- March 7: Bush names a blue-ribbon panel to investigate the calamitous state of affairs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and, after his administration has routinely ignored the medical care of wounded and disabled veterans for his entire tenure as president, now says that shoddy health care for America's veterans will not be tolerated.
Walter Reed scandal
The panel is headed by former Republican senator Bob Dole, a decorated World War II veteran who was partially disabled during combat, and former Clinton-era Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
- "Any report of medical neglect will be taken seriously by this administration," Bush says in an initial meeting with Dole and Shalala. "I'm confident that this commission will bring forth the truth." Dole, who says the other seven members of the commission will be named within days, says laconically, "Obviously somebody dropped the ball." Shalala, currently president of the University of Miami, calls the conditions at Walter Reed an "embarrassment to the country."
- Democratic senator Dick Durbin is pushing for the addition of Iraqi veteran and 2006 House candidate Tammy Duckworth on the panel. Duckworth, who lost both legs in combat, spent 13 months at Walter Reed and has firsthand experience with the problems running rampant through that facility. The staff was overworked and rarely had time to help young soldiers who found themselves lost in the system. "We called them the missing patients," she says. "There was nobody keeping track of where they were." Duckworth says she received invaluable support and assistance from her husband, Major Bryan Bowlsbey, but that many of the soldiers at Reed didn't have that kind of familial support. "He wasn't going to put up with any bureaucracy," she says. "But it's really different for the 19-year-old who has a brain injury and six months in the Army. He doesn't understand the system." Duckworth says it is vitally important to have a wounded Iraqi veteran on the commission: "I would be honored to serve because it's about taking care of my buddies," she says. "I am exactly the kind of patient that is taxing the military medical system and will drain the VA resources. If that is the cost of the war, then the American people should be told that is the cost of the war."
- Duckworth says that while she sailed through Walter Reed's complex bureaucracy with relative ease, the Reed staff didn't have nearly as many outpatients to deal with then as it does now. "My social worker had probably 30 or 40 patients," she recalls. "He's probably taking care of hundreds now. When he was taking care of me, he was already working a 70-hour week. I can't even imagine what his workweek is like now."
- Her living conditions at Reed were nice -- "like living at a rich relative's house," she recalls -- but says she knows that many of the outpatients don't have the same access to decent living conditions that she had. She says she doesn't think that Building 18, described in recent news stories as a dilapidated wreck with mold in the walls and holes in the floors, was in use when she was at Walter Reed. She wants to know if Building 18 was opened too soon because of the constant stream of wounded soldiers arriving from Afghanistan and Iraq. She also wants to find out whether contracting out janitorial services led to the poor conditions there. She also wonders whether funding decreased for Walter Reed facilities after the military medical complex was listed for closing in 2005. Funding should have increased as the number of patients grew, she says.
- The Walter Reed bureaucracy can be maddening, she recalls. Many young wounded soldiers and their families don't understand how important the requested information is, she says, nor how to provide it properly. She and her husband tried to help others with their forms during her time at Walter Reed, but she worries about others who have no such guidance. She also saw cases where soldiers were still getting combat pay after arriving at Walter Reed. When the military discovered the accounting error, it began deducting large amounts from the soldiers' pay to make up the difference. And that left the soldiers and their families in a bind. "That's the kind of stupid stuff that was going on," she says. Funding for the VA, she says, needs to increase because of an unprecedented boom in demand as Vietnam War and Korean War vets get older and as wounded soldiers return from today's war on terror. "I don't think it's ready to handle what's coming," she says.
