Thursday, July 28, 2005

PlameGate: The Movie

It's the biggest scandal since Iran-Contra, if not Watergate. So it's no surprise that Hollywood is showing a keen interest in the Valerie Plame Affair, with the hopes of turning it into another All the President's Men, or at least a TV mini series. Here's a guide to the scandal's major players, and who'll be playing them.

Joe Wilson: Formerly obscure US diplomat who revealed in a New York Times Op-Ed that the White House knew its claims about Iraq's nuclear weapons were bogus. Harrison Ford is rumored to be interested in the role. Otherwise it's Alan Alda in a walk.

Valerie Plame: Glamorous wife of Wilson, mother of five-year-old twins, and former CIA operative whose cover got blown by columnist Robert Novak in apparent retaliation for her husband's speaking out. Now seeking other employment. Top contenders for the title role are Demi Moore and Julia Roberts.

Robert "No facts" Novak: The guy who started it all by 'outing' Valerie Plame, thanks to information provided by "two senior administration officials" who may have violated federal law. The longtime Neocon newsboy will be played by hardnosed TV newsman Ed Asner (Lou Grant).

Karl "Turdblossom" Rove: Chubby and ruthless, with only a high school education but a PhD in political payback, Karl has already been fingered by Time reporter Matt Cooper as his primary source for the Plame leak. Watch for Robert DeNiro in a dramatic comeback role as the Machiavellian master.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby: Chief of Staff for Dick Cheney and one of the sources cited by Cooper and Novak as confirming Plame's identity. The evil yet banal Libby will be played by Owen Wilson, if only because every film needs somebody played by Owen Wilson.

Matt Cooper: Reporter who named Rove and Libby as two of his sources for a Time magazine story about the Bushies' efforts to discredit Wilson. Pudgy, with a tendency to use phrases like "double super secret background." The balding, funny Cooper will be played by the balding, funny Larry Miller.

Patrick Fitzgerald: Tough, methodical, and secretive, special prosecutor Fitzgerald is proving to not be the pushover the Bushies probably expected. Look for Sam Waterson to reprise his Emmy-winning role from Law and Order.

Judith Miller: A reporter who swallowed bogus WMD stories and then regurgitated them on the front page of the NY Times, Miller is now doing time for refusing to reveal her sources to the Grand Jury. The hot rumor is that Miller fed the Plame information directly to Novak, who confirmed it with Libby/Rove (or vice versa). Famed lesbian-turned-soccer-mom Anne Heche is the front runner to play Judy.

John Bolton: The embattled nominee for UN envoy played a key role in fanning the flames around WMDs; he's rumored to be one of Judith Millers sources for the false weapons stories, and may have told her about Plame's identity. He'll be played by Ned Flanders from "The Simpsons."

Condoleezza Rice: The "don't let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud" gal may well be at the heart of this scandal, as has reported in excruciating detail. For the film version, Janet Jackson beats out Jada Pinkett Smith and Halle Berry for the role and then stuns critics with a rousing screen debut (as well as some hilarious 'WMD malfunction' outtakes).

Scott McClelland: The White House press secretary who's holding his tongue so hard he's about to swallow it. Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow) gets the nod here.

George W. Bush: Has to be Will Ferrell. In fact, GWB may be Will Ferrell. Has anyone ever seen them both in the same room at the same time?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bush’s Secret Short List for the Supreme Court

While the burgeoning PlameGate scandal threatens to consume the Bush inner circle, other members of the administration have been quietly whittling down the list of potential nominees to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. An anonymous source, speaking on quadruple super secret cross your heart and hope to die background, has revealed the names of the White House’s top picks. Here they are, in order of preference:

Karl Rove. Can’t you just see corpulent Karl in a black robe? Remember, he is the smartest guy in the Bush White House, though that’s not unlike being the tallest man in pygmytown. His first order of business: pardoning himself in the Valerie Plame scandal.

Robert Novak. The prince of darkness will do anything the Neocons ask, making him an excellent choice for a pro-Bush bench. And he’s clearly got no qualms about sending innocent people to jail – which could prove helpful as those unlawful detainee cases come up.

Terri Schiavo. Though technically dead, Schiavo could be the perfect pick. She’s hugely popular with conservative Christians, and anyone who’s been in a coma for 13 years could hardly be termed ‘activist.’ Exhumed, cleaned up, and plugged back into life support, she could easily compose a more cogent legal argument than Antonin Scalia.

Michael Jackson. If you liked celebrity defendants, you’ll love celebrity judges. Michael knows the ins and outs of the court system by heart, and his molestation trial was a huge draw—imagine what a hit he’ll be on SCOTUS. He also represents a potentially historic choice: the first space alien named to the court.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Let a Thousand Turds Blossom

So. For the past 24 hours I have been obsessed with Karl Rove and “PlameGate.” (Please lord, let us finally have a scandal without somebody appending ‘gate’ to the end of it.) But it seems most bloggers and many mainstream reporters are missing some major points, which I shall now happily bloviate upon.

* Rove is probably not the primary source for the Plame leak. Remember that Robert “NoFacts” Novak cited “two senior administration officials.” (That’s code for “people whose names you would recognize.” Anonymous sources don’t get any higher.) The offhand way Matt Cooper brought up the topic – at the end of a two-minute conversation about something else – suggests he merely used Rove to confirm a story he got elsewhere. No journalist who could land a job at Time would base a major story on a sentence or two. But he would do it to confirm an anonymous source, if the confirmation came from a grand poobah. That’s Rove.

