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Plame lights flame for whom to blame

by Ogi Overman

Finally! At long last, someone in the mainstream press has connected the dots. Oh, almost all of them are still reluctant to come right out and say it, but to a man and woman you can bet the ranch they’re all thinking it. As the noose tightens, the whispers around the halls of power are becoming deafening. Today (Thursday, Oct. 20), it’s still business as usual ‘— incidentally, the News & Record didn’t mention it this morning ‘— but by the time this fine publication hits the streets next Wednesday, what has been obvious to me for over two years will have finally been verified.

History will record that credit for breaking the story that marked the beginning of the end of the Bush Administration belongs to Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News. In Wednesday’s (Oct. 19) edition, DeFrank reported that President Bush was furious with his brain, Karl Rove, for the way he handled the Valerie Plame affair over two years ago. His ire was not over the fact that Rove or someone in the administration had blown the cover of a CIA agent (Plame) but that they ‘“handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way.’” In other words, he was not upset that his chief aide had committed treason but that their attempts to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, could ultimately be traced directly to the White House.

Well, ultimately will likely come Wednesday, Oct. 26, for that is the date most pundits think special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald will announce the findings of his two-year investigation into the leak of Plame’s identity to right-wing columnist Robert Novak. Although the Fox Network is still in lockstep denial, calling this the ‘“criminalization of politics,’” virtually every responsible journalist in the country expects Fitzgerald and the grand jury to hand down indictments. The only question is: who is going to fry?

The Duh’s damage-control team has been doing its best to contain the scandal at the lowest level possible. Until the past couple of weeks it appeared that it would be Cheney’s Chief of Staff, ‘Scooter’ Libby, who would take the bullet for the President. Then the speculation began centering on Rove, which would be a crippling blow to the suddenly brainless Bush. Next, it became apparent that if Libby and Rove were in on the fix, how could Cheney not be involved? And now, mercifully for the good ol’ US of A, it has been revealed (if not yet proven) that Bush has been involved in both the crime and the cover-up since day one. No longer are folks tip-toeing around the pink elephant in the middle of the living room floor, pretending that it doesn’t exist. Finally we can state the obvious: It went all the way to the top.

We can also state what has been pent up lo these long, dark, nightmarish years since the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to The Duh: Hallelujah!

In the past couple of days I’ve been hearing those famous phrases that became a part of the lexicon during the glorious Watergate era. One talking head mentioned ‘“third-rate’” but substituted another word for ‘“burglary.’” And, yes, another commentator floated the magic phrase out there, the one that still brings chill bumps: ‘“What did the President know and when did he know it?’”

Hallelujah.

Of course, all this is pure speculation at this point. Fitzgerald could declare that nothing Rove or Libby did rose to the level of a crime, give them a slap on the wrist, close up shop and go home. But unless I’ve misread every signal, heads are gonna roll. And if we learned anything from Watergate, it’s when one of them flips, the rest of them will start jumping ship like rats off the Titanic. Forget loyalty, it’s every Republican for himself. To use another Watergate analogy, no one is this administration will be left ‘“twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.’”

Yet, there is one critical difference between Valerie-gate and Watergate. Back then, the cover-up was worse than the crime. Not so now. Outing a CIA agent is considered treason ‘— and punishable by death. This is why Fitzgerald has been so meticulous and taken so long with his probe. It’s also why Rove has been so, er, distracted lately, which explains why Bush has seemed so out of it. Without his brain to tell him which party line to stick to, which script to follow, which talking point to argue, he’s been forced to try to speak extemporaneously. And we know from the two debates with Kerry (the ones after the photograph of the transmitter in his coat forced him to remove it and actually think) what a disaster that can be.

Granted, we’re still a long way from resignation or impeachment, but if he’s preoccupied with this scandal, at least he can’t screw up anything else.

Can he?

Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly and heard each Tuesday from 9:30 ‘– 10 a.m. on WGOS 1070 AM.

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