- Bush also says that an interagency task force of seven Cabinet secretaries, led by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, would be convened to determine what can be done immediately to improve veterans' care. Nicholson's Veterans Administration has been the focus of criticism and outcries by veterans, veterans' families, veterans organizations, and administration critics for years, but until the Walter Reed scandal was reported in February by the Washington Post, the administration has ignored the calls for correction. Nicholson defends the VA in a statement to reporters, but admits there is, as he calls it, room for improvement. "When you're seeing over 1 million patients a week, you have to be very good, and if there is any one patient who doesn't get the care that they deserve, that's unacceptable," he says. He says his agency is hiring 100 new patient advocates who will help troops returning from war deal with the bureaucracy. "The American people can feel very good about the health care system that their VA is providing to veterans," Nicholson intones, "but if there is a case where a veteran gets lost in the system, or suffers anxiety or their family does as a result of something we're not doing, that is unacceptable." (AP/USA Today, Chicago Tribune)
- March 7: House Democratic leaders are discussing whether to hold immediate hearings on the White House smear campaign against former ambassador Joe Wilson, and are considering whether to subpoena special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who just won a guilty verdict against Lewis Libby.
The target of the hearings will be to obtain details about Fitzgerald's four-year investigation into the leak case, focusing on the role Dick Cheney and other White House officials played in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. If the hearings take place, they will most likely take place with the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by John Conyers.
- An aide to senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says his committee is also committed to investigating the flawed intelligence the administration used to convince Congress and the public to back the Iraq war. The Levin aide says the senator will likely seek testimony from Libby, Cheney, and senior members of the White House who played a role in the Plame leak, and that it "makes sense" to fold the issues surrounding the CIA leak case into the hearings about pre-war intelligence since they overlap with the leak case.
- Fitzgerald has said that if new information materializes he will "take action," but for now he plans on returning to his "day job." However, he says he will be inclined to share his evidence with Congress if so asked. Democratic representative Maurice Hinchey, who has spearheaded House Democrats' efforts to expand the CIA leak probe, says the guilty verdict returned against Libby does not go far enough in settling questions surrounding Cheney's role in the case, and he intends to call for a criminal probe to pursue charges against the vice president. Hinchey says that "other administration officials, starting with Vice President Cheney, must be held accountable for their role in this case. This case doesn't end with Mr. Libby's conviction. Testimony in the Libby trial made it even clearer that Vice President Cheney played a major role in the outing of [Valerie Plame] Wilson's identity. It is time to remove the cloud hanging over Vice President Cheney and the White House that Special Counsel Fitzgerald so aptly described in his closing remarks, and expose all of the lies that led to the outing of Mrs. Wilson's identity."
- Conyers and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have already had discussions with Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, about his intention of calling for hearings into the leak case and possibly getting answers to lingering questions about Cheney's hands-on role in the leak, and the role White House political adviser Karl Rove played as well. Two years ago, Waxman called for Congressional hearings to determine if there was a White House conspiracy to unmask Plame's covert status in retaliation for the criticism Wilson leveled against the administration's Iraq policy. "I think that the Congress must hold hearings, bring Karl Rove in, put him under oath and let him explain the situation from his point of view," Waxman said in July 2005. "Let him tell us what happened. It's ridiculous that Congress should stay out of all of this and not hold hearings." At the time of Waxman's comments, it was unknown how involved Cheney was in the matter. But two weeks ago, during closing arguments, Cheney was implicated in the leak. It was the first time Fitzgerald acknowledged that Cheney was intimately involved in the scandal, and that his investigation into the true nature of the vice president's involvement was impeded because Libby obstructed justice. Most interestingly, Libby's defense team attempted, with some success, to paint Libby as a scapegoat for Cheney and other White House officials. Libby's attorney, Theodore Wells, told jurors during closing arguments that Fitzgerald and his deputy have been attempting to build a case of conspiracy against the vice president and Libby, and that the prosecution believes Libby may have lied to federal investigators and a grand jury to protect Cheney.
- Responding to Wells's accusations that "the government, through its questions, really tried to put a cloud over Vice President Cheney," Fitzgerald told jurors, "You know what? [Wells] said something here that we're trying to put a cloud on the vice president. We'll talk straight. There is a cloud over the vice president. He sent Libby off to [meet with former New York Times reporter] Judith Miller at the St. Regis Hotel. At that meeting -- the two hour meeting -- the defendant talked about the wife [Plame]. We didn't put that cloud there. That cloud remains because the defendant obstructed justice and lied about what happened. If you think that the vice president and the defendant 'Scooter' Libby weren't talking about [Plame] during the week where the vice president writes that [Plame] sent [Wilson] on a junket -- in [Wilson's] July 6 column, the vice president moves the number one talking point, 'not clear who authorized [Wilson's Niger trip] -- if you think that's a coincidence, well, that makes no sense."
