I don’t know about you, but I was starting to miss John Ashcroft. Where has he been? It seems that he disappeared a few months ago and took the Plame file with him. Word is he was too busy choreographing the ‘Ashcroft Trot’ to make a public appearance.
Inside sources say that the ‘Ashcroft Trot’ is a very precise dance that involves a fake step forward on New Year’s Eve and a couple of steps back by spring. The dance ends with a few steps to the right after the November elections. Dance steps between spring and fall are still on Ashcroft’s drawing board.
Last week, after five months of attempting to bury the probe, Ashcroft couldn’t spare a few moments to announce his recusal from playing the Plame game. That task was left to James Comey, the second in command at the Justice Department. Comey is now technically in charge of the probe and has assigned Patrick Fitzgerald the task of investigating the scandal. The reason given for distancing Ashcroft from case was the ‘appearance of a conflict of interest’ based on ‘the totality of the circumstances and the facts and evidence developed at this stage of the investigation’.
For those who still care, the Plame affair concerns a couple of senior administration officials who exposed the identity of a CIA agent, a serious felony and a breach of national security. The motive for the crime is well established. Plames’s husband, Ambassador Wilson, had the audacity to confront the administration on the bogus ‘yellow cake’ story. Outing his wife was an act of political vengeance. As things now stand, two administration felons, maybe more, continue to roam the halls of the White House unidentified and undisturbed by the lethargic Ashcroft probe.
Perhaps it is a little cynical to conclude that Ashcroft’s recusal had something to do with Tom Daschles’s recent letter inquiring about the progress of the investigation. A week before Ashcroft’s recusal, Tom Daschle and Carl Levin sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting a brief status report. Among other things the letter stated that “it is far from clear that the Administration and your department are truly committed to taking the steps necessary to apprehend the person or persons responsible for this grave national security breach.” The writers went on to request that Ashcroft provide the Senate with “an overall status of the investigation, including the number of people the Justice Department has interviewed, the number of briefings you have received, the general types of information you are briefed on, what conditions you have placed on the scope of these briefings to ensure the independence of this investigation, and whether you have discussed this case with senior Administration officials outside the Justice Department.”
The recusal was Ashcroft’s only option to avoid complying with the Senator’s request. He decided to hand over the Plame file to a subordinate. Nice move. Now, we get to move on to the next act of the Plame games. By the time Patrick Fitzgerald reviews the file, the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom. Come early summer, Daschle will write another letter requesting a progress report. The letter will get lost in the mail. A week later, one of his aides will hand deliver a copy to Fitzgerald, just in time for the summer recess. An exasperated Daschle will than demand that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate the matter. In the heat of a presidential election, the charges will fly about ‘political motives’, ‘attempts to influence an on-going criminal investigation’ and ‘executive privilege’. Mission accomplished. Case closed until after the election.
George Bush, the ‘national security’ president, seems strangely unconcerned with the progress of this case. He hasn’t even bothered to subject his staff to lie detector tests. He refuses to make a public appeal to Robert Novak to reveal the identity of the two felons. The mass media lads also appear to be active participants in burying this story. They have their reasons. The trail of the Plame case will lead directly to the Office of Special Plans (OSP). From the OSP, the probe will reveal the active collaboration of Judith Miller, Charles Krauthammer and other Likudnik ‘media stars’ in the neo-con plots to mislead the public on Iraq’s WMDs. So, don’t expect the New York Times or the Washington Post to actively participate in the Plame games.
The good news is that the Plame games can still come to an abrupt conclusion if one solitary journalist decides to come clean with the identity of the two White House felons. Novak could wake up on any fine morning between now and next November and decide to do the right thing. One journalist holds the keys to the empire. One journalist will cast the deciding vote in next November’s election. In essence we have devolved from a ‘one man, one vote’ democracy to the political reality of granting a single journalist the privilege of possessing the only vote that counts.
Welcome to the new and improved electoral system. One Novak, One Vote.
To restore the ‘One man, One Vote’ franchise, we must implore Novak to divulge his sources. Out the leakers, Novak. On receipt of the leak, you had a moral and legal obligation to expose these felons and protect Valerie Plame. Instead, you chose to expose Plame and you continue to protect the identity of two senior administration officials involved in an act of treason. You still have choices to make, Robert. Defy your bosses and strike a blow for clean government and responsible journalism.