Let's take Bush and Cheney at their word, and accept that Bush secretly declassified Valery Plame's CIA status during a White House huddle with Cheney.
Some questions come to mind:
When there were calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the apparent breach of national security, why didn't Bush or Cheney step forward and spare everyone the bother of a major investigation by simply saying that Bush had declassified Plame's status? Rather, we discover that the White House decided to keep the declassification order secret from the CIA, as well as everyone else. (See Jim Rutenberg's New York Times story of Feb. 20.)
BUT, the White House was putting out statements that the leak investigation was a very, very serious matter -- while Bush and Cheney all the while knew that no crime had been committed. It seems pretty obvious that they were thinking about their political position, and not about the truth.
So Patrick Fitzgerald turns out to be a tougher nut than they perhaps expected and reporters are grilled about the "leak."
Judith Miller of the Times spent three months in jail before finally caving. Yet, Bush and Cheney kept silent, even though they knew that no crime had been committed.
Was it too much to expect that Bush would step up to the plate and admit to declassifying Plame's status BEFORE Miller went to jail?
Even had Fitzgerald tried to keep her locked up anyway, Times lawyers would have been in federal court urging her release based on the point that if no crime had been committed, then Fitzgerald had no need to know the names of sources.
But instead, Bush and Cheney let Miller rot. And, for good measure, her career was terminated based in large part on the turmoil that stemmed from an unseemly conspiracy of silence by Bush, Cheney, Libby and others.
HOWEVER, as soon as it appeared that Fitzgerald might have enough to draw the vice president into the legal wringer, blam: oh, no crime was committed. Let's drop the whole thing.
But by then it was too late in the game and Fitzgerald had enough on Libby to indict him for perjury.
Now, again, assuming that Bush and Cheney did not commit perjury at the last minute, one must wonder about the character of men who ask Americans to brave battle peril but who themselves haven't the courage to right a grievous injustice when it was clearly in their power to do so.
Curiously, the media haven't made much of this point or of the fact that reporters and news organizations were unnecessarily put through the wringer over a crime that Bush secretly knew never occurred.
Also, when Libby or somebody "leaked" this data about Plame to a reporter, that reporter had to sweat whether he should risk charges about breaking the story --which Miller didn't -- even though no crime had been committed. Even by Washington standards, what we have here is unparalleled cynicism.
Congress has been pretty lame about these issues also. But these are serious issues. Are these the type of people entrusted with a global struggle against terrorism?
This little White House tale has a credibility quotient on a par with White House claims about WMDs and about who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Postscript A: Oh yes, what does this attitude have to say about fair play for the Guantanamo detainees? Clearly, if the Bush bunch has no qualms about an American suffering unjustly when their political needs come first, what kind of chances would they give to foreigners? Habeas corpus may be a technical term, but that term embodies a principle: a person should not be jailed without good faith protections of basic rights.
Postscript B: Plainly, we have a very strong case for the impeachment and removal of both Cheney and Bush. Provably, both severely abused, for mere personal gain, the national security authority entrusted to them during a period of national crisis. However, some Democrats don't want this scenario to play out as it should -- because their personal ambitions would be thwarted. If Bush and Cheney were removed, that would leave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as interim president and a likely Democratic presidential nominee for the full term. Hillary would be beside herself, and John Edwards would be none too happy either. Yet, what these men did is so low that it is really impossible that they should remain as leaders of a respected nation.