Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On German Shepherds and the Berlin Wall

"' "Wilson's wife is fair game." ' Those are fighting words for any man, and I'd just had them quoted to me by MSNBC's Chris Matthews. It was July 21, 2003, barely a week since a column by Robert Novak in the Washington Post had named my wife, Valerie, as a CIA officer, and now the host of Hardball was calling to tell me that as far as the White House was concerned, they had declared open season on my family.

"In his signature staccato, Matthews was blunt: 'I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says, and I quote, "Wilson's wife is fair game." ' Before abruptly hanging up, Matthews added: 'I will confirm that if asked.' As the head of the White House political office and one of President George W. Bush's closest advisor's, Rove was legendary for his right-wing zeal and take-no-prisoners operating style. But what he was doing now was tantamount to declaring war on two U.S. citizens, both of them with years of government service."
-- Joseph Wilson; The Politics of Truth; 2004; page 1.

Last Friday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked a guest if Judith Miller's grand jury testimony would make Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Karl Rove the new "Haldeman and Ehrlichman"? I found that question to be revealing. Let's take a closer look, to see what the implications are.

First, it is interesting to see Matthews conduct himself as if he has no first-hand knowledge about the case. Clearly, he does. It is safe to assume that Patrick Fitzgerald is aware of Rove's phone call to Matthews. Thus, one can conclude that the grand jury has heard Chris' description of the call.

Fitzgerald has requested that witnesses not speak publicly about about their testimony to the grand jury. As a witness, that could clearly explain Matthew's silence. Yet both Matt Cooper and Judith Miller have discussed their testimony in interviews with other media sources. Could there be another reason why Chris has been silent? And could his Haldeman - Ehrlichman statement hold a key?

"Several middle-level White House aides had assured Bernstein and Woodward that in the Executive Mansion there was little doubt that the Segretti-Chapin operation had been approved by Haldeman. ....

"Haldeman was held in awe throughout the administration. At the mention of his name, Cabinet officials would become silent and fearful. The few who would talk knowledgeably about him said they might lose their jobs if he ever found out. Tough ... pragmatic ... ruthless ... devoted only to Richard Nixon ... would stop at nothing. The descriptions were often similar and many quoted Haldeman's celebrated self-description: 'I'm the President's son-of-a-bitch.' But Haldeman was much more complicated than such descriptions indicated.

"One of Haldeman's methods of operation, the reporters knew, was 'deniability.' This was the device of insulating himself from controversial decisions by implementing them through others so that, later, he could deny involvement. ....

"Deep Throat .... would not name Haldeman himself. He shook hands with Woodward and left. Woodward was now more certain of two things: Haldeman was the correct name, and Haldeman had accumulated frightening power. Deep Throat did not scare easily."
-- Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward; All the President's Men; 1974; pages 171-174.

H.R. Haldeman was the White House Chief of Staff, and the top assistant to Nixon. John D. Ehrlichman was the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs. They were two of the most powerful figures in the Nixon administration, certainly of similar stature to Rove and Libby. Reporters called them "the German Shepherds," "the Prussians," and "the Berlin Wall," among other things.

Early in their investigation into Watergate, Bernstein and Woodward recognized that these two men were almost certainly involved in significant parts of the illegal activities that would come to define the corrupt administration. These illegal activities, and the conspiracy to cover-up the White House involvement, could only have been done with the okay of high-ranking officials. Getting a witness to discuss the involvement of the high-ranking officials was, of course, difficult.

Hugh Sloan, Jr., a former Haldeman aide and treasurer for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), did speak to them. However, either the reporters made an honest mistake, or they were purposely misled about Sloan's testimony to the grand jury investigating the Watergate break-in and CREEP/White House "slush fund." In a Washington Post article, they mistakenly wrote that Sloan had testified about Haldeman's role. In fact, Sloan had not, though he had identified Haldeman's role to the reporters. Giddy about the paper's mistake, President Nixon spoke to Charles Colsen : "We're going to screw them another way. They don't realize how rough I can play. ... But when I start, I will kill them. There's no question about it." Luckily for us, Nixon recorded these conversations!

" 'Well,' Felt said, 'Haldeman slipped away from you.' Felt stomped his heel into the garage wall. The truth would never come out now, the error about Haldeman had sealed it, he said. He said that moving on the top man meant you had to be on the most solid ground. Felt cursed. He moved closer and whispered. 'From top to bottom, this whole business is a Haldeman operation. He ran the money. Insulated himself through those functionaries around him.' ....

"He gave me a little lecture about breaking a conspiracy like Watergate. 'You build convincingly from the outer edges in, you get ten times the evidence you need against the Hunts and Liddys. They feel hopelessly finished -- they may not talk right away, but the grip is on them. Then you move up and do it at the next level. If you shoot too high and miss, then everyone feels more secure. Lawyers work this way. I'm sure smart reporters must too.' I recall he gave me a look as if to say I did not belong in that category of smart reporters. 'You put the investigation back months. It puts everyone on the defensive -- editors, FBI agents, everyone has to go into a crouch after this.' "
-- Bob Woodward; The Secret Man; 2005; pages 90-91.

Chris Matthews is certainly aware of the history of Watergate, including the infamous error made by Bernstein and Woodward. He has not shared all that he knows about either the White House leaking Plame's identity, the conspiracy to cover their involvement up, or the grand jury hearings, with his Hardball audience. Hopefully, this article helps us to understand why he has reported on the case in the manner that he has.

More, it may help to shed light on exactly what Chris meant when he asked if Miller's testimony would make Rove and Libby into the new Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Felt's words may make it clearer how Fitzgerald has workered to expose the role played by the mid-level White House officials, in order to reach those at the top levels. For, as Joseph Wilson tells us on page 445 of his book:

"In fact, senior advisors close to the president may well have been clever enough to have used others to do the actual leaking, in order to keep their fingerprints off the crime. John Hannah and David Wurmser, mid-level political appointees in the vice president's office, have both been suggested as the source of the leaks. I don't know either, though at the time of the leak, Wurmser, a prominent neoconservative, was working as a special assistant to John Bolton at the State Department. Mid-level officials, however, do not leak information without authority from a higher level. They would have been instruments, not the makers, of decision."


At October 5, 2005 at 2:33 PM, Blogger postUK said...

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At October 7, 2005 at 10:08 AM, Blogger heropoo said...

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At October 7, 2005 at 6:08 PM, Blogger hexadecimals resources said...

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