Monday, January 09, 2006

Man of the Year: Patrick Fitzgerald

January 09
Man of the Year: Patrick Fitzgerald
Gerald Rellick
Thomas Paine's Corner

My nomination for Man of the Year in 2005 is Patrick Fitzgerald. Anyone who could flush out a sleazy journalist like Judy Miller and toss her in jail without blinking an eye gets my vote. More significantly, though, it was only after Fitzgerald's tenacious investigation that the media woke from its stupor and discovered that the disclosure of Valerie Plame's CIA identity was more than just another Washington scandal - which is where they seemed happy to leave it. So we began reading about - get this now --possible attempts by the Bush administration to dissemble, deceive and distort, as they "fixed the intelligence" to sell the Iraq war to Congress and the American people. It's clear that Fitzgerald's dogged efforts had that hard-to-define tipping effect, where what had been obvious all along, but was being ignored for lack of momentum, suddenly gets new life.

But the media still has some catching up to do. When discussing the Plame affair, they frequently describe the White House's actions as an attempt to "discredit" Joseph Wilson. This has never made any sense. Wilson was a career diplomat from 1976 until 1998, specializing in African affairs, and was the first president Bush's acting ambassador to Iraq during the period of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He was a perfectly logical choice to undertake the CIA mission to assess whether Hussein had attempted to buy uranium ore from the African country of Niger. So, why would revealing his wife's clandestine CIA status discredit him? If Plame was known to be anti-Bush it might be different. But Plame worked undercover for the CIA and her political views--if she even had any - were surely anything but common knowledge.

And just this week the New York Times, in an otherwise hard-hitting editorial critical of the Bush administration's "leak investigations," called the Plame outing "an attempt to silence Mrs. Wilson's husband." Then later in the same editorial the Times says the whole incident "began with a cynical effort by the administration to deflect public attention from hyped prewar intelligence on Iraq."

No, Joe Wilson's wife was outed in a purely vindictive act to punish Wilson, and secondarily, to frighten off others who might question the Bush war propaganda machine which was then in high gear. In one of the more inane articles on the Plame affair, Washington Post columnist, Jim Hoagland, asked why the White House had to resort to this tactic. Asks Hoagland, "Why didn't they just write a countering op-ed?" You have to wonder where Hoagland has been for the last five years. The answer is, this is not how the Bush administration works. They are juvenile and petty - like school yard bullies who steal your lunch and defy you to do something about it. Thanks to the Fitzgerald investigation, we see this now more clearly than ever.

The administration's conduct in the Plame affair calls to mind Peter Singer's dissection of George Bush in his book, The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush. Singer is professor of philosophy at Princeton and a prolific author on a range of subjects. It is Singer's view that Bush suffers from "arrested moral development."....