Dropping It at the President’s Doorstep
Think Progress on today's important news:
During a press conference today, President Bush was confronted about recent accusations made by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey regarding the White House’s shocking efforts to seek legal sanction for its warrantless wiretapping program. According to Comey, Bush personally directed a White House effort to bypass Comey’s authority and seek approval from John Ashcroft, who was then hospitalized and in intensive care.
. . . NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell pressed Bush on this point. “Sir, did you send your then Chief of Staff and White House Counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft while he was ill to get him to approve that program,” she asked, “and do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?”
Bush twice dodged the question entirely. “Kelly, there’s a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn’t happen. I’m not going to talk about it.” He added, “I’m not going to move the issue forward by talking about” it.
As Joshua Marshall remarked, "The president's refusal to answer tells the tale. The president gave the order and even placed the call, as James Comey all but told us yesterday." (And Kevin Drum wryly notes that Dubya wasn't even able to claim the cover of a legal investigation, even though "practically everything in the Bush administration is under investigation these days, [so] it's a pretty handy excuse.")
What's so important about this? Early on into the scandal over the politicized firing of U.S. attorneys, White House spokesliar Tony Snow freaked out over questions of the Shrub-in-Chief's possible role, exclaiming, "Don’t be dropping it at the president's doorstep." He knew that for the low-information voters who Republicans rely on fooling in order to win elections, a scandal generally has no political meaning unless the President is shown to be personally involved. And now, another manifestation of the hydra-headed criminality that is this administration's trademark has shown up, uninvited, on Dubya's doorstep.
I wrote a year and a half ago that Democrats were failing to get the appropriate political mileage out of the Valerie Plame Wilson leak scandal because they didn't recognize the opportunity to raise the legal questions of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation to a higher moral level, about the kind of behavior this President condones:
… the message every Democrat who gets on TV this weekend should be communicating [is], It's not a matter of legal or illegal, it's right or wrong — and this administration has no sense of what the difference is.
That opportunity is in front of Democrats again now. The minutiae of who authorized what has its place, but don't lose sight of the basic, gut-level wrongness that any normal person can grasp intuitively. Think about it… you have the wife of the U.S. Attorney General, standing by his hospital bedside, calling his deputy in a panic and saying, "The White House Counsel and Chief of Staff are on their way over — you have to help me!!"
What kind of monsters are these people? How can a president with any kind of moral compass put a sick man's wife in that situation? The answer is, he doesn't have a moral compass. And the American people need to be reminded of that.
(P.S. For a graphic-novel retelling of the Comey-Ashcroft hospital incident, see my co-blogger Fubar's just-posted effort at Needlenose.)