Friday, January 09, 2004

Catchin' Up … Plame

I commented previously on my skepticism of Ashcroft's recusal in cover-up investigation of the Plame Affair, as did others including Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall. In his post, he specifically addresses the issue of the timing of the recusal announcement:

And then, another issue. Why did this happen? And why now?

A few possibilities suggest themselves.

One might surmise that Ashcroft, after some time to think it over, decided that it was the wiser course to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor.

You could surmise that. But then you'd be pretty stupid. So let's pass on that possibility.

Let's consider two other possibilities, both of which assume this was triggered by on-going developments in the investigation.

One possibility is that the investigation has come up with more and more evidence and that has made it increasingly likely that there will be an indictment or at least some extensive grand jury proceedings. Because of that, it's now no longer tenable for Ashcroft to remain in charge of the investigation, since it's now clear that some serious wrong-doing occurred.

This seemed to be what Comey was getting at when he said: "It's fair to say that an accumulation of facts throughout the course of the investigation over the last several months has led us to this point."

But there's another possibility: , that is, that this decision isn't the result of the general progress of the investigation or the accumulation of evidence, but something specific. Or more to the point, a specific person. And that something has just taken place.

Obviously these are general scenarios, which may, in reality, overlap quite a bit. But what strikes me about this announcement today was its timing. And the timing leads me to think the third scenario is the most likely.

Here's why.

The other news developments from the administration on the Plame case have come at what you might call press-appropriate times. As in, late on Friday afternoons. Stuff like that -- the times guaranteed to get you as little press notice as possible.

This was early afternoon on a Tuesday, albeit, yes, the day before New Year's Eve. If this was just a matter of a slow accumulation of evidence, tomorrow afternoon would have been just as good, and would have gotten the story buried. Same goes for Friday.
I disagree with one point of interpretation of the significance of the timing of this announcement. That is, while it's true that this Rove Administration does little that isn't timed and staged, it reserves the 'stealth' timing for things that will not be perceived as good. On the other hand, when it wants to portray its strength, or develop a campaign photo-op, it does so in full view. Never mind whether the action truly holds any merit, we all know that doesn't matter. From their perspective, this is a demonstration of a willingness for independent scrutiny; that's certainly the way it will be 'played'.


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