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Daily Howler: McCain and Brooks can't imagine a crime. Not being fools, we can help them
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IMAGINE ALL THE SHILLING! McCain and Brooks can’t imagine a crime. Not being fools, we can help them: // link // print // previous // next //

PARSING RUSSERT: In today’s Post, Carol Leonigg quotes Tim Russert describing his grand jury testimony. Her premise: There may be a conflict between the grand jury statements of Russert and “Scooter” Libby:
LEONIGG (7/23/05): Fitzgerald has spent considerable time since the summer of 2004 looking at possible conflicts between what White House senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential staff chief I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury and investigators, and the accounts of reporters who talked with the two men, according to various sources in the case.

Libby has testified that he learned about Plame from NBC correspondent Tim Russert, according to a source who spoke with The Washington Post some months ago. Russert said in a statement last year that he told the prosecutor that "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative" and that he did not provide such information to Libby in July 2003.

But uh-oh! Again, we see the possible parsing in Russert’s remarks. He didn’t know Plame’s name, he said, and he didn’t know she was a CIA operative. But did he know that Joe Wilson’s wife (name unknown) worked at the CIA (in some capacity)? And did he mention those facts to Libby? It’s perfectly possible that he did, given the narrowness of his denial.

What did Russert say to Libby? We don’t have the slightest idea. Yesterday afternoon, we posted a report on this possible parsing. If you missed that initial post, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/05.

For the record, yes—we know what you’re thinking. Russert comes from Buffalo. And in Buffalo, people don’t parse.

IMAGINE ALL THE SHILLING: Senator Straight-Talk couldn’t grasp what the whole thing was about. He spoke with Imus Wednesday morning. Frankly, he was bollixed:

IMUS (7/20/05): I think [John Kerry] said Karl Rove ought to resign over this whole CIA leak thing. What’s your view of what’s going on over there at the White House?

MCCAIN: Well, I think one thing is obvious. Karl Rove were—and others—were attempting to set the record straight with reporters that Vice President Cheney did not send Mr. Wilson, that it was done by the CIA and at the recommendation of Mr. Wilson’s wife; that there were several other factual errors in Mr. Wilson’s depiction of events. Now what happened after that, I don’t know. I don’t understand it, and I don’t think you do either, that a journalist who didn’t write a word is now in jail. And so—

IMUS: Judith Miller of the New York Times.

MCCAIN: So I don’t know.

Poor Straight-Talk! The straight-shooting solon couldn’t understand something an eight—year-old schoolkid could grasp! Why was Judith Miller in jail? Duh! She’d been ordered to testify in a criminal probe, and had refused to do so. Whatever you think of the wisdom of her jailing, there’s nothing complex or confusing about it, but Straight-Talk was pandering hard to the press—and pretending that this whole affair really doesn’t make any sense. (He had a perfect rube to work with, of course. The hapless Imus says every day that he can’t understand why Miller is in jail, since she never wrote a story.) But Straight-Talk did think one thing was “obvious;” he thought it was “obvious” that Rove was just trying to set the record straight when he spoke to reporters like Time’s Matt Cooper. We don’t know what makes Rove’s motive so “obvious”—and Straight-Talk has the facts fuzzed-up himself; too lazy to read Wilson’s column himself, he keeps saying and implying that Wilson claimed that Dick Cheney sent him to Niger (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/05). Could it be that Straight-Talk was spinning us blue? Could it be that “Straight” was talking it crooked? We were amazed when Straight-Talk said that Rove’s motives were so “obvious”—but then, along came David Brooks to show what a Full Pander looks like.

An hour later, Brooks began chatting with Imus. He went through five full Q-and-As about Rove, taking up more than six minutes total. And David Brooks just couldn’t imagine what crime could possibly be involved in the whole Leakgate matter! Predictably enough, Imus began with a question about Miller. She shouldn’t be in jail, Brooks said:

