International Media Make 'Watergate' Comparison
The indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has some international online commentators envisioning a Watergate-style scandal swamping the Bush White House.
"Bush faces his Watergate," says the Independent. The London daily says the issues raised by the the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent, "are far more significant than those involved in the 'second-rate burglary' of the Democratic National Committee's offices in Washington's Watergate complex in the 1970s. They go to the heart of why America, and its faithful ally, Britain, went to war in Iraq."
"The White House has lost one key man but the whole chain of command may be engulfed by a scandal slowly revealing the lies that led to war," said the London daily, which opposed the war.
The commentary, confined mostly to English-speaking countries so far, generally argues that Cheney is especially threatened. The view of former White House speechwriter David Frum, writing in London's conservative Daily Telegraph, that "the broader administration has been exonerated of intentional wrongdoing," is a distinctly minority point of view.
"Just how far up the White House food chain does this affair go?" ask the editors of the Sunday Herald in Glasgow, Scotland. The paper's political editor, James Cusick, sees "chinks in the neocon armor."
As the special counsel's probe "creeps closer to the Oval Office, with his insistence that 'all citizens are bound by the law,'" Cusick writes, "some may sense a chill wind that hasn't blown through Washington since [President Richard] Nixon promised the public that there would be no whitewash at the White House."
South Africa's Independent Online predicts the indictment "will reopen the debate over whether the administration manipulated intelligence to launch the Iraq invasion in 2003."
John O'Sullivan, writing for the pro-war Australian newspaper, says there is less to Cheney's reputed involvement than meets the eye.
He says "most Americans would probably conclude that the scandal was no more than a blend of strategic disagreement and political hardball and that it was foolish of Libby to lie than to admit as much. A trial may thus be less likely to hurt the administration than its critics hope."
It is "hard to believe Cheney did not know" of Libby's false statements to the grand jury, says Michael Gawenda, Washington correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald.
"If Libby lied about how he discovered Plame's identity -- he claims he heard it from journalists and had forgotten Cheney had told him -- why would he tell such clumsy fibs? The only rational explanation is he was protecting his boss.
"When the war in Iraq is increasing unpopular, and with more than 2,000 Americans dead and more than 15,000 wounded, the question of how Cheney's office used intelligence to justify the war will inevitably be part of the Libby trial," Gawenda concludes.
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