- Democratic senator Charles Schumer, who led the push for the appointment of a special prosecutor in 2003 to investigate the leak, says the Libby trial demonstrated to him that Libby was indeed the "fall guy" and was covering up for other officials who "remain unpunished." "That is the real tragedy of this," Schumer says. (Truthout)
- March 7: A White House official says there is a "strong expectation" that Bush will pardon Lewis Libby, the former aide to Dick Cheney recently convicted of obstruction of justice, perjury, and lying to the FBI.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
Libby faces up to two years in prison. But, says the White House official, that it is highly unlikely Libby will go to prison. "There's a lot of anger about the way Libby has been treated," he says. "pThere's a strong expectation that if it comes to it, then the president will pardon him." According to the official, Bush believes that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pursued a "political vendetta" against the White House and that no one had committed any crime. "I don't think anything will happen yet, though," the official says. "There's an appeal to come and perhaps Libby will get off then." Libby is due to be sentenced in June but his defense team has said it will press for a retrial and, if that is denied, will appeal against his conviction. It could be close to the end of Bush's second term in January 2009 before a jail sentence would begin. Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan says, "The president has absolute authority, and we've seen in the final days of a presidency all bets are off. But I'd be surprised if he did anything before the legal process has run its course, and there's been a request through formal channels." McClellan's successor, Tony Snow, refuses to discuss the matter. "All of this conversation, speculation about a pardon, I know, makes for interesting speculation, but it's just that," he says. Snow says that Bush is "careful" about giving out pardons. "These are not things to be treated blithely. He wants to make sure that anybody who receives one, that it's warranted, but I would caution against any speculation in this case."
- Former White House speechwriter David Frum says he, too, believes Bush will pardon Libby: "Everyone assumes that he will. My guess is that it will not be very politically explosive because everyone feels Libby is the wrong person." Frum may be referring to Dick Cheney or Karl Rove, whom many on the jury felt pushed Libby out to be their "fall guy," or, as Libby supporters insist, Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson before Libby began spreading it around Washington. Frum says there is "a "farcical quality" to the trial because people were being told that Plame's status was the "secret of the century" while the official responsible escaped unpunished.
- But Libby may have to wait a while for his pardon -- not because of his guilt or innocence, but because he made the White House look bad. "What you saw was a vice president's office that was out of control," says a former White House staffer. According to trial testimony, Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer both disclosed the identity of Wilson's wife to reporters. But the way the White House sees it, Rove and Fleischer "went up to the line," the staffer says, "but they didn't cross it. The vice president's office crossed it." (Daily Telegraph, MSNBC)
- March 7: While Bush has the authority to pardon convicted felon Lewis Libby, he will have to flaunt Justice Department guidelines to do so.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
Until now, Bush has been quite stringent in insisting that any pardons he grants are to be compliant under DOJ guidelines. Bush, who has only granted 113 presidential pardons in six years -- mostly for white-collar crime and drug cases dating back decades -- has issued "fewer than any president in 100 years," according to Margaret Love, former pardon attorney at the Justice Department. "We were basically told [by then White House counsel and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales] that there weren't going to be pardons -- or if there were, there would be very few," recalls one former White House lawyer. Bush has always insisted that any pardons he handed out would go by the book, based on publicly available DOJ guidelines.
- If Bush follows those guidelines, then Libby is flatly unqualified. The guidelines "require a petitioner to wait a period of at least five years after conviction or release from confinement (whichever is later) before filing a pardon application." Moreover, in weighing whether to recommend a pardon, US attorneys are supposed to consider whether an applicant is remorseful. "The extent to which a petitioner has accepted responsibility for his or her criminal conduct and made restitution to...victims are important considerations. A petitioner should be genuinely desirous of forgiveness rather than vindication." Under either standard, Libby does not qualify.
