Richard Cohen's unforgiving past
Wanker of the Day Richard Cohen seems to think that it's not a problem if laws are only "technically" broken, no matter if the violation outs secret sources or not. He wrote today:
Wilson made his case in a New York Times op-ed piece. This rocked the administration, which was already fighting to retain its credibility in the face of mounting and irrefutable evidence that the case it had made for war in Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction, above all -- was a fiction. So it set out to impeach Wilson's credibility, purportedly answering the important question of who had sent him to Africa in the first place: his wife. This was a clear case of nepotism, the leakers just as clearly implied.A "ricochet." Goddamn. "Technically." Goddamn.
Not nice, but it was what Washington does day in and day out. (For some historical perspective see George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck'' about Edward R. Murrow and that most odious of leakers-cum-character assassins, Joseph McCarthy.) This is rarely considered a crime. In the Plame case, it might technically be one, but it was not the intent of anyone to out a CIA agent and have her assassinated (which happened once) but to assassinate the character of her husband. This is an entirely different thing. She got hit by a ricochet.
This got me to thinking. Where were all of the calls for people to ignore the supposed "crimes" of Bill Clinton? Had Cohen made any such calls? In fact, Cohen specifically argued against technicalisms, writing that Clinton should "acting like some shyster who mines the fine print for the gold no one else can see."
To be sure, he had chastised Ken Starr for being a publicity hound and a partisan, but always pointed out that Clinton should still pay if necessary. He continually pointed out he was only waiting for the evidence to be presented to support possible indictments.
Today, Cohen believes that, before he's seen the evidence--precisely because Fitzgerald is not a publicity hound--it's time to call for the end of this investigation. Just close up shop and call it a day.
My, how times have changed.
June 13, 1996:
The notion of Clinton pacing the Oval Office a la Nixon and rattling off the names of the doomed and condemned (bugged, tapped, audited, fired) proves beyond a doubt that some in Washington have lost touch with reality. Chief among them, of course, are Republican politicians like Bob Dole, who were quick to yell "enemies list" and demand the usual investigation. Almost immediately, Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, swore in a posse and rode off in the direction of the grand jury.September 26, 1996
Well, maybe he should. The misuse of FBI files, even inadvertently, is a serious matter -- and something clearly went wrong here.
It would be both preposterous and irresponsible to suggest that history is repeating itself. Yet the other day, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's inspector general (a mouthful right there) issued a report suggesting that Hillary Clinton was involved in a "sham" real estate transaction back when she was a lawyer in private practice. In fact, she drafted a document that was used to "deceive" federal regulators, the FDIC report alleges...February 20, 1997
But for all of that, the words coming from the White House have a 1972 ring to them. Nixon and his various spokesmen (Bob Dole, then Republican National Committee chairman, was one) attributed questions about Watergate to unprincipled partisan politics or, in the case of The Washington Post, to the paper's manifest commie tendencies...
I still think, or maybe "hope" is the right word, that all of this will be explained one day. In the meantime, personal attacks on the independent counsel or appeals to partisan chauvinism hardly reassure me. On the contrary, this tends to make the White House look like it's hiding something. It seems to me I've heard this song be fore -- in 1972, to be exact.
Maybe something criminal has been done by the Clintons, but if so it now seems Ken Starr has not found it. He has announced he will quit as independent counsel in August and take a post at Pepperdine University in California....February 10, 1998
This is preposterous. Two of the people in Starr's chamber are the president of the United States and the first lady. The independent counsel cannot coyly announce that, come August, he's going to be doing something else and leave the nation -- not to mention the first family -- wondering if some pretty serious indictments are around the corner...
Much about Whitewater remains troubling, not the least of it being the friendship and business partnership between the Clintons and the McDougals. Here we are some 20 years later, and the Clintons are in the White House and both McDougals appear headed to the Big House. Many questions remain unanswered: Where were those Rose Law Firm billing records? Why did Hillary Clinton deny knowing about a real estate deal that, logically, should have been familiar to her?
For some time now, I have been critical of Kenneth Starr and his meandering investigation. What's more, I have been defending Clinton against charges that he was everything from a mad womanizer to a drug smuggler. So I don't like the way Starr has handled himself, and I loathe investigations that ask people -- some of them mere nobodies -- to reveal their most intimate secrets. We all ought to be concerned.February 26, 1998
But we have to be concerned, too, about a White House that has answered some grave charges about its integrity by yelling about leaks and claiming the American people don't give a damn. None of this amounts to a response, and anyway, right or wrong is not determined by plebiscite. If vast majorities of Americans said Thomas Jefferson was the first president, that would not make it so.
The leaks in the current investigation are not easily dismissed. The reputations of important people are at stake -- people who have yet to be indicted and may never be. Starr would be wise to put up one of those wartime Loose Lips Sink Ships posters and hope for the best.
But for all of that, the protest over leaks has the smell of a diversion -- an attempt to duck the question by impugning the questioner. Such a tactic did not work for Agnew, and it will not work for Clinton, either -- although maybe not for the same reason. Agnew was guilty. Clinton may just be acting like he is.
It's easy to say that this White House and Ken Starr deserve each other -- that this is the domestic equivalent of the Iran-Iraq war in which no sane person could possibly pick sides. After all, as bad as Starr is, Clinton's no angel, either. Perjury, suborning perjury and obstruction of justice -- the pending accusations -- are grounds for impeachment in my book.March 28, 2000
(The Wall Street Journal's editorial page) strongly implied the Clintons--especially Hillary--were lying, and one of its outside commentators, Barbara Olson, just about said so. "Her efforts to hide her role in this scheme could lead to indictments for perjury and obstruction of justice," she predicted just last January.
Independent counsel Robert Ray (Ken Starr is gone) found otherwise. "There was no substantial and credible evidence that any senior White House official, or first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was involved in seeking confidential [FBI] background reports," he reported more than a week ago. He also found no evidence that Mrs. Clinton "played any role" in hiring the aide who accumulated the files. This happens to be what Mrs. Clinton said all along.
But to no avail. Some pretty keen journalists--and I love 'em all--somehow knew for a fact the White House was dissembling. William Safire called the White House's account "a cover story." George Will mocked it. And Peggy Noonan, writing in the Journal, predicted the New York press would never hold Mrs. Clinton accountable for "FBI files illegally gotten by the former barroom bouncer she hired." In her new book, "The Case Against Hillary Clinton," she repeats the allegation.
Yet, back when the files were discovered, a non-White House source told me it seemed the Clintons were telling the truth. "A mere mistake is the most likely explanation," I wrote--not that it mattered any. No one much paid attention, and those who did suggested I had been duped.
I am not arguing for a clear exoneration of the Clintons on each and every accusation brought against them. The independent counsel has yet to announce whether he will seek indictments relating to Travelgate, Whitewater or President Clinton's ridiculous (if not illegal) assertion that he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky. (What was it, Parcheesi?) The firings at the White House travel office remain troubling. They may not have been illegal, but the use of the FBI was surely excessive. And, just for the record, I never liked the easy money Hillary made in futures trading, either.