E. J. Dionne explains how the Plame cover-up worked and what Democrtats can do about it. Place a “hold” on Sam Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Any senator can hold a nomination, we need one to step up. Make Bush and Cheney tell us what they knew and when before releasing Alito. Let’s fight.
In his impressive presentation of the indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby last week, Patrick Fitzgerald expressed the wish that witnesses had testified when subpoenas were issued in August 2004, and “we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005.”
Note the significance of the two dates: October 2004, before President Bush was reelected, and October 2005, after the president was reelected. Those dates make clear why Libby threw sand in the eyes of prosecutors, in the special counsel’s apt metaphor, and helped drag out the investigation.
As long as Bush still faced the voters, the White House wanted Americans to think that officials such as Libby, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney had nothing to do with the leak campaign to discredit its arch-critic on Iraq, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.
And Libby, the good soldier, pursued a brilliant strategy to slow the inquiry down. As long as he was claiming that journalists were responsible for spreading around the name and past CIA employment of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, Libby knew that at least some news organizations would resist having reporters testify. The journalistic “shield” was converted into a shield for the Bush administration’s coverup.
Judge Samuel Alito is a red flag for liberals and red meat for Bush’s socially conservative base. Alito has a long paper trail as a 15-year veteran of a court of appeals and a strong right-wing reputation. This guarantees a huge battle that will serve the president even if Alito’s nomination fails: Anything that “unites the base” and distracts attention from the Fitzgerald investigation is good news for Bush.
That is why Senate Democrats — and one hopes they might be joined by some brave Republicans — should insist that before Alito’s nomination is voted on, Bush and Cheney have some work to do.