You might freeze that way. :-)

2) While Bush could easily be completely oblivious to Novak and his column, I suspect he would not be oblivious to the fact that his CIA chief (Talent) was phoning him constantly after the column came out. I mean, he must have been apoplectic at having somebody in the White House expose one of his agents who was working covertly on the WMD issue in order to take a random (and in the end, useless) pot shot at a person who was merely (and at worst) a political enemy of the administration. So, sure, I don't disbelieve that Bush doesn't read papers, but the people in the CIA are really, *really* sensitive about having their agents named in public. At that point, Bush can decide to roll the heads of the clowns responsible, or he can decide to do nothing and hope the whole thing blows over after he gets back from Crawford. He went with "do nothing" and that now doesn't look like a very good plan.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 28, 2003 08:05 PM

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Sorry Dwight: Bush doesn't get off that easy.

I have no idea what Bush knew before Novak wrote his piece outing Plame, but ever since then Bush has known that he was harboring two traitors who undermined our national security by outing a covert CIA operative working on WMD in time of war.

The Washington Post reports that, "aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer." The ignorance defense MAY be applicable to the pre-Novak days, but Bush no longer has that excuse since it is public knowledge.

Posted by: The Fool on September 29, 2003 02:55 AM

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Unless the White House works in very different manner from cabinet agencies, the daily press take is a big deal. If and only if the people in the room when that day"s press take was related to the president were red-handed guilty would they have left out the Novak piece and its aftermath. It's a firing squad offense to miss something like that if it's your job, and makes you look guilty, to boot.

By the way, it"s in today"s Washington Post, too:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14909-2003Sep28.html

Posted by: K Harris on September 29, 2003 04:32 AM

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James (and, boy, do I miss you from when you were Slate's "Moneybox"), I think that contrary to some of these theories, it's provocative that, supposedly, the people leaking this repeatedly told journalists, "the *real* story is about Wilson and his wife". Now, I wonder why they would think there was a juicy story there. Actually, it worries me a little bit. In other news on this, Marshall ruminates on how the Post has today become less specific on how it is describing these officials -- no longer "senior", etc. That's interesting.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 29, 2003 05:18 AM

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Bush has admitted that he generally doesn't read the news each morning, but instead relies on his advisors to brief him. If one of his advisors was behind the leak, it is entirely possible that he/she played it down to Bush or didn't even inform him at all.

Posted by: mike on September 29, 2003 06:39 AM

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"misprision of felony", plain and simple.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan on September 29, 2003 07:01 AM

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The debate over whether Bush knew or not is easily solved:

He didn't know: Impeachment

He knew: Death by lethal injection.

Posted by: John Thullen on September 29, 2003 08:08 AM

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We are back to the impeachment thing. I have in other discussions here at Brad's place argued that impeachment is a bad idea, because efforts to impeach would further erode the political culture of the US. I left out a central argument against impeachment because I thought it went without mentioning, but I will mention it now. The prosecutor is freindly and the jury is stacked. Only under extraordinary political circumstances would there be any risk of Bush actually being impeached. The Plame affair has the promise of creating such extraordinary circumtances, but is far from fulfilling that promise now. Certainly, the Plame affair should be fanned judiciously and given a chance blaze with illuminating flame. Until then, raising the impeachment idea in a highly vocal way just makes the Democrats seem just like the Republicans who took on Clinton mostly because they didn't like the choice the electorate had made.

Is there reason to impeach Bush? Probably. Was there reason to impeach Reagan? Certainly, there was reason to investigate beyond him declare "I can't recall" to every important question about what he knew and when he knew it. But it didn't happen, and it didn't happen because impeachment is a political act. When Clinton was President, Congress was held by his opponents. Now, Republicans control all branches of government. Raising the impeachment issue when there is, for now, no hope of success, is divisive and looks partisan.

The alternative is politics as politics. Let's have an election. Bush claimed he would bring accountability, but has instead lied about the budget, economics, and national security and has run the most secretive administration in god knows when. He cheered for recession when it wasn't here yet, now claims a recession had "started" before he took office, when it was no more than on its way. He has abandoned free trade principles for political gain. He argued for war on grounds that don't stand up to scrutiny and sent his minions out to lie about the actual facts of Iraq's behavior. Now, he has undercut the ability of the US to control illicit weapons by allowing an intelligence operative specializing in such weapons to be unmasked, simultaneously risking the lives of her contacts and any operations in which she or her contacts were involved, meanwhile making it clear to potential spies that the US government may betray them. If Democrats can't win an election based on these circumstances, how on earth could they hope to impeach?

The answer is not jousting at an impeachment windmill, but to get busy electing Democrats. It's a bit late to be hunting up good ones, since candidates are pretty well locked in now, but that is a worth project for the future. For now, impeachment could not take place prior to the 2004 election, and won't be necessary if that election falls in the right direction.

Posted by: K Harris on September 29, 2003 09:51 AM

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I disagree with K Harris (whooh, that K Harris?).

Going for impeachment with Ashcroft at the controls at DoJ would surely bring home to a significant number of people quite how rotten the state of Denmark is at present.

The key is that this is an issue directly related to the "the war on terror". People fear the prospect of further terror against the US and understand that it is vital to have agents in the field who can provide good intelligence. This is gut stuff, so if the WH is seen to have acted in a way to harm an agent, I reckon ideology would be dumped in favour of survival.

Many people may not get Wilson's problem with the Niger claim, which gets farcically reduced an issue about "16 words", but I think'll they'll get this one.

Posted by: C Lake on September 29, 2003 02:20 PM

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James S wonders : -

> The part of this story that I have never understood is why "outing" Valerie Plame was supposed to discredit Wilson.

I don't think it was meant to discredit Wilson, I think it was aimed at getting his wife killed.
Thus discouraging others. Soomewhat.

Posted by: dave heasman on September 30, 2003 06:25 AM

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James S wonders : -

> The part of this story that I have never understood is why "outing" Valerie Plame was supposed to discredit Wilson.

I don't think it was meant to discredit Wilson, I think it was aimed at getting his wife killed.
Thus discouraging others. Soomewhat.

Posted by: dave heasman on September 30, 2003 07:05 AM

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James S wonders : -

> The part of this story that I have never understood is why "outing" Valerie Plame was supposed to discredit Wilson.

I don't think it was meant to discredit Wilson, I think it was aimed at getting his wife killed.
Thus discouraging others. Soomewhat.

Posted by: dave heasman on September 30, 2003 07:08 AM

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Unusual ideas can make enemies.

Posted by: Lee Brian on December 9, 2003 04:55 PM

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Only when we have nothing to say do we say anything at all.

Posted by: Deitz Ember on December 10, 2003 09:30 AM

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Art is vision, not expression.

Posted by: Foong Chwee Sze on December 10, 2003 09:30 AM

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The Tao's principle is spontaneity.

Posted by: Salisbury Judd on December 20, 2003 01:15 PM

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Truth is a kind and gentle lie.

Posted by: Rahman Sabrina on January 8, 2004 11:21 PM

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