Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Why the Plame scandal might be bad

Here’s something for thought.  I remember back to a conversation I had with a Democrat friend of mine where he made the concerned comment that the Bush administration appointed too many insiders.  He talked about how he thought the Bush administration didn’t like opposing opinions and wanted ‘Yes’ men instead, and that was bad because they wouldn’t know when they did something wrong (or so the meme goes).

Well, consider this.  What is the net effect of the Wilson/Plame scandal that’s been ripping around for the last 4 years going to have on this and future administrations, and is it going to improve or discourage a President’s desire to flush out bureaucrats with people that are in line with his or her thinking.

Note that while the scandal started with Wilson’s attempt to discredit the administration by using the press in such a way that it would appear that Bush lied about certain facts, when in fact Wilson’s fact finding mission actually supported Bush’s comments, it quickly got out of control in other areas.  There was never much substance in the original issue, so the issue became the outing of Valerie Plame, his wife.

Now, the facts get lost here, because the only thing you might remember from all the press screaming was that Plame was a CIA covert agent and someone in the Bush administration leaked that she was a covert agent to the press, compromising her position and breaking a serious federal law.  This was propped up to be a crime by the administration and therefore liberals and Democrats held on to it for dear life, possibly in retaliation for the Clinton scandals that Republicans drove home like a jackhammer years earlier.  

Now it appears that the original leaker is a man in the State Dept who is known for his vehement opposition to Bush’s was policies: Richard Armitage. 

      After you have noted that the Niger uranium connection was in fact based on intelligence that has turned out to be sound, you may also note that this heated moral tone ("thuggish," "gang") is now quite absent from the story. It turns out that the person who put Valerie Plame's identity into circulation was a staunch foe of regime change in Iraq.

Never mind that Plame was probably not covered under the covert protection laws anymore anyway, as her covert status had ended 5 years earlier.  She was currently just a desk jockey at the time.  So if all this is NOT a determined campaign by the administration to get back at Wilson and other rivals, what was really going on here?

      What does emerge from Hubris is further confirmation of what we knew all along: the extraordinary venom of the interdepartmental rivalry that has characterized this administration. In particular, the bureaucracy at the State Department and the CIA appear to have used the indiscretion of Armitage to revenge themselves on the "neoconservatives" who had been advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein. Armitage identified himself to Colin Powell as Novak's source before the Fitzgerald inquiry had even been set on foot. The whole thing could—and should—have ended right there.

In fact, holdover CIA director George Tenet (who Bush didn’t replace when taking office in 2000) was happy to redirect attention away from CIA incompetence to an administration scandal. 

I guess my point here is that future Presidents are going to see this as a big red warning sign instructing them to fully clean house in all areas of the Executive branch.  State Department, CIA, everywhere.  Bush is looking pretty bad right now for NOT replacing the head of the CIA earlier, or cleaning house at the State Department. 

Is that going to create more ‘Yes’ men or less do you think?

If you want a more thorough analysis of the Armitage revelation, check JustOneMinute’s, as Tom Maguire has been following this story since the beginning.

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