Slow John

The National Journal's Murray Waas yesterday afternoon posted an important story about a still unexplained delay by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in recusing himself from the investigation into Valerie Plame-CIA Leak case. While the story does not represent any sort of a "smoking gun" against Ashcroft, it certainly doesn't give any reasonable reader the impression that the Attorney General was either particularly sensitive to the inherent conflict he found himself in during the fall of 2003 or particularly interested in doing anything dramatic (read: ethically responsible) about it.

The main theme of Waas' long take is that John Ashcroft stayed in charge of the Plame investigation for several months after he learned from the FBI that investigators "suspected White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of trying to mislead the FBI to conceal their roles in the leak." This, legal experts quoted in the piece said, represented, at best, bad judgment on the part of the nation's chief law enforcement official. Rove, you may recall, had an especially close connection with the Attorney General; he had served as a political advisor for Ashcroft during some of the latter's Congressional campaigns

Like I said, the story doesn't break open the case, the story or the investigation. In the end, the feds got it right. In December 2003, they replaced the hapless Ashcroft with a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who has shown just about everyone in Washington that he is about as independent as they come. But Waas' fine reporting does tell us a little more about the dysfunction back then in the White House and also in the Justice Department at a time when the rest of us were being told that the feds had their act together in the war on terror.

The Waas piece also tells me that this investigation is a long way from over and that before the Libby trial is over-- it is scheduled to begin early next week-- many more embarrassing nuggets will finally see the light of day.

By  |  June 9, 2006; 8:00 AM ET
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What I find interesting is how the general public is taking the entire Plame issue as a non issue. Maybe because the players in this whole affair don't come across as victims (and the natural distrust of the public of the CIA let alone the FBI). Each played the political game and it backfired in their faces, and maybe the general public is viewing this as a consequence of playing with fire.

I'm worried that transgressions will be shoved under the rug as "business as usual", but if there's no public anger over the affair (and nothing to date has gotten the sleepy public to rouse from their sleep), this is but a side story. Much like Abu Gharib and what happened with General Karpinski.

The new game in Washington is to discredit without getting caught (erase, deflect, sidetrack investigations -- I guess the WH is taking rules of coverup from Ollie North. In the General Karpinski affair it's highlighting a shoplifting charge and as a means to pull her rank, and if she complains she's but a "disgruntled ex military general" [Not that Ollie would get the same treatment, just Janis]). If they skirt around the hot button topics (like race and gender), they more than likely will get away with it. As neither partisan side wants to give up their slander/libel ammunition (why legislatures close ranks on any ethical violations, for example).

But the short of it is, no matter what is found out in this case, the general public is indifferent. Bush will remain the President as well as his staff will stay employed in the White House.

Yet another bone to entertain the partisan masses, while little is down in Washington (except more bone chewing with rehashed issues).


Posted by: SandyK | June 9, 2006 08:30 AM

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