Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Plame Game

Even highwayscribery has “sources”.

Sources are people who call up writers, famous or otherwise, and prod them in desired directions through the proffering of inside tidbits and snippets of political literature.

Tidbits and snippets of information they believe it is crucial all 12 of you be aware of.

Sources are at the heart of Dick Cheney helper I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.'s trial, which is just getting underway.

No one familiar with highwayscribery would suggest this Web log is taken-in by mainstream media reportage. They might even posit that the highway scribe is nothing if not a cop poking and prodding at the information beast’s soft underbelly.

But it must be admitted that the scribe was swayed by news that Richard Armitage - and not Dick Cheney or Karl Rove or (w.) himself - had outed CIA agent Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson’s sock to the administration’s jaw over the Niger yellow cake claim.

Why? Hey, ease up. It’s tough enough shedding light on the
Mexican presidential elections, the rebellion in Oaxaca, the anarcho-syndicalist movement, books old and new, while writing one’s own novels.

And besides, Armitage’s name seemed to recall that gentler time when (r)epublicans dined in "time-out" comity with their Democrat opposites; when permanently baring their incisors was not yet a GOP fashion must.

No less than a top-notch guy like David Broder, in an article entitled “One Leak and a Flood of Silliness,” suggested a lot of reporters and bloggers owed Karl Rove an apology.

While the scribe wasn’t about to get involved in any apology-making, he was persuaded by the column's general sentiment and moved on from the Plame Game.

After all, important as a free press is, our media can quickly fall into the role of a lynching mob that ruins lives and sorts the facts out later.

Then a source dropped something in the scribe’s hopper.

It was an
article published on something called “” and written by one Robert Parry.

Full disclosure: highwayscribery has never heard of Robert Parry and has never profited from not knowing Robert Parry.

the scribe suspects the source provided the article in response to a Jan. 17, soft-love piece in the “New York Times,” by Scot Shane entitled,
“As Trial Begins, Cheney’s Ex-Aide Is Still a Puzzle.”

Shane’s piece portrays Scooter “The Paradox” with charming anecdotes about how, when he was a young Yalie, his hair was long and he helped silkscreen some t-shirts expressing solidarity with the Black Panthers Party.

How bipartisan!

And he’s quirky, too, so well-versed in “Star Trek” that he knows the titles to all 79 episodes.

A “broad gauge” man like those detailed by C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite,” Libby has even written
a novel that was lovingly praised by the “Washington Post.”

You gotta love white-collar suspects when they are so hard to hate.

Libby, Shane continues, lunched with “a liberal, pacifist local columnist” [they found one in Colorado] last summer and together they, “had a long talk about wilderness and recited some poetry from memory.”

the scribe hopes that, if he is ever trapped in the maws of the federal justice system, free versing accrues to his benefit, too.

But even poetic trekkies can be pushed too far. C. Dean McGrath Jr., a one-time deputy of Libby’s, told the “New York Times” reporter that,
“after the shock of 9/11, ‘Scooter considered it to be part of his job to think about the dire possibilities’.”


You remember 9/11? That was the tragic day some 3,000 Americans lost their lives and the rest lost their rights. The official date when the U.S., somewhat belatedly, kicked-off its end of the WAR ON TERROR in which your shoes became suspicious, that bottle of Evian the spark for MASS MURDER ON AN UNIMAGINABLE SCALE!

Not content with grilling Scooter’s former employees, Shane also queried Republican mouthpiece Mary Matalin, who said Libby’s,
“going to be the poster boy for the criminalization of politics, and he’s not even political.”

If you saw the recent "Frontline" (The Dark Side) in which Richard Clarke describes Libby leaning on him about pre-war intelligence, you know at least one part of that statement is true.

Why Shane would seek out Matalin - given that we all know what she’ll say ahead of time - is a mystery of his own keeping and makes the Parry article all the more important, because with a pedigree like that, and the legal fund to match it, why should somebody go to jail?

Entitled, “Scooter Libby’s Time-Travel Trial,” Parry’s piece tries to undermine the conventional media wisdom going into the proceedings; namely, that Libby’s troubles are not about criminal policy-making or outing a CIA agent, rather attributable to his unfortunate role in the BIG COVER UP, which apparently only involved one person.

Here’s Parry:

“[T]he trial could be a kind of time machine for transporting America back to that earlier era of not so long ago when Bush and his team felt they controlled reality itself and were justified in tricking the American people into bloody adventures overseas.

“It was a time when President Bush swaggered across the political landscape, a modern-day king fawned over by courtiers in the government and press - and protected by legions of followers who bullied citizens who dared to dissent.

“Libby may be going on trial for five felony counts of lying and obstructing justice, but the essence of his criminal behavior was his work as a top enforcer responsible for intimidating Americans who wouldn’t stay in line behind the infallible Bush.”

The piece goes on to reconstruct a time line of the Plame Game complete with winks and nods from Vice President Dick Cheney (who’s not out of the woods yet), Karl Rove, (w.) and a series of poor-performing reporters including the “N.Y. Times’” Judith Miller, syndicated small-shot Robert Novak, “Time” scribes Joe Dickerson and Matthew Cooper, and “Hardball” blowhard Chris Matthews; all practitioners of the seamy “inside” Washington reporting that requires journalists to leave their guns at home.

the scribe is ignorant as to whether any reporter has called Rove up and apologized, but suggests that this cast of overpaid clowns offer one to the American people.

Probably wary of being branded a “looney left Bush-hater,” Parry makes good use of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s actual criminal filing against Scooter, which found that the administration had engaged in a “concerted” effort to “discredit, punish, or seek revenge” against Wilson for penning an Op-ed piece crapping on the fib in (w.)’s state of the union speech.

Finally, Parry seeks to reset the media’s focus on the criminal “essence” of the thing Libby was involved in.

To that end, he goes about debunking the notion that Armitage was someone outside the neo-con cabal pushing for war at all costs - a pillar of the old reliable GOP not associated with what everybody now considers a sub-par gang of policymakers at the White House.

“Armitage and Rove developed a friendship and a close working relationship when Bush was lining up Powell to be his Secretary of State, the source said [another “source”). In those negotiations, Armitage stood in for Powell and Rove represented Bush - and after that, the two men provided a back channel for sensitive information to pass between the White House and the State Department, the source said."

Why does everybody use the back-channels? What do they think the front channels are for?

Parry thinks this tidbit significant because it undermines the conventional wisdom that Armitage acted on his own, and innocently, in coughing up Plame’s name to Novak, the butcher in this sausage factory.

Maybe. It’s all a little cloak and dagger-ish and who knows what the hell these people are up to in Washington. Maybe we should sic the entertainment press on the D.C.-establishment and let the serious folk get a little funnin' and learnin’ our here in Hollywood.

Parry's larger point is that the court will be narrowly focused on the charges before it, that it does not concern itself with the “essence” of the overall narrative, but that writers and reporters do and that they can find that essence in the back story... if they choose to.

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