What Fred Barnes wrote a week or so ago — that Washington is more of a quagmire than Iraq — is correct in all but one detail: spelling. For the past two weeks, conservatives have been stuck in the quagmiers of the oddest Supreme Court nomination since Abe Fortas and unable to deal with anything else. Miers may or may not get as far as her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and — if confirmed — she will go down as either President Bush’s smartest move or his dumbest. There is absolutely no way to know which until she has been on the bench for months or years. Can we, please, set the Miers mire aside for a few minutes and regain our perspective? There’s a lot of other SGO that can’t be ignored ranging from the New York Times to pestilential Canadian PM Paul Martin.
The unrestrained glee among the Sunday morning liberal talking heads at the Miers-driven internecine war among conservatives was equaled only by their celebration of the possible (and possibly imminent) indictments of White House staffers in the Plame leak investigation. Those political currents swept away the topic of the Iraqi constitutional referendum, which seems to have been an unqualified success. At this writing — Sunday afternoon — we don’t know the result. Regardless of whether the constitution was ratified, about 60 percent of Iraq’s eligible voters — roughly 9 million people — braved the insurgents’ threats and voted. Even in the Sunni provinces, the turnout was reportedly that high or higher. No matter how the vote turns out, this is an overwhelming victory over the terrorists, whose murder campaign failed to keep the Sunnis out of the political process. This vote doesn’t preclude failure of democracy in Iraq, but it makes it much less likely. The Sunnis — and the other Iraqi ethnic groups — will long remember this vote as a milestone on their path to freedom and self-government. Their memory is bound to last longer than that of Judith Miller.
The NYT‘s star reporter, who once characterized herself as “Miss Run Amok,” did 85 days in the can to protect the identity of a White House official (Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby) despite being told formally that she needn’t do so. Miller learned from Libby that the wife of Joe Wilson worked at the CIA, but not Plame’s name or the fact that she once had covert status. Miller now claims that she doesn’t recall who told her Valerie Plame’s name.
The account of the Miller-Libby connection published in the Times yesterday is interesting, but more for what it says about the Times than what it says about the Miller-Libby conversations. Having reported what her sources were saying about Saddam’s WMD before the 2003 Iraq war, Miller became an embarrassment to the Times when the WMD weren’t found. She is now known as, a “divisive figure” in the Times newsroom (“A few colleagues refused to work with her”). Apparently the Times only tolerated her deviation from the Times‘ anti-Bush anti-war ideology until it was safe to chuck her over the side.
Miller claims she chose jail rather than divulge Libby’s name and that of other sources the special prosecutor was demanding to know on that and other stories. What other sources? What other stories was the prosecutor interested in? We’ll never know even if Rove or Libby is indicted and Miller has to testify in open court because she’d clearly return to jail and thus add another chapter to her memoirs. Miller has, for now, restored herself — in the eyes of her colleagues — to the proper NYT ideology. Having served time to protect her sources and to preserve the Times‘ vainglorious identity, she can return to the Times, credentials restored. Seeing Miller’s example, will the Clintons want former FBI director Louis Freeh to serve time unless he divulges his sources?
Freeh’s new book, My FBI, makes a number of serious charges against the Clintons, and naturally the Team Clinton attack machine is in full cry. Freeh’s most damaging — and most difficult — charge is that when Freeh pressed Clinton to pressure the Saudis into enabling the FBI to participate in the investigation of the 1996 Khobar Tower bombing, Clinton — in a September 24, 1998 meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah — instead pressed the Saudis for a donation to his presidential library. Freeh says that only after former President George H.W. Bush intervened personally two days later did the Saudis begin to cooperate.
In the Sunday WaPo, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta blasted Freeh, saying his account of Clinton’s conduct is flatly untrue, and Clinton himself has accused Freeh of making the whole thing up. Freeh admits he wasn’t party to the Clinton conversation with Abdullah, but stands by his source and — on Meet the Press — agreed to debate Clinton national security adviser Sandy Bergler on the truth of the allegation. So who’s right?
We’ll never know unless Freeh’s source comes forward or unless Freeh’s allegation is investigated and Freeh is required to divulge the name under oath. (An investigation is highly unlikely because Clinton’s action, uncharacteristically, was probably not a crime.) Freeh has things to answer for, because the FBI’s performance on his watch was something less than stellar. But his credibility — the apparent truthfulness of the man himself — towers above that of Clinton, Bergler, and Podesta. And Paul Martin’s.
Canada’s Paul Martin is Chirac-lite. Now, the Northern Nuisance threatens to divert Canadian oil from the United States to China if we don’t relieve Canadian softwood imports of the tariff we’ve placed on them. Martin has forgotten the lesson Chirac was taught, so we must repeat it. Paul, baby, if you take action against us, we have the right — nay, the obligation — to respond in kind. Sell the oil to China, and we’ll cut off your maple syrup. All those Canadians eating unsweetened porridge will bring your comic opera political career to a very quick end. Even if we don’t act, they should. The sooner the better.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
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