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October 30, 2005

David Brooks: The Prosecutor’s Diagnosis, No Cancer Found.

David Brooks seems particularly cheery in this column:

On March 21, 1973, John Dean told President Nixon that
there was a cancer on his presidency. There was, Dean
said, a metastasizing criminal conspiracy spreading
through the White House.

Thirty-two years later, Patrick Fitzgerald has just
completed a 22-month investigation of the Bush
presidency. One thing is clear: there is no cancer on
this presidency. Fitzgerald, who seems to be a model
prosecutor, enjoyed what he called full cooperation
from all federal agencies. He found enough evidence to
indict one man, Scooter Libby, on serious charges.

But he did not find evidence to prove that there was a
broad conspiracy to out a covert agent for political
gain. He did not find evidence of wide-ranging
criminal behavior. He did not even indict the media's
ordained villain, Karl Rove. And as the former
prosecutors Robert Ray and Richard Ben-Veniste said on
''The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,'' he gave little
indication he was going to do that in the future.

Fitzgerald went as far as the evidence led him. In so
doing, he momentarily punctured the wave of hysteria
that had been building around the case. Over the past
few weeks, oceans of ink and an infinity of airtime
have been devoted to theorizing about Rove's
conspiratorial genius and general culpability --
almost all of it hokum. Leading Democratic politicians
filled the air with grand conspiracy theories that
would be at home in the John Birch Society.

Senator Frank Lautenberg assented that Rove was guilty
of treason. Howard Dean talked about a ''huge
cover-up.'' Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York
said: ''The C.I.A. leak issue is only the tip of the
iceberg. This is looking increasingly like a White
House conspiracy aimed at misleading our country into
war.

''There is mounting evidence,'' Nadler continued,
''that there may have been a well-orchestrated effort
by the president, the vice president and other top
White House officials to lie to Congress in order to
get its support for the Iraq war.''

One may wish it, but that doesn't make it so. We do
know that the White House lied about who was involved
in calling reporters. But as for traitorous behavior,
huge cover-ups and well-orchestrated conspiracies --
that's swamp gas.

As it turned out, Fitzgerald's careful and forceful
presentation of the evidence was but a brief respite
from the tide of hysterical accusations. Fitzgerald
may have pointed out that this case is not about
supporting or opposing the war; it's about possible
perjury and obstruction of justice. But the Senate
Democratic leader Harry Reid immediately ran out with
some amorphous argument intended to show that this
indictment indeed is all about the war. Ted Kennedy,
likening Fitzgerald's findings to Watergate, insisted,
''This is far more than an indictment of an
individual,'' before casting his net far and wide. And
Howard Dean, who doesn't fly off the handle but lives
off it, grandly asserted that Fitzgerald's findings
indicate that ''a group of senior White House
officials'' ignored the rule of law.

The question is, why are these people so compulsively
overheated? One of the president's top advisers is
indicted on serious charges. Why are they incapable of
leaving it at that? Why do they have to slather on
wild, unsupported charges that do little more than
make them look unhinged?

The answer is found in an essay written about 40 years
ago by Richard Hofstadter called ''The Paranoid Style
in American Politics.'' Hofstadter argues that
sometimes people who are dispossessed, who feel their
country has been taken away from them and their kind,
develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame
of mind. It is never enough to believe their opponents
have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate
purposes; they insist on believing in malicious
conspiracies.

''The paranoid spokesman,'' Hofstadter writes, ''sees
the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms -- he
traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole
political orders, whole systems of human values. He is
always manning the barricades of civilization.''
Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy
monger is never content with anything but their total
destruction. Failure to achieve this unattainable goal
''constantly heightens the paranoid's sense of
frustration.'' Thus, ''even partial success leaves him
with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he
began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness
of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he
opposes.''

So some Democrats were not content with Libby's
indictment, but had to stretch, distort and
exