Astute observers of the character of Nixon had no trouble seeing his fingerprints all over the Watergate break-in of the DNC headquarters. (And I apologize for making so many posts with references back to that period, but I am convinced that having experienced the unfolding of Watergate makes it much easier to read the current tea leaves.) We didnít have detailed information on all the dirty tricks that CREEP was engaged in but could sense that some ugly electoral politics was going on. We knew that the criminality of the Nixon Administration went far beyond electoral politics, but again except for the coup in Chile didnít the specifics and most of which remains undisclosed to this day. However, we werenít optimistic that any of it would be tied to Nixon.
As the trial of the Watergate burglars got underway, we began to hope that Mitchell could be taken down. When it looked as if he would, we began to smell more dead meat at his level. (Agnew fell in the midst of this but for unrelated reasons -- Vice-Presidents in those days werenít integral to administrations. They were expected to keep the base happy by giving speeches and carrying their home state on election day.) When Dean testified and Butterfield disclosed the existence of the Oval Office tapes, we knew that Nixonís days were numbered. But that took a few months as Nixon first tried to satisfy the wolves with the resignations of his senior advisors. That administration didnít implode but melted, forming part of the ďdrip, drip, dripĒ syndrome of Watergate. (My biggest disappointment was that we didnít get Kissinger, one of the large cancerous masses that was allowed to remain and metastasize in the NSC - Kissinger and every NSC Director are within two degrees of separation.)
The fingerprints of Bush, Cheney and Rove have been all over the outing of Plame. While on one level these guys are easy to read, on another itís not such a simple task. For example, does Bush only look, act and sound like a dummy but is actually bright? (Thatís not one that perplexes me but I can understand why itís not easy for others.) Is this administration generally competent or incompetent? Disciplined or run by the seat of their pants? Big or small picture thinkers? The only thing not in doubt is that they are vicious and ruthless when challenged and go after their perceived enemies with a vengeance.
That last point is why it has been so easy to articulate the outing of Plame as payback for Wilson disclosing that he didnít find evidence of Saddam seeking yellowcake in Niger. (And everybody keeps forgetting that Saddam already possessed stockpiles of yellowcake that posed no risk because he had no processing capacity.) Yet, from the beginning Iíve had a sense that going after Plame was about more than just getting back at Wilson. And the objective related to the CIA. Of course that assumes a degree of competence in this WH that many donít think exists.
Bush and Cheney are grossly incompetent. Bush was a glad hander who had no clue how to run a business. Without connections to get lucrative government contracts, Cheney would have bankrupted Halliburton with management worse than Ken Layís. The only thing these two have going for them is a deviousness that looks as if they are clever and bold until the results of their decisions become clear. They also have some smart people on staff taking care of things for them. Rove is competent at electoral politics, but only more successful than others because he too is devious and nothing is beyond the bounds of fair play for him. What they present as their ďbig pictureĒ ideas, didnít generate with them and most have been part of the GOP agenda for decades. Taking out Iraq was the only newer idea but that was borrowed from the PNAC.
Overall, if this is merely a question of competence, they were only after Wilson. And maybe a generalized warning to all CIA employees. But I donít think we should reject that they werenít also after Brewster Jennings. This was, after all, set up during Clintonís tenure, and we know that they hate all things Clinton. Maybe they didnít even recognize that they were getting Brewster Jennings when they outed Plame. But they did know it when they had Novak nailing the coffin with his subsequent column. We know that this administration destroyed this entire covert intelligence network. One that it appears was working on WMD proliferation. Was this accidental or by design? If the latter, was it more cover-up for the WMD lies they told to get their war on? Or to subvert CIA counter-terrorism activities and increase the chances that the OBL terrorist threat would not run dry? Or was it a strike against an operation that could discover some uncomfortable facts about 9/11?*
Getting this gang of thugs out of the WH should be more difficult than it was to take down Nixon. The GOP now controls Congress and the MSM (the network news programs are covering Rove but are going out of there way to minimize the seriousness of the leak and Roveís complicity in it). WAPO circa 1973 doesnít exist nor does a new ďDeep Throat.Ē Bush isnít running anything and therefore, his handlers are confident that they have insulated him from any potential fall-out. But unlike Reagan who was too gaga to notice or be interested in anything going on around him, Bush is like an adolescent boy. He would have pressured them to let him in on the secrets, and itís unlikely that he didnít get more than they wanted to or was safe to give him. They are cocky because they think they have eliminated all the elements it took to bring Nixon down. They have managed to avoid the ďdrip, drip, drip syndrome.Ē But maybe they over learned that lesson, and forgot how quickly Watergate spun out of control in its last stages. Only a few days ago did I begin to smell that Rove and one of his collaborators were dead meat. Now the stench is getting stronger. At the risk of succumbing to irrational great expectations, Fitzgeraldís net is wider than two individuals. Wide enough that with all the fallout, we could see Hastert sitting at the desk in the Oval Office (something that he has been fantasizing about since 9/11/01).
(* Note: I donít think that 9/11 was a covert operation of the US government. If for no other reason than that Bush/Cheney had not been in office long enough at that point to have corrupted the CIA and Pentagon thoroughly enough to pull this off. Iím not even convinced that these bozos are smart enough to have cooked up such a ďhigh concept, low techĒ plan. That conspiracy theory is more ridiculous than the official one that a weird guy running a cheesy military training camp in the middle of Afghanistan pulled this off. There is also enough evidence to reject that it was an Israeli secret service operation.)