Water Man Spouts

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A cancer on the presidency .....

In the past week, there has been a growing awareness in the United States that the Plame scandal ranks with the two largest and most significant presidential disgraces of our time: Watergate and the Iran-Contra sacandals. Today, I would like to take a few minutes to start a discussion about the similarities between Plame and Watergate.

Often, in discussing Watergate, older DUers will note that "it isn't just the original criminal activity that catches up to an administration, it's the attempt to cover it up." And that is true, to a large part. Actually, the events of Watergate, as they came to be understood some 20 years later, could have brought the Nixon administration tumbling down. And, while it took 20 years for the public to find documents (tapes included), a House Committee could have accessed them quickly.

Has there been an attempt to cover up the criminal activities of some high-ranking White House officials in the Plame case? Let's take a look, shall we? Perhaps we could begin with a curious quote found on page 360 of Joseph Wilson's book, "The Politics of Truth":

"We have rolled the earthmovers in over this one," a senior White House official was quoted in the 12-5-03 "Financial Times" as saying about the administration's efforts to "resolve" the Plame investigation before Attorney General Ashcroft recused himself from the case. Could it be that Fitzgerald and the grand jury are interested in uncovering who called the earthmovers in?

That term -- senior White House official -- seems to keep popping up.Seems like that moldy man Robert Novak used the same term to describe the sources of his information on Plame being a CIA operative. For fun, let's see if we can find any qualified source who can explain what the term "senior official" means!

"Usually, the term senior official refers to a vice president, cabinet officer, or top White House aide," writes John Dean on page 170 of his wonderful book, "Worse Than Watergate." Gish, it sounds as if he could be descibing the actual criminals who we discussing. Let's look at the next sentence in the book, to see if he indeed is: "On July 17, Time published the same story {* as Novak}, attributing it to 'government officials,' and in a later story the Washington Post confirmed that two officials had called around trying to stir greater interest in the planted story."

Still, many of Karl Rove's supporters are pointing out that he did not tell Matt Cooper what Valerie Plame's favorite color was, or her favorite Beatle album, so he clearly did not know her status .... even though he spoke to Cooper as a supe "double secret" source. Did those senior White House officials have any idea that Valerie was more than a secretary at CI? Let's take a look at something published but 5 days after Mr. Cooper's contribution to the effort to keep America safe.

On July 22, Newsday's Washington Bureau notes: "Valerie Plame ... works at the agency on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity..." Does that clear up the republican confusion? Do we need more? Let's try this, from the same article: according to "a senior intelligence official" Plame worked in the "Directorate of Operations (as an) undercover officer."

Once these senior White House scum, er, officials knew that they had made a serious mistake, and were going to possibly face consequences, they began to organize a cover-up. Keep in mind, folks, that only guilty people attempt to cover up their activities. If the administration was confident it had done no wrong, there would have been no cover-up. But, you may ask, do we have some fun quote that indicates there was a cover-up? Something besides the earthmovers?

"The known facts -- that the activities involved two (or more) senior officials -- indicate that there is evidence of a criminal conspiracy. That criminal conspiracy is ongoing, and now involved with covering up the initial crime, thus creating secondary transgressions. (Sound familiar?) The federal laws of conspiracy, along with the federal laws dealing with obstruction of justice, are among the most far reaching of the federal criminal laws. Whether they know it or not, the Bush2 White House -- given this active and ongoing criminal activity -- had dangers it has never dreamed possible by not ending this matter itself. It is only going to get worse before it gets better." ( Worse Than Watergate; John Dean; pages 175-6)

Oh, no! This sounds terrible for the administration! Almost like someone needs to go in to the Oval Office and say the following to President Cheney and his wonderful tumbling chimp, Uncurious George:

"I think there is no doubt about the seriousness of the problem we've got. We have a cancer within, close to the presidency, that is growing. It's growing daily. It's compounded, growing geometrically now, because it compounds itself." That infamous quote came from John Dean duuring his March 21, 1973 meeting (10:12 - 11:55 am) in the Oval Office with President Nixon and H.R. Haldeman. When it appeared Nixon, who is a far cry sharper than the current industrial sludge occupying the White House, wasn't fully grasping the implications, Dean laid it out this way: "What really troubles me is one, will this thing not break some day and the whole thing -- domino situation -- everything starts crumbling, fingers will be pointing. Bob will be accused of things he has never heard of and deny and try to disprove it. It will get real nasty and just be a real bad situation. And the person who will be hurt by it most will be you and the Presidency ..."(See: "The Presidential Transcripts": published by the Washington Post with commentary by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Haynes Johnson, and Lawrence Meyer; Dell Books; 1974; these quotes from pages 99 and 115.)