* Rove probably did not violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. At least, judging from the Cooper email. Who knows what he told other people. The Act is extremely narrow; Rove could rely on an “I didn’t know she was covert” defense and win. Then the prosecutor would have to prove he did in fact know. Very difficult to do, but it would be fun to watch. Imagine the breadth of the subpeonas, what we might learn about the inner workings of the Bush Collective.

* But he may have committed another crime. Like perjury or obstruction of justice. Remember that Rove, ‘Scooter’ Libby, Elliott Abrams, et al. testified before the grand jury, while at the same time issuing public denials of their involvement. Either they lied to the public (we’re used to that) or to the grand jury, or both. If it was the grand jury, well, that’s a felony, mister. Remember a little soap opera called MonicaGate? The legal justification for that witchhunt centered on perjury.

* The Republicans spin is extensive, but pathetic. The RNC produced three pages worth of talking points, but most deal with Joe Wilson’s assignment and his report—essentially the same disinformation that constituted the leak two years ago. Those that deal with the actual leak are weak. For example: Cooper called Rove, which means he wasn’t deliberately trying to ‘out’ Valerie Plame. OK, fine. But who called Cooper in the first place? Or Novak? Or any of the six journalists who were contacted? There’s another rat running around the shithouse, we just don’t know who it is yet.

* The real story is the cover-up. MoveOn got it right. Look at the six journalists who were contacted by the White House after Joe Wilson’s OpEd appeared. Novak (CNN, syndicated columnist), Tim Russert (NBC), Matt Cooper (Time), Judith Miller (NY Times), Walter Pincus (Washington Post) have all been subpoened. All big hitters, designed for maximum leak exposure. This was an organized campaign conducted at a high level, not some pissed-off junior staffer with a bug up his ass. That means the campaign was known about at the highest levels. And if they knew about it and said nothing (or worse, denied it publicly), then that’s what you’d call a cover-up.

* In search of the smoking gun. So if there was a deliberate cover-up, how would we know? Here’s a good candidate for the proverbial pistol, courtesy of journalist Murray Waas’ “Whatever Already” blog:

“Also of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame's identity. Investigators have been concerned that Novak and his sources might have conceived or co-ordinated a cover story to disguise the nature of their conversations. That concern was a reason-- although only one of many-- that led prosecutors to press for the testimony of Cooper and Miller, sources said.”

* By any other name. Perhaps the most disturbing thing to come out of this whole affair is that Bush’s nickname for Rove really is “turd blossom.” What in God’s name do those people get up to behind closed doors?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Press Secretary Slowly Roasted Over a Low Plame

White House press secretary ScottDon’t ask, Don’t tellMcClellan held a press conference yesterday in which he was pummeled with questions about Karl Rove’s connection to the Valerie Plame scandal. Here’s a brief but illuminating excerpt from that press conference (for a more complete transcript, see Editor and Publisher’s story):

Q: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in a leak of the name of a CIA operative?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked related to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The ongoing criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point, which is to say, it ongoes.

While that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it, nor is it going to comment on comments it had previously commented upon, while the investigation was also ongoing, which it still is.

The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision to not comment on any questions from anyone related to the topic while the investigation is ongoing. But I’m afraid I can’t comment about that.

Q. But did Karl Rove reveal Valerie Plame’s identity to Time reporter Matthew Cooper, as his emails seem to indicate?

MCCLELLAN: As I’ve just stated, we have been asked to not comment about an ongoing investigation. We have also been asked to not comment on when we were asked to not comment, nor can we comment on who asked us not to comment... on our inability to comment.

I can do this all day, it’s really quite fun. No comment no comment no comment. See?

Q: So it seems the Bush Administration has no problems revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent working on issues involving weapons of mass destruction, yet it refuses to reveal the identity of White House personnel who may have committed a federal crime. Do I have that right?

MCCLELLAN: Listen, two wrongs don’t make a right. You can’t stand there and tell me that it’s OK to reveal one thing but not OK to reveal another.

No one wants to get to the bottom of this investigation more than the President of the United States. In fact, he’d like the whole thing to be over. It’s really interfering with his personal down time. Did you know Teletubbies is on three times a day now? Makes it really hard to schedule summit meetings.

Q. Can you explain why Karl Rove’s own attorney has commented on the case, as did President Bush in June 2004, but you cannot?

MCCLELLAN: You can keep asking your questions. I’m just going to stand here and hold my breath till I turn blue and pass out and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

Q. In September 2003, you stood at that podium and stated that Karl Rove, Libby Scooter, and Elliott Abrams had never discussed Valerie Plume’s identity with any reporters. Now an email revealed by Newsweek indicates Rove had a conversation on the topic with Time reporter Matthew Cooper. Wouldn’t that technically make you a liar?

MCCLELLAN: I know you are, but what am I?

Q. In 1995 the Justice Department appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Whitewater real estate deals, which ultimately lead to President Clinton being impeached for lying about sex with an intern. The Bush White House unmasked the identity of a CIA operative after her husband revealed the President lied about WMDs to justify a war. If the Bush Administration is covering up the identity of someone who committed a federal crime, shouldn’t that also warrant impeachment proceedings?

A. That was about blowjobs. This is about snowjobs. They’re entirely different issues. But we can’t comment on that.

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