The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, November 01, 2003

Plame leak, WMD intel, wounded vets: why are the Dems shuffling?

When it comes to US partisan politics, as the saying goes, I have no dog in this fight. (If anyone can detect a consistent bias here towards Dems or GOP, he's a better man that I am, Gunga Din...)

However, in the interests of derailing the PNAC/NSS World Domination Express, and dissuading others from putting it back on the tracks, the Administration that brought us pre-emptive war against Iraq should suffer for it. Since that Administration is Republican, the natural source of much of the necessary pain would, one might assume by way of initial working hypothesis, be members of the Democratic Party.

Now, the many Congressional Dems who supported the war before and during the event would prefer to avoid a direct attack on the decision to go to war: they would be looking for something collateral.

The story of the ill-treated wounded vets (October 29) would surely fit the bill to a T: the fact a Senator supported the war wouldn't hurt his standing to condemn USG for its failure to care for the men who fought it.

Yet Dem legislators were largely silent on the issue.

David Corn has a piece (October 28) examining the Dems' response to the Valerie Plame/Joseph Wilson leak and the substantive question of pre-war WMD intelligence.

On Plame, he acknowledges that the story has gone quiet, and - letting the journos quite gratuitously off the hook! - blames the Dems for not stoking the fires:
Several Washington reporters to whom I have spoken recently have asked, what can the Democrats do to keep the Wilson leak story alive? This sort of question--common in the capital--is a reflection of the structural bias of the press corps. It is easy for reporters to cover an issue if the Ds and the Rs are tussling over it. But if there is no conflict or no holy-shit new developments, reporters move on. So the responsibility for keeping a story oxygenated often falls to the political opposition, not the media.

I've mentioned before - but can't trace it! - the fatal dependence of the news media on events [1]: it's lamentable but true. And as well-known to Dem operators as to little me.

Corn mentions the October 24 meeting Democratic senators held to hear from three CIA men [2] about the Plame leak; they were hopping mad - which was no doubt great on C-SPAN, but, Corn says, the Dems did not hammer the bull point:
...that they had organized this event because Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the intelligence committee, had refused to hold a real hearing along these lines.
...the Democrats committed a strategic blunder by failing to use the opportunity to present a wider definition of the leak scandal and by not insisting that a congressional inquiry supplement the ongoing criminal investigation.

There is the original leak; and the way that, it seems, the White House exploited the story once Robert Novak went into print. The leak might give rise to a prosecution; the ex post facto fanning of the flames would almost certainly not. But both elements demand an investigation, and a Congressional committee would be the appropriate forum.

Corn points out that
In the Senate intelligence committee, Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat, does have the ability to initiate an inquiry if he can gather five signatures on a request. There are eight Democrats on the committee.

If Old Man Rockefeller had been as lackadaisical as his namesake, he'd have stayed a bookkeeper. Asked by Corn whether the SIC should look at the post-leak activities, Rockefeller is quoted as saying
How long do you want to do these things? We'd be here for three years.

Life gets tedious, don't it?

John D Rockefeller IV - to give him his full moniker - has, it seems, cut up rough about the fact that SIC Chairman Pat Roberts was
rushing out a report that would protect the Bush administration by blaming the CIA for bad intelligence on Iraq's yet-to-be-found weapons of mass destruction.
And that
...Roberts had blocked an inquiry into how Bush and his aides had used the prewar intelligence.

Corn notes a WaPo piece saying that he was under pressure from Dems to act, and comments
He has to be pressed to do this?

Unfortunately, Corn more or less leaves the matter there.

But, is it credible that the Rockefeller is merely being lazy about the leak and intel issues? Or that he's incompetent? And he's not the only Dem in a position to cause a stink - why the general lack of urgency and commitment from the Hill Democratic party as a whole?

I suspect that the Dem foot-dragging is deliberate and calculated: they don't want to take Bush on on either the Plame leak or the WMD intel.

And why might that be?

Not, I'm afraid, a rhetorical question! I've racked my brain, such as it is, but answer comes there none. (None that rise to the level of plausibility, at least.) I assume there must be a larger Dem strategy to use the war at a critical juncture in the '04 presidential campaign, which a big fuss now would spoil. (What? How? No idea.)

In this case, cock-up makes less sense that conspiracy: the odds just seem too long that so many Dems should, to use a soccer analogy, not only be missing an open goal, but not even be shooting for goal.

Meanwhile Josh Marshall (October 29) takes apart with 5Ws work Pat Roberts' complaint about the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

He doesn't ask why the Dems haven't been doing likewise with much vigour. No doubt, because he knows why! Any chance of letting the rest of us in, I wonder?

(Marshall has a useful recap (October 31) on the Niger uranium forgeries business.)

  1. So that, for instance, a country like France or Germany only gets daily coverage on the British TV nightly news in the week or two preceding a general election. And historical background needs anniversaries to get airtime. Social and economic issues need the publication of government or NGO reports. The vast number of diary stories - I'm not sure of the American equivalent of the term - like Prime Minister's Questions. And stories just based on press releases. Etc, etc.

  2. Including friend of the blog Vincent Cannistraro.

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