Likely now, the DU readers are depressed to realize that this administration, as much or more as Nixon's, can be viewed as having what John Dean described as "a cancer on the presidency." But didn't the White House, way back 33 years ago, attempt to protect the presidency? And could that series of actions shed any light on how we should view today's delicate situation? Perhaps we should consider some information made available from the research of Fred Emery. He wrote the 1994 book and accompanying 5-part tv series shown on the Discovery Channel, "Watergate." Much of the following comes from his incredible work, which allowed the public access to tapes and documents that had never been seen or heard by the public.

On a 6-20-72 tape, Nixon made a strange comment to his Rovian friend, Chuck Colson: "If we didn't know better, would have to thought it was deliberately botched." Nixon was talking, of course, about the Saturday, June 17th break-in at the Watergate. At the time, few were aware that James McCord, Jr, a retired CI operative with years of experience in "burglaries," had left a series of doors taped in a manner that led two undercover police officers to the exact office where the burglars were hiding.(The significance is important to understand: the burglars could have walked out any of the doors had they been left untaped, because they were inside; McCord's actions clearly indicate "it was deliberately botched.")

Emery notes that, "On Wednesday, June 21, the cover-up suddenly moved to take on what would be its final shape." (page 182) Tapes that were newly released at the time of his book show that Ehrlichman was advocating a plan to have Liddy take the full blame for Watergate. Nixon is clearly interested. Haldeman notes that the attractiveness of this plan "is that you establish an admission of guilt at a low level, rather than just a presumption, instead of imply guilt at the highest level, which I tell you, they're trying very hard to do; I'll tell you, the press ..." Nixon is getting the picture: "the focus goes back to keep the scandal away from the White House."

But they make a huge error: rather than recognize that McCord has set them up, they fear Liddy. None of these administrators has been around a man of his nature before. Haldeman tells Nixon that Mitchell
fears Liddy will not take the full blame (although as history shows, he was both willing and able to, and the Ehrlichman plan might have put history on another course). Mitchell was "likely involved" in the Watergate plans, Haldeman tells Nixon, and is "a little bit afraid because of Liddy's instability ..."

The alternative plan -- to have CI tell the FBI to back off -- becomes the accepted route of the cover-up. By 11:30, John Dean is in the FBI's acting director's office. Gray will be a willing participant in the cover-up, and his actions will outrage Mark Felt.

CREEP attorneys tell the attorney for Alfred Baldwin, McCord's associate in the Committee to Re-Elect the President, and in the Watergate break-in, that they no longer consider Baldwin worth their investment in protecting.

"My lawyers came out and brought me into an office and said there is a lot we have to do here," Baldwin says on the 1994 television series shown on the Discovery Channel. " 'They are not going to acknowledge you even exist. They are disowning you. They have no concern for you. They are not going to supply a lawyer for you as long as you can't identify Mitchell or you can't identify any one else from the White House. They don't care about you.' " When his attorneys explained that, they recommended he talk to the FBI. The US attorney who would be prosecuting the Watergate case would, as Emery notes, get his first chance to hear from an "insider witness."

Emery's appreciation for the complex turns of history is evident when he describes a "faraway event .... that no one realized might have much significance." The long-time chair of the House Judiciary Committee, a long-time Nixon friend named Emmanuel Celler, was upset in a democratic primary by an "unknown insurgent, Elizabeth Holtzman" (page 185) Celler would have gone the extra mile to make sure the House of Representatives would not have held impeachment hearings. Actually, at that time, few people considered those hearings even a remote possibility, althougha citizen's group took out a full-page ad in the New York Times demanding exactly that! (Heads up, DU!)

On June 22, Nixon addressed the White Housepress corps. There was only one question about Watergate. Nixon gave an answer that I think DUers will find familiar:

"... As Mr. Zieler has stated, the White House had no involvement whatever in this particular incident. As far as the matter is now concerned, it is under investigation .... I will not comment on those matters, particularly since possible criminal charges are involved."

On June 23, Hurricane Agnes hit the Washington DC area hard. Emery notes: "The Potomac hit record flood levels, National Airport was closed, and John Dean in Alexandria, Virginia, had to sandbag his home against the rising tide. With hindsight, the omen was unmistakable." (page 194)


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