Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why the Libby Trial Matters

The Libby trial is important in ways that the Washington media has avoided to some extent. It is first of all about a corrupt process that led to war, an unncessary war, and then later led to lies, specific lies, by Scooter Libby that are the reasons he is on trial. The smearing of Joe Wilson was designed to hide a corrupt process and, in some respects, what was done by outing Valerie Plame/Wilson has succeeded largely because of the second element that the Libby trial exposes: the complicity of the mainstream press in furthering the aims of the Bush Administration.

What I have said in my first paragraph should not be controversial. Not after everything that has come out in the Scooter Libby trial and elsewhere. But the media and the American public still have a long ways to go to understand what a catastrophe and what a crooked little operation the Bush presidency has been for the last six years and how Congress, particularly under the Republicans, has been subverted far more than at any time since the 1920s. It's worse than that though. It's been obvious for more than 25 years that the media has slowly been falling down on the job and that the Republican Noise Machine has done an effective job of allowing our institutions to erode and to be corrupted even more than usual, far more than usual, over the last twenty-five years, inch by inch by inch.

The American economy is a powerful engine. That is largely a blessing but having such a powerful economy can obscure the growing rot in our corporations, our system of entrenched privilige, and even the manner in which a wink and nod is given to all kinds of behavior that ought not to be accepted (tobacco companies, to mention just one example of many, just won a case based on a ruling that is designed to do nothing more than protect the powerful even when they are quite clearly wrong). I believe in competition and a reasonable free enterprise: it is a shame that too many powerful people do not—they prefer a system that is rigged. And that rigging has been steadily damaging our nation and our future for a number of years now, though George W. Bush and his friends have clearly accelerated the process.

I believe in a government that can help us achieve common aims, that works for the common good, that has a capacity at times to solve problems and I believe that there have been times our government has been able to find very competent people to make sure things get done. However, for more than twenty-five years, we have had people consciously work to undermine, inhibit, obstruct and obscure the effectiveness and even the knowledge that the government needs to function reasonably well. Our government, even in the best of times, is not perfect and it is important to have multiple agencies literally compete with one another to show who can do the best job. Private industry, as run by Republicans, does not qualify though there is no good reason why an honest business can't perform some functions that government would otherwise perform. But outsourcing and privatization in the hands of Republicans and even some Democrats is just an excuse to scam the taxpayer. We have seen and still see it in Iraq. We saw it after Hurricane Katrina, even to the point that the people devastated by the hurricane were just an afterthought while others used the occassion to make obscene profits.

We have a problem in our nation, and the mainstream is no longer the bright shining light on the nation's rot that it once was. Sure, the media has lights, bright lights to scatter on the trivial and to flash back and forth on things irrelevant while more crucial matters remain unknown and unexposed. Sure, the media on occassion does shine a flickering and wavering light on our nation's problems and then it becomes painfully clear most reporters doing those stories barely understand what it is they are covering. There are exceptions but not often.

I'm far from where I began: the Libby trial. Let me quote from Dan Froomkin of White House Watch:
"What is this case about?" special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald asked in his rebuttal to the defense's closing arguments yesterday in the Scooter Libby perjury trial.

"Is it about something bigger?"

And while Fitzgerald never directly answered that second question, he at long last made it quite clear that the depth of Vice President Cheney's role in the leaking of the identity of a CIA operative is one of the central mysteries that Libby's alleged lies prevented investigators from resolving.

"There is a cloud over the vice president . . . And that cloud remains because this defendant obstructed justice," Fitzgerald said.

"There is a cloud over the White House. Don't you think the FBI and the grand jury and the American people are entitled to straight answers?" Fitzgerald asked the jury.

Libby, Fitzgerald continued, "stole the truth from the justice system."

After literally years of keeping his public pronouncements about the case to an absolute minimum, Fitzgerald yesterday finally let slip a bit of the speculation that many of us have long suspected has lurked just beneath the surface of his investigation.

Suddenly it wasn't just the defendant alone, it was "they" who decided to tell reporters about Wilson's wife working for the CIA. "To them," Fitzgerald said, "she wasn't a person, she was an argument."

Valerie Plame was serving her country and the Bush Administration used her to cover up a lie. And they destroyed her career.

There are people in Washington who don't take the American people seriously. They take their privileged friends seriously—and their wealth, they want to be part of the supposed movers and shakers of our society, or even just part of those who hold the conventional wisdom and are in the know when they roast one another on those lame C-Span shows.

Admittedly, there are some, a different crowd, particularly right wing ideologues, who focus their hate and rage on particular groups, maybe because they believe in their rage, maybe because the rage is profitable and good for votes. And that too is evidence that people in Washington can't see 300 million individuals, who according to the US Constitution, are the people and therefore, the government, the nation, and the real source of America's strength and greatness. Ordinary Americans are not abstractions. Very capable people like Valerie Plame are not abstractions. The 300 million people in these United States are real. Not lives to be ruined. Not people to be ignored because they aren't campaign contributors. Not 'resources' for corporate cronies to exploit. Not honorees for a feel good speech that covers up a cynical do-nothing policy.

It's time for the American people to be heard again. It won't be the first time or even the second time that Americans have needed to renew their country and have done so. But the time has come. Whether Cheney's aide, Scooter Libby, is convicted or not, the time has come.

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