'Where Wings Take Dream'
Exactly five years ago today, campaigning in La Crosse, Wisconsin, George W. Bush said: "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."
What a moron. Congratulations, America, because without all of you, we wouldn't be observing this anniversary.
Despite what Cryptome says about Reader's Digest, the little mag taught me years ago that laughter is the best medicine. And I still believe that. But there's an angle to the Plamegate investigation that may chill Bush beaters after the laughter dies down. And for pointing that out to us, we once again have the Slate editor to thank. As far as I can tell, Weisberg didn't publicly observe the anniversary of the "wings take dream" quote. But he was busy.
In "Illiberal Prosecution," posted late this morning, Weisberg notes the gleeful anticipation of many while prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald apparently is deciding who or what to possibly charge regarding Plamegate. Oooh! Oooh! Let it be Karl Rove! But then Weisberg writes:
- Hold the schadenfreude, blue-staters. Rooting for Rove's indictment in this case isn't just unseemly, it's unthinking and ultimately self-destructive.
Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about Fitzgerald's investigation from the start.
Claiming a few conservative scalps might be satisfying, but they'll come at a cost to principles liberals hold dear: the press's right to find out, the government's ability to disclose, and the public's right to know.
"Unseemly"? That never stops me from making mit der schadenfreude. I'm also not enthralled by Weisberg's arguments that the White House mooks probably didn't know Valerie Plame was undercover and that they couldn't possibly be so venal as to put CIA agents at risk for the sake of trashing her husband.
But when it comes to the ramifications of Fitzgerald's poking around in who said what to whom, Weisberg makes mit der good point:
- [I]n the hands of a relentless and ambitious prosecutor like Fitzgerald, the absence of evidence that you've broken a law just becomes an invitation to develop a case based on other possible crimes, especially those committed in the course of defending yourself, like obstruction of justice and making false statements.
Call witnesses back enough times and you can usually come up with something. Special prosecutors never give up, because saying no crime was committed, after investing years and tens of millions of public dollars, counts as abject failure.
And if gleanings from the grand jury room are to be believed, Fitzgerald may go beyond the Ken Starrstyle foolishness to bring more creative crap charges of his own devising.
Fitzgerald's questions to Judith Miller suggest the possibility of indictments under the much broader and seldom used espionage law or Section 641 of the U.S. Code, which deals with the theft of government property. The Justice Department has used 641 in at least one case, to prosecute a Drug Enforcement Agency analyst who leaked a name from an agency file to the British press.
And then there's the broader issue of reporters' (i.e., the public's) ability to get info:
- Already, Fitzgerald's investigation has proved a disaster for freedom of the press and freedom of information.
Reporters, editors, and publishers have been put on notice about the legal risk of using blind sources, which most consider an essential tool of news-gathering. Any ambiguity about a press privilege under federal law has been resolved, not in favor of the media.
According to some anecdotal accounts, journalists' failure to fully protect their sources in the Plame case has already chilled official leaks to reporters.
Should Fitzgerald win convictions under the espionage law or Section 641, any conversations between officials and journalists touching on classified information could come become prosecutable offenses. That would turn the current chill into permafrost.
There's more in Weisberg's analysis. He's such a grownup. But he's convinced even me that once the laughter over the doofus POTUS dies down, the silence could be deadly.