BushCo Posted by JP Stormcrow, 13 Jul 2007 09:24 am
It has been a little more than a week since the Scooter Libby commutation (Act I of a two-part act. Act II, The Pardon, coming in January 2009 - trust me on this one.) The ardor that the case generated in the breasts of liberals, neo-cons and other right-wing nutters, and the Beltway establishment appears to be dying down somewhat, but it is not quenched. Although it was nice to have Judge Reggie Walton weigh in with some further disapproval while ruling on a technical aspect of how to interpret the terms of the commutation.
…. the Court notes that the term of incarceration imposed in this case was determined after a careful consideration of each of the requite statutory factors, and was consistent with the bottom end of the applicable sentencing range as properly calculated under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. [emphasis added]
(And for those of you who are playing along at home, Walton is a “reliably conservative” judge who was appointed to his current position by George W. Bush.) But it is worth taking a brief look at what fired up this mini-GNF in the breasts of so many. And of course the wise adage: “You can’t say that it is the best [or worst - JP] time you ever had until it is all over” applies. (Which adage was recalled by me while watching The Prestige last night - a good flick, watch it if you get a chance.)
The saga for me personally (and much of the liberal blogosphere - search through Firedoglake or The Next Hurrah if you need to catch up on details) , has been all about trying to tug on one of the few exposed threads from this criminal and shameless administration. And the commutation in particular - and which face it, you knew something like it was coming - just served to highlight the lengths to which Bushco will go to avoid accountability. The timing dovetails nicely with the US Attorney scandal and the recent shameful session of the US Supreme Court, and illustrates why a Justice Department and judiciary composed of “honest brokers” is necessary for a functioning democracy. To me the commutation was the equivalent of the Saturday Night Massacre during Watergate, a “legal” exercise of power which served to reinforce the underlying iniquity of the Administration. The best post-commutation analysis that I read was by John Rogers on his blog Kung Fu Monkey , in which he likens the behavior of the Bush adminstration to a video game exploit ( “The exploit is shame.”) and describes how “helpless” mere technical rules are against shameless insiders. I could go on, but in short: Liberal Bloggers Outraged, Stop the Presses!
For the neo-cons and other assorted wingnuts this came down to …. well basically that they are unprincipled, criminally-minded, self-deluded, pompous shills for the rich and powerful who exploit the freedoms of this country - so what would you expect? Why did Sean Hannity “support” Scooter, Cheney and the Prez in this? Because he woke up that day. Although if you want to plumb the depths you cannot do better than this fatuous editorial in the Wall Street Journal (shock!) by Fouad Ajami in which he applies ”The Soldier’s Creed” to Libby.
It is the over-the-top reaction of the generalized Beltway elite that is most intriguing here (the WaPo basically turning its editorial pages into a vehicle for attempted jury nullification, heartfelt letters from folks like Matalin/Carville and on and on). They were so engaged in “defense” from the very start that you might have thought they were accessories to the crime…. oh wait, several of them were. But it went far beyond those few individuals. Several interrelated elements are surely in play including the general establishment/rightward tilt of the mainstream political press that is so decried by bloggers, and the identification of Libby with the dominant Beltway elite culture. Inclusion in the latter famously eluded Bill Clinton per Sally Quinn’s famous 1998 piece in the Washington Post which includes David Broder’s famous “he trashed the place” quote. (And which is only the second most fatuous quote from Broder in the article, in the other he claimed that the standards were harsher in Washington “we don’t like being lied to”. But I digress … kinda) The Quinn article, like the Plame/Libby affair, will be pored over by future historians and anthropologists - they really are Rosetta stones for the Washington establishment. However, the specific element of Plame/Libby that I think is most interesting to examine, and which to me explains so much of the ”outrage”, pertains to the role that information, and the transfer of information specifically, played in the whole tawdry narrative.
Information is power. This maxim is especially true (and lucrative) in an imperial capital like Washington DC. Who knows what, or is suspected to know what, who they have told, who they can tell, who they don’t have to tell - all of these are coins of the realm . Information leads to influence and influence can be spun into gold in a worldwide seat-of-power like Washington (for purposes of this article, parts of New York City are considered as being ”inside the Beltway”). So Washington insiders are used to trading in information - a lot of it surely being information they are not supposed to have, much less give out or receive, but which they do daily and hourly. It all might not be as “radioactive” as the Plame/Wilson stuff - but I bet a lot of it is - and some of it more so. Knowing where the bodies are buried, and carefully and selectively passing that information on to others is one of the key aspects of the “Washington Game”. So in some sense I think the Libby thing resonated as a very serious threat to their whole framework of doing business - criminalization of their way of life. (An interesting aspect of this has been the treatment of the consummate insider sleazeball
Jack Bob Novak is instructive. In some sense he overplayed his hand in the game - even for him, and he was mildly ”punished” for his role. But the very fact that he wasn’t run out of town years ago for his corrupt and slimy work is another indication of the nature of the whole arrogant enterprise.)
So what? Yada-yada-yada, power corrupts etc. etc. Nothing new here, move along. however, there are several “ponies of opportunity” in this particular dung-filled room.
To me the whole thing is best viewed as a symptom (as if we needed more symptoms to diagnose the disease), but it is a particularly telling one, and one which resonates with some Republican moderates ( like Fitzgerald and Walton), those who have not committed totally to the criminal enterprise which is the modern Republican party at the national level or those, like much of the press, whose very susbstantial paycheck is tied to flattering and pandering to their agenda. There are even a few “unlikely” suspects who “got it”, EJ Dionne comes to mind. So we should drive this wedge as hard as we can, … and remember Act II is coming in early 2009 and is liable to open a few more eyes. That is too late to help with Bushco, but it will provide ammo for the larger and longer-term game. And a larger and longer-term game it is, the impulse to empire does not begin and end with the current hooligan administration. The ”bloated information-mongering lackeys” who comprise the Beltway Kool Kidz are dependent on it as well, and they ain’t going anywhere soon. This, however, is one of the things that the Blog world and “citizen journalism” can help with; to the extent that decisions are based on “conditons on the ground”, be that in Iraq, New Orleans, the Greenland Icecap, Oakland, or Hooterville as opposed to “perceptions held by self-interested parties in DC”, the power of the courtiers is reduced. Bloggers, especially “local” bloggers, have an obvious part to play in setting up an environment where conditions on the ground at least have a fighting chance. Because, you know, “The judgment is harsher outside of Washington, we actually prefer Democracy”.
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