Dirty Tricks DNA

The reaction of the Republican right, and especially bloggers on the right-side longitudes, to today’s indictments is not surprising, but shocking nevertheless. The reaction, found on some blogs and heard in reactions on the radio and television, can be summarized as: This is really "just Martha Stewart stuff." You’re hearing from almost every Republican operative and spinmeister, "How important is this if he didn’t indict on the underlying charge of outing a covert CIA operative."

Astonishingly, truly, given Patrick Fitzgerald’s stated theory of his case: that Scooter Libby completely invented a false story to tell the FBI, the Grandy Jury, and the Department of Justice prosecutors about the naming of Valerie Plame: that he told them — even though he had discussed her identity at least three to four times in June 2003 with Vice President Cheney, an Undersecretary of State, Ari Fleischer and a CIA briefer, and had actively sought out information about Wilson’s trip and any involvement of his wife — that he told them he had first heard about her name from other journalists in an offhand, almost innocent way.

The Republican reaction to the charges is astonishing because it just further buttresses the sense that many leading Republicans are totally willing to countenance dirty tricks, some of them criminal, to achieve their ends, to avoid real debate about tough issues, and are unwilling to really acknowledge how serious these charges are. If it was the first time this had occurred, it might not be so troubling. But there is, unfortunately, now a long legacy of this, stretching back to McCarthy and Nixon’s red-baiting in the 1950s, continuing through Watergate, resurfacing in Iran-Contra, and now in this case. It makes one wonder whether there is something the political make-up, indeed DNA, of Republicans that lead them to tolerate this.

I say this all reluctantly, as I have worked in the past for a great Republican senator, and have many friends who are still actively engaged in politics as Republicans. They are all good, honest people. But for too long, in too many administrations, they’ve tolerated the McCarthys, the Nixons, the Oliver North’s, and been too willing to engage in questionable behavior to suppress legimitate, needed debate. At great cost, in retrospect, to the country.