Bush as Johnson + Nixon
Irv Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff for trigger-happy VP Richard Bruce Cheney is now alleging that Cheney told him that W. himself authorized the leak of classified Iraq information. Although he is probably referring to the leak of the National Intelligence Estimate, his implication is that once he was given the go-ahead by Bush and Cheney to leak classified information for political purposes, tat led to his outing of a covert CIA operative’s name. Both leaks were part of White House damage control over the Iraq scandal breaking in spring-summer 2003, as it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Bush had invaded the wrong country for the wrong reason. Ooops.
I have explained the whole scandal here, with pictures and links, and readers have told me that it is useful.
Late night comedian Conan O’Brian does a shtick where he has a silly computer program meld the faces of two celebrities to see what their kids would look like, only the program works to exaggerate the features of each, so that you always have a freakish result.
The news today makes me think that it would be worthwhile melding Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to see if the result looked like W. Because George W. Bush faces the weight of a long Asian land war gone badly wrong, just as Johnson did. And he faces the charges of high-level corruption and illegal wiretapping that dogged Richard Nixon. He has become both “Mah feller Amurcans” Bush and “tricky Georgie.” W. has survived all this relatively well, given the dreadful facts of it.
Unlike Johnson, he does not operate a hated draft, but depends on gung-ho volunteers (some of whom are a little too gung-ho and have made a lot of unnecessary trouble in Iraq by shooting a lot of people for DWI, Driving While Iraqi). The volunteers’ families and friends are not clamoring for an end to the war with the fervor that those of the draftees did in the 1960s and early 1970s. Johnson was in the end defeated by powerful challenges from within his own party, which caused him not to seek another term. Bush faced no such challenge in ’04. His party has gone along with him. Of course, Tom DeLay is not exactly a paragon of virtue. The corruption of the party itself, which has few Robert F. Kennedys, has abetted Bush’s continued dominance and free ride for his crimes.
Nixon faced an FBI willing to leak to the press to get him, a Supreme Court willing to order him to turn over tapes of his conversations, and a Democratic Congress willing to impeach him (well, a lot of Republicans were willing to, by the end, too). It is pretty clear that Scalia, Thomas and Alito would have all voted against making Nixon turn over his tapes, and maybe Roberts, as well. It is a different court, one that is willing to show deference to the imperial presidency, as Rehnquist openly admitted before he went out. Bush’s party dominates both houses of congress, as well. The Senate Intelligence Committee under Pat Roberts has dragged its feet in investigating Bush administration crimes. The only strike against Bush is that the FBI still has a good deal of independence and has every reason to want to hold administration officials accountable for leaking Plame’s name, since ruining undercover agents’ careers can get them and their family’s killed. It is mainly the FBI and an independent prosecutor (the appointment of which Bush resisted) that have shown integrity with regard to the Bush scandals, whether the AIPAC spying affair or Libbygate. (People call it Plamegate, but it is Libby who is the scandal here).
David Corn had speculated that Libby would graymail the government to stop his prosecution, by demanding all sorts of classified information that the Bush administration would not want to turn over. But I’d say that Libby has gone from graymail a step further to blackmail. He has signalled that he is not going down by himself, is not going to be a good soldier, and will drag Bush himself down with him if he can.
By the way, isn’t anyone else outraged that Karl Rove remains in the White House after it was openly revealed that he personally outed an undercover CIA operative for petty political purposes? Why isn’t the press demanding his resignation every day?
I predicted this “every man for himself” scenario last November. It seemed to me that the loyal thing to have done would have been to plead guilty, take three years of jail, and then have Bush pardon Libby just as he was going out of office. Libby is loyal to no one but himself, obviously.
For more on background see my piece, “All the Vice President’s Men.