BROOKS (7/20/05): Should she be? No. You know, I’m with my colleague John Tierney. I don’t see what the scandal is here, you know. The only person who’s in jail—and I suspect the only person who’s going to go to jail—is the one person who’s behaved honorably through this whole thing, which is Judith Miller. She shouldn’t be in jail because, unless there’s something we don’t know about, so far there’s no underlying crime. So you know, the whole thing is one of these summer storms to me.
As Socrates described at the dawn of the west, it can be startling to watch the mighty reason. “Unless there’s something we don’t know about?” There are a million things we don’t know about this ongoing criminal probe! But so what? Brooks proceeded to assume that, since we don’t know about these matters now, “so far there is no underlying crime.” Imus, of course, was too bone-stupid to ask about the most likely crime—the inappropriate disclosure of a CIA agent’s name. Instead, he asked if Time should have released Cooper’s notes, and Brooks was complaining again:
BROOKS: The law is there about protecting CIA agents’ lives. If we’ve got somebody who is under cover in Iraq or some place like that, then we do not want somebody leaking their names. If I thought somebody in the government leaked the name of somebody whose life was in real danger, an agent whose life was in real danger, and they told it to me confidentially? I’d burn him...On the other hand, if the leak is not risking someone’s life in a very real and material way, well then, you’ve got to protect the confidence of your source.
But is it possible that this leak did create some such danger for some CIA asset? Could that be one of the facts we don’t know? Imus was too clueless to ask, but he did ask a fairly good third question, perhaps a bit puzzled by his guest’s pimping. “Well, in your opinion did Karl Rove do anything wrong?” the host asked. He specifically cited what Cooper said—that he learned about Plame from the Rovester:
BROOKS: The way I see it—I read all these stories and I read some of the columns. And there’s just a ton of heavy breathing about, “Oh, this is terrible.” And so I look down, what actually happened? As far as I can tell, Cooper was trying to chase down the story that the Vice President sent Wilson on this mission. And Rove was waving him away from it, and he was doing it for two reasons. One, because it was false. And two, because he probably wanted to minimize the role of Wilson. So there was some self-interest there. But was there a crime? Was there anything that justifies this level of scandal? I have yet to see it.
As far as Brooks can tell, Cooper “was trying to chase down the story that the Vice President sent Wilson on this mission.” But uh-oh! That isn’t what Cooper said he’d been doing when he appeared on Meet the Press (and in his recent report in Time). In fact, he said something totally different; in Time, he said he was trying to figure out “why government officials, publicly and privately, seemed to be disparaging Wilson.” (Cooper: “It struck me, as I told the grand jury, as odd and unnecessary, especially after their saying the President's address should not have included the 16-word claim about Saddam and African uranium.”) But isn’t it weird? As far as Davis Brooks can tell, Cooper was actually doing something totally different—and Rove was just trying to give him the facts. And again, it all comes back to a single line: Was there a crime? Is there a scandal? Not that Brooks can see, there isn’t. It’s just “a ton of heavy breathing,” as far as Brooks can tell.

Spare us the chore of transcribing Brooks’ last two rambling answers. But he continued to say that he just can’t imagine what the crime here could possibly be. Well—there might be a crime here, he did acknowledge (in Answer 4), mentioning all the redacted material in the briefs Fitzgerald has presented. “But right now, we don’t know what it is,” he complained. “Right now, there’s just a lot of frothing and the core of it is nothing.” (Once again, the puzzling logic: Because we don’t know what it is, that seems to mean that it doesn’t exist.) Later, he dismissed the idea that Rove was part of a White House “campaign to go out and discredit Wilson.” “We now know that was untrue,” he said, sharing McCain’s sense of sureness about Rove’s motives. “I don’t want to sound like a shill,” Brooks said as he finished his final answer. “But my eyes have gone cross-eyed looking at all the blog material and so far I don’t see the substance here.”

Poor Brooks! Despite going cross-eyed in his pursuit, the pundit still just can’t imagine what the crime could possibly be! So let us help him out a tad. We don’t know what Fitzgerald has found, and it may be that he will end up finding that Rove behaved in semi-good faith—that he didn’t know he was naming an agent who should not have been named, for example. But for those above the age of 3, there’s something else Fitzgerald might find. He might find that the naming of Plame (and the related naming of her front company) seriously compromised American interests. He might find that other CIA sources, not Plame, found their lives put at risk “in a very real and material way.” He might find that Rove behaved recklessly, knowing that Plame’s CIA status was secret. And this may have made Fitzgerald mad—so mad that he will decide to pursue Rove for that reckless conduct, perhaps under the 1982 statute (if it applies), or perhaps under some other statute which forbids the release of such information. Those are things that might occur, although Straight-Talk and Brooks can’t imagine.

Is that what Fitzgerald will end up finding? We don’t have the slightest idea. Like Brooks, we don’t know what happened here; we don’t know the tiniest part of what Fitzgerald has already found. But at this point, not being pure fools, we can imagine it flat or round; we can imagine a semi-innocent explanation, or we can imagination a flat-out crime. That’s why we found it so instructive when two major DC shills swore that they couldn’t—one shill known for his famous Straight Talk, the other shill now with crossed eyes.