- And while the Constitution certainly allows Bush to disregard these guidelines with impunity, Bush has publicly reaffirmed his determination to stick to the Justice pardon guidelines as recently as last month. In a February 1 interview with Fox News anchor Neal Cavuto, Cavuto asked Bush if he would pardon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, two former US Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug dealer who was fleeing across the border into Mexico. Their case has become a cause celebre for many conservatives and anti-immigrant activists who believe it symbolizes the federal government's lack of aggressive enforcement of border controls. Fueled by CNN immigration critic Lou Dobbs and Republican House member and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, supporters of the two former agents have been flooding the White House with e-mails and phone calls seeking pardons for Ramos and Compean. Bush told Cavuto time and again that he would rely on the Justice Department's procedures to help make his decision. "I'm saying...there is a process in any case for a president to make a pardon decision," he told Cavuto. "In other words, there is a series of steps that are followed, so that the pardon process is, you know, a rational process"
- Perhaps the most telling indication of Bush's state of mind regarding any possible pardon for Libby is the comment by a well-known Republican lobbyist and White House ally, who has been steering reporters away from the pardon idea this week. "The guidance I get is Libby doesn't qualify under the guidelines," the lobbyist told a reporter in a TV "green room" this week. The lobbyist wouldn't say who provided the information. Whether this will remain the case, particularly with an administration so well-known for flaunting the law and with the powerful Dick Cheney agitating for the pardon of his friend and former chief of staff, has yet to be seen. (MSNBC)
- March 7: Dick Cheney's credibility and integrity are at stake in the aftermath of the Libby verdict.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
Most observers, including the majority of Americans familiar with the case, seem to be in agreement with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who said during the summation, "There is a cloud over the vice president." Cheney has suffered political damage, say both critics and even some supporters, though how much cannot yet be assessed. "The trial has been death by 1,000 cuts for Cheney," says Republican strategist Scott Reed. "It's hurt him inside the administration. It's hurt him with the Congress, and it's hurt his stature around the world because it has shown a lot of the inner workings of the White House. It peeled the bark right off the way they operate."
- While the question of Libby's guilt has been settled (pending an appeal), the question of what Cheney did as part of the White House smear campaign against Joseph Wilson remains unsettled. Many believe that Cheney bears the ultimate responsibility for Libby's fate. "It was clear that what Scooter was doing in the Wilson case was at Dick's behest," says Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan administration official who has been close with both men but has broken with Cheney over the Iraq war. "That was clear. It was clear from Dick's notes on the op-ed piece that he wanted to go get Wilson. And Scooter's not that type. He's not a vindictive person." The New York Times observes, "The trial painted a portrait of a man immersed in the kind of political pushback that is common to all White Houses, yet often presumed to be the province of low-level political operatives, not the vice president of the United States." Democratic senator Charles Schumer says, "I think there is a view in the public that Libby was the fall guy, and I do think we will look at how the case shows the misuse of intelligence both before and after the war in Iraq."
- Historian Robert Dallek says of the effects of the Libby trial on Cheney, "It will deepen the impressions of someone who was a tremendous manipulator and was very defensive about mistakes, and I think it will greatly deepen the impression of a political operator who knew the ins and outs of Washington hardball politics. He's going to be, I think, the most interesting vice president in history to study."
- While friends of Cheney say he is deeply troubled by the verdict against Libby, who is his close friend as well as former White House colleague, in public Cheney, always the most secretive of politicians, has said virtually nothing except to express his disappointment in the guilty verdict. Former Republican congressman and close Cheney friend Vin Weber says Cheney needs to explain himself. "I don't think he has to do a long apologia," Weber says, "but I think he should say something, just to pierce the boil a little bit." But Republican senator Lindsey Graham says he went hunting with Cheney late last year and did not sense that the trial was bothering him. "He's got a thick hide," says Graham, "and he needs it." (New York Times)
- March 7: Although Republican senator Pete Domenici says he did nothing wrong in contacting fired US attorney David Iglesias (see above items) before the November 2006 elections, now that Domenici is facing a Senate ethics investigation, he has hired a lawyer.
