The hits keep coming

By By David Servatius

By David Servatius

At the dedication of the CIA building bearing his name in Washington, D.C., George Bush Sr. said, “I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.”

What delicious irony. Someone should suggest that Poppy take a good long look at his own spawn, who has finally been exposed as one of those traitors.

A new book by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, an insider in the George W. Bush administration, makes it clear that in late 2002 and throughout 2003, the president took part in a treasonous conspiracy to leak the identity of a covert CIA agent as an act of political vengeance and then engaged in a criminal cover-up to conceal his role in the affair.

If you recall, as Bush was bulldozing the nation into war, former ambassador Joseph Wilson threw a wrench into the works when he returned from a CIA fact-finding mission and debunked one of the central claims being made about the threat of Saddam Hussein — that he had tried to purchase yellowcake uranium for a nuclear weapon. Wilson showed that it had never happened, and the Bush gang reportedly went ballistic.

Wilson also happened to be married to an active undercover CIA agent. In an act of retaliation, Bush administration officials began telling friendly reporters who supported the war about Wilson’s wife’s work with the CIA, the implication being that nepotism should discredit Wilson’s findings. Eventually his wife, Valerie Plame, was identified in the mainstream media, and her career was ruined.

It was a classic dirty trick from the Bush political machine. But this particular trick put a CIA agent’s life in jeopardy and destroyed a sensitive intelligence network. Some have suggested that the London subway bombing was one of its direct consequences.

When the betrayal became clear and an investigation got underway, there were immediate denials all around from the White House. On Sept. 30, 2003, George W. Bush stood in front of the nation and said, regarding the matter, “If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. I want to know the truth.”

Now, excerpts have been released from McClellan’s upcoming book. In them, McClellan makes the shocking claim that senior administration officials, including the president, caused him to lie in order to clear Karl Rove and Scooter Libby of any responsibility for the Plame leak.

“I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights…and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House,” he writes in the book. “There was one problem. It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so. Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president’s chief of staff and the president himself.”

Now, this is certainly a textbook example of an impeachable offense, at a minimum, and most likely an indictable offense. If the president’s instructions, as described by McClellan, were deliberate and knowing, then he was party to a conspiracy by senior administration officials to defraud the public. If that isn’t a high crime and misdemeanor, then I’m not sure what is. This makes Watergate look like small change.

But for some reason, the congressional majority and the mainstream media are ignoring this historic moment. The Washington Post, once famous for uncovering the Watergate scandal, put the McClellan story on page A-15, and The New York Times didn’t even see fit to mention it. In an added twist last week, Newsweek magazine named one of the main Plame conspirators, Karl Rove, as its new star columnist.

Senior White House officials betray the identity of a covert CIA officer, and the press responds by trying to prove that the betrayed officer and her husband are publicity-seekers. We are really through the looking glass.

I think this moment is a test of the nation’s character. Where is the contempt and anger? Does this really not matter to us? Do we really not care that our president has lied about something as serious as betraying a covert agent’s cover for political retribution? Is it only if the president hides the truth about oral sex that we really get outraged?

I have a hard time believing that we, as citizens, have become that ridiculous and disconnected from reality. And if we have, then that is certainly a terrible omen of what this country is headed for.

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