Thursday, April 06, 2006

Scandal vs. Scandal

Two frantic and concise text messages raced to my phone about noon a few days back as I was rolling the final patches of primed wall with a wonderfully warm shade of paint known as Rainier white. At times like these, when I'm covered with construction materials of any sort, it's not unlike me to completely ignore the goings-on of my little Samsung. This time I was compelled, if not by curiosity then by the possibility of breaking the listless drudgery of the task at hand, to check my phone. Both texts said the same thing:

Lewis Libby testifies that Bush authorized leak of the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Although this turned out to be severely untrue - Libby's claim is that Bush approved the leak of sensitive information about Iraq - it still qualifies as a bona fide scandal. After all, the disclosure of classified information for political means should not come as a surprise, but the fact that it has been revealed under oath by a former White House staffer should. This also points to the idea that Libby was the clandestine mouth of the White House and defamed New York Times reporter Judith Miller was the inside ear of the media. The Iraq information and Valerie Plame leaks occurred under nearly identical circumstances and were just months apart.

If a connection is made between Bush and the Valerie Plame leak, this will call for some serious takedowns in the White House, but it is bordering on dangerous speculation at this point.

Just days before, the engine of the Republican juggernaut that successfully hijacked Congress over the past 10 years, Tom DeLay, put in his two weeks. He cited as his official reason the looming possibility of losing the election later this year to a Democrat rival. Notwithstanding future information, the chances of that happening are as low More likely was his fear that two of his former top aides, Michael Scanlon and Tony Rudy who recently pleaded guilty to various charges in the Jack Abramoff scandal, are in the midst of a plea bargain and intend to implicate DeLay.

After all, DeLay and Abramoff were more than just friends. DeLay's K Street Project, an organized effort by the Republican Party aimed at forcing lobbying firms to hire only Republicans to their top positions, was masterminded in 1995. This was the same year that Abramoff began to represent Indian gaming interests and with DeLay's help defeated a bill intended to levy taxes on Indian casinos. Later in his career DeLay took a trip to Scotland charged to Abramoff's American Express card, which recently served as one of the major catalysts for his political downfall. The connections between DeLay and Abramoff over a 10-year period are not only too numerous to list, but also widely known and unfortunately for DeLay, well documented.

Abramoff recently pled guilty to a handful of felony chages - conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. On March 29, Abramoff was sentenced to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay a restitution of over $21 million. He is still awaiting sentencing for another charge and is still cooperating with federal prosecutors.

It has become a distracting case of Scandal vs. Scandal. With so many outlets for public outrage, chances are the people simply can't keep track of the dubious practices of their elected officials. Techniques of distraction have always been a mainstay of any political entity, but nurturing an overload of scandals to draw the public's attention away from the impeachable act of green-lighting an outright illegal NSA domestic spying program? That's why Karl Rove is really the head of the Republican Party.

The cards have not all been revealed, however. Libby is still speaking to prosecutors and may have further information that could implicate Cheney or Bush, and Abramoff has yet to speak about the scores of Congressional legislators he had personal and financial relationships with. And in light of the fact he's still awaiting another sentencing and being investigated for a murder, chances are whatever he knows will become public sooner or later.

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