Monday, March 19, 2007

Henry Waxman and the Valerie Plame Hearing

Someday, the Republican Party will rebuild itself and they'll start electing officials to Washington again who are interested in governing and enforcing the law in a reasonable manner. One of the bizarre qualities of the Republican Party these days are the numbers in Congress and the White House who are more interested in a right wing game of winning 'technical' points in some sort one-upmanship with rational conservatives, moderates and liberals while ripping off the American people for pure personal gain and some distorted sense of prestige. I've never seen so much outright lying, corruption and delusional thinking. Those are words many of us were reluctant to use five years ago but how else to describe what we're seeing with our own eyes?

Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby outed a CIA covert operative for a petty game of payback because they didn't like having their lies about a supposed Niger/Iraq connection exposed. That's the bottom line. Well, actually, the bottom line is worse. Even if we manage to stabilize Iraq before we leave, the war was a waste of money, time, lives and national credibility. We now know that you never put right wingers in charge of a government. Even conservatives, moderates and liberals require oversight, checks and balances and accountability if we're to get anything good out of our government. I prefer liberals and moderates since they often have been the source of real reform in our country and we're clearly in need of reform at the moment.

If we're to have reform, we're going to need more people like Rep. Henry Waxman who has always been an effective watchdog in Congress. Emptywheel of Firedoglake has a casual though excellent summary of the Waxman hearings on Valerie Plame and the irresponsible disclosure of classified information by the White House:
I was skeptical, at first, about a Friday hearing. Democrats have ended the Republican practice of 2.5 day work weeks. But Congressmen do need to be home in their districts on weekends for constituent services. Which means if you’re going to hold a 4 hour hearing on a Friday, you’re really asking your members to jump through hoops to attend the meeting. And Waxman got that commitment from enough of his members to make it an effective hearing. Whereas Davis couldn’t persuade enough Republicans to attend even to give him a chance to launch his bid at closing the hearing.

The result reminded me of the rump hearing the Democrats had on the intelligence leading to the Iraq War—for most of the hearing, Tom Davis was the only Republican present. With cameos, of course, from Congressman Westmoreland so he could leer at Valerie. In truth, the Republicans were most consistently represented by a never-named attorney, a tall guy who sat right next to Davis in Congressman Dan Burton's seat. The lawyer had a look of “oh shit” on his face for the better part of the hearing and he kept swallowing his lips when he thought. For much of the hearing, Davis and GOP Counsel were sitting there, huddled with two aides, which really added to the look of desperation. And by the end, for most of Victoria Toensing’s appearance, the only one (aside from a few aides) sitting on the Republican side was GOP Counsel. That’s what they’ve come to—sending their lawyer in their stead, to protect them from the oversight they’re supposed to be exercising.


The truly great part of the hearing was the pairing of Bill Leonard and James Knodell. Because Waxman and Hodes and the rest of the committee grilled Knodell, but they did so using the standards Leonard established. Leonard's one of those stiff law and order types, so it framed Knodell as breaking Leonard's laws, not Knodell's. It was like a game of tennis which the Administration lost, badly. Mr. Leonard, what should happen when there is an unauthorized leak of classified information? Mr. Knodell, did that happen? Mr. Leonard? Mr. Knodell?

And, as we now know, between July 24, when the CIA first voices its concerns about the leak, and September 16, when DOJ finally decided to launch a criminal investigation, the White House did not conduct the Administrative investigation that is required by law in cases of unauthorized leaks of classified information.


Which leaves us, two days later, to reflect on what the Hearing accomplished. Importantly, Waxman gave Valerie Wilson an opportunity to correct, under oath, many of the fictions the right has propagated about her in the last four years. Just as importantly, the Hearing served to remind us (as Patrick Fitzgerald did in his closing statements) that Valerie Wilson is a person, not an argument. Not only does she have kids and a husband. But she used to have an important role in protecting our country from the proliferation of nuclear weapons. She served our country, and the gratitude our country showed her was to expose her, her family, her colleagues, and the assets she recruited to a great deal of danger.

Actually, our entire nation has become endangered by right wing partisans more interested in winning bizarre 'technical' points than in the truth, the facts or responsible behavior. We can only hope the American people will continue to catch up to the complete failure and uselessness of today's right wing philosophy, even as the most partisan of Republicans continue to write fictions for Fox News or other right wing outlets. The only reason right wingers continue to write and speak their fictions is that they got away with it for the better part of fifteen years. It's time to turn the page on America's future.

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