US Attorney firings
And what a choice he has made: Lee Blalack, best known as the lawyer who represented convicted Republican lawmaker Randy Cunningham. Blalack unsuccessfully defended Cunningham in the prosecution headed by another ousted US attorney, Carol Lam.
- Domenici and other New Mexico Republicans could find their political careers short-circuited by their involvement in the attorney firings. Domenici, widely considered the "godfather" of New Mexico's GOP, had planned on running for a 7th term in the Senate, but the controversy sparked by his and his crony, Representative Heather Wilson's, attempts to influence Iglesias's decision to indict former New Mexico Senate President Manny Aragon before the 2006 elections may wreck both Wilson's and Domenici's careers.
- Domenici, until now, has rarely worried about his electability, but Wilson faced the toughest election challenge of her career in 2006, finally defeating Democrat Patricia Madrid by a hair's breadth. Domenici and Wilson both called Iglesias to pressure him about the indictments after polls were released showing Wilson trailing in the race.
- New Mexico is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with a popular Democratic governor -- Bill Richardson, a longshot presidential candidate -- a Republican and a Democratic senator, and a House delegation with two Republicans and one Democrat. New Mexico was a swing state in the past two presidential elections, giving Bush a 1 percentage-point margin in 2004 and Democrat Al Gore a razor-thin edge in 2000. Now the attorney scandal has the potential to tip the balance in New Mexico.
- Domenici is still a strong candidate for the Senate in 2008, even at age 76. He has held the seat since 1972, and has a smoothly efficient fundraising machine. Given these stats, "it would take something a lot more dramatic than this to threaten [Domenici's] viability," says Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff. But Wilson is far more politically vulnerable. She is considered Domenici's heir apparent, but she has fought through several close races in her Albuquerque home district. And she will possibly face an even more powerful challenger in 2008, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. If Domenici retires rather than face a 2008 challenge, Chavez will probably run for his seat. If not, he will take on Wilson. He recently said, "Heather Wilson will no longer be elected in New Mexico" and called her actions "reprehensible." (TPM Muckraker, Congressional Quarterly)
- March 7: Fired US attorney John McKay was thwarted in his 2006 bid to become a federal judge, in part because national and Washington state Republicans complained about his refusal to pursue baseless voting fraud charges against Democrats after the 2004 gubernatorial elections, which saw Democrat Christine Gregoire win the seat by a razor-thin margin.
US Attorney firings
McKay told a Senate committee yesterday that he was grilled by then-White House counsel Harriet Miers and her deputy, William Kelley, and asked to explain "criticism that I mishandled the 2004 governor's election." McKay says the charge may have been led by Republican congressman Doc Hastings, saying that reporters "should ask Congressman Hastings if he contacted the White House in connection with my application to be district judge or contacted the justice department." Hastings denies that he or anyone on his staff "ever contacted anyone at the White House or the Department of Justice about whether John McKay should be removed as US attorney or whether he was qualified to be a federal judge." Hastings's then-chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, did call McKay to inquire about the investigation, though Cassidy says the call "was a routine effort to determine whether allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 gubernatorial election were, or were not, being investigated by federal authorities."
- But Washington state Republicans did pressure the White House to get rid of McKay, a moderate Republican. One, Tom McCabe of the Building Industry Association of Washington, wrote to Hastings demanding that Hastings "please ask the White House to replace Mr. McKay." Cc'ed on the letter -- which calls McKay a Democrat, even though he is a Republican -- were John Fund of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, former US attorney and current federal judge Greg Van Tatenhove, and Bob Williams of the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation, who went so far as to file a formal complaint with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2005 about McKay's handling of the voter fraud allegations. McCabe also "urged the President to fire McKay." McCabe's letter to Hastings urging McKay's firing can be viewed here. (Seattle Times, TPM Muckraker)
- March 7: Investigative journalist Greg Palast reveals evidence that Tim Griffin, the new US attorney in Arkansas who replaced the fired Bud Cummins, may be a criminal.
US Attorney firings
A report by Palast for BBC Television proves that Griffin was the prime mover behind a 2004 scheme that wiped out the voting rights of 70,000 Florida voters. Griffin's prime targets were, according to Palast's documents (available on his Web site, at the link below), black soldiers, and homeless men and women. Palast notes that "Targeting voters where race is a factor is a felony crime under the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
- Palast has revealed this evidence against Griffin before. In October 2004, Palast's investigative team at the BBC received what he calls "a series of astonishing emails from Mr. Griffin, then Research Director for the Republican National Committee. He didn't mean to send them to us. They were highly confidential memos meant only for RNC honchos." Griffin's mistake was sending the incriminating e-mails to the wrong domain -- "GeorgeWBush.org," which is a satirical Web site owned by John Wooden. Wooden forwarded the e-mails to Palast.
- The e-mails contained hard evidence of Griffin and his team's compilation of "caging" lists, spreadsheets with 70,000 names of voters marked for challenge. The targeted voters were almost all black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts.
- From the Griffin documents, Palast learned that the Republican National Committee -- who then employed Griffin -- sent first-class letters to new voters in minority precincts marked, "Do not forward." Several sheets contained nothing but soldiers, other sheets, homeless shelters. Targets included the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida and that city's State Street Rescue Mission. Another target was Edward Waters College, a school for African-Americans. If these voters were not currently at their home voting address, they were tagged as "suspect" and their registration wiped out or their ballot challenged and not counted. Palast observes, "Of course, these 'cages' captured thousands of students, the homeless and those in the military though they are legitimate voters." One listed voter Palast contacted was Randall Prausa, whose wife admitted Prausa wasn't living at home at the time of the election. Prausa was serving in Iraq. Like the other
We telephoned those on the hit list, Prausa's absentee ballot was marked to be challenged and not counted. And Prausa, like the others, wouldn't even know about it.
- The RNC attempted to lie about the caging lists, telling Palast that the sheets were not, in fact, illegal voter hit lists, but a roster of donors to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. Palast asks rhetorically, "Republican donors at homeless shelters?" Palast hopes that Democratic House Judiciary chairman John Conyers brings up Griffin's apparent criminal behavior at future hearings. (Greg Palast)
- March 7: Former Democratic senator and presidential nominee George McGovern says flatly that in light of the Libby verdict, Dick Cheney should resign.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
The trial revealed Cheney's deep involvement with the White House smear campaign against Joseph Wilson in retaliation for Wilson's outspoken anti-war statements. "What we have learned about how [Cheney] has conducted himself leaves no doubt that he should be out of office," he says. "If he had any respect for the Constitution or the country, he would resign."
- Of course, everyone knows that Cheney will not resign. In that case, McGovern says that both he and George Bush should be impeached. "There is no question in my mind that Cheney has committed impeachable offenses. So has George Bush," he says. "Bush is much more impeachable than Richard Nixon was. That's been clear for some time. There does not seem to be much sentiment for impeachment in Congress now, but around the country people are fed up with this administration."
- "I think this is the most lawless administration we've ever had," he says of the Bush-Cheney team. McGovern, who lost badly to Richard Nixon in 1972 even as the Watergate scandal was brewing, says there is no comparison between the two administrations. "I'd far rather have Nixon in the White House than these two fellows that we've got now," he says. "Nixon did some horrible things, which led to the effort to impeach him. But he simply was not as bad as Bush. On just about every level I can think of, Bush's actions are more impeachable than were those of Nixon." McGovern is particularly incensed about the Iraq war, which he opposed from the start. "The war was begun in clear violation of the Constitution," he says. "There was no declaration of war by the Congress. Secondly, it's a flagrant violation of international law: Iraq was not threatening the United States in any way. Yet, the United States went after Iraq. The president and vice president got away with it, at least initially, because they were willing to exploit the emotional power of the 9/11 attack to achieve their goal of getting us into a war in the Middle East." McGovern calls Congress "lily-livered" for failing to check and balance Bush and Cheney on the war. "I feel an obligation to speak up when I see these flagrant things happen," he says. "I can't be silent when President Bush and Vice President Cheney choose to disregard the Constitution. Maybe if there were other people in the White House, I could slow down a little. But I can't do that as long as this administration is in charge."
- McGovern isn't endorsing a Democratic presidential contender as yet, but he says, "Right now, Barack Obama looks awfully good." Then again, "I've gotten to the point where I think just about anyone would be better than Bush."
- Of McGovern, the Madison Capital Times writes, "At age 84, McGovern has attained the elder statesman status that is afforded politicians who held or sought the presidency. He enjoys the respect of fellow Democrats and more than a few Republicans for being, like former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, a straight-talking man of deep commitment who may have lost one presidential election but won the battle for a place of honor in the nation's history texts." Among his many projects is a partnership with former Republican senator and presidential nominee Bob Dole to combat alcoholism. (Madison Capital Times)
- March 7: The editors of the liberal news site Buzzflash believe that, if Lewis Libby doesn't manage to have his guilty verdict overturned or win an appeal, Bush will inevitably grant Libby a broad pardon -- because not to do so will likely result in impeachment and even jail time for both Bush and Dick Cheney.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
The White House has refused to speculate on any possible pardon, and, according to Buzzflash, it is too early for such a pardon. Instead, the editors write, "What the White House is going to do is wait and hope that the DC Court of Appeals, on which the infamous partisan Federal Judge David Sentelle sits, will save them from the issue of a pardon by overturning Libby's conviction on some technicality. Sentelle has an interesting history in this area. He was one of the judges who overturned the Iran-Contra felony convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter on a technicality." Sentelle is a right-wing extremist who believes that liberals are engaged in a traitorous conspiracy to destroy America. He is also the judge responsible for appointing Kenneth Starr as the special prosecutor to investigate Bill Clinton's sex life, at the behest of two equally extremist Republican senators, Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth. Buzzflash writes, "Sentelle is a partisan GOP judicial operative, who is there to save Republicans from legal jams that they get into. He also does the ideological bidding of the White House. In the last two weeks, he has been part of a 2-1 majority on the DC Court of Appeals ruling on the side of the White House to suspend habeas corpus."
- But ultimately, if the courts do not reverse the Libby conviction, "Bush will pardon Libby if he needs to, because Bush is already implicated in the Valerie Wilson outing -- as we know from the Libby trial. If Libby were to 'flip' and spill the beans to Fitzgerald, Bush and Cheney would be forced to resign or face impeachment. But Bush is going to wait it out and hope that the back bench of activist partisan right wing judges appointed during the Reagan, Bush and Bush administrations will save him the politically costly act of pardoning Libby. If for some unexpected reason, Judge Sentelle doesn't get the job done -- or [Antonin] Scalia fails if the Libby appeal reaches the Supreme Court -- then Scooter knows Bush will do the deed and grant him the ultimate Bush get-out-of-jail card: a pardon. Because if Libby talks, Bush and Cheney will likely face some hardcore jail time themselves." (Buzzflash)
- March 7: Mainstream blogger Mark Kleinman offers a short reality check on the hysteria from the right that centers on their claim that Lewis Libby committed no crime in leaking Valerie Plame's name.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
Kleinman writes, "When a prosecutor doesn't indict, that might mean no crime was committed. But it also might mean:
"Based on Fitzgerald's 'umpire' analogy at his post-indictment press conference, my betting is on (A). Cheney is probably guilty of heading a conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act, but most of the evidence to prove it would be Libby's testimony, and Libby's multiple lies to the grand jury made it impossible to convict anyone based on Libby's word. If this is right, don't expect to hear it from Fitzgerald. Prosecutors indict; they don't tattle." (Reality-Based Community)
- A. That a crime was committed, but there isn't enough admissible evidence to prove it beyond reasonable doubt.
- B. That a provable crime was committed, but by somone who is immune from prosecution by reason of office (the President probably can't be indicted in federal court) or because of immunity given in return for testimony.
- C. That a provable crime was committed by someone who can be indicted, but that it would be unjust or imprudent to bring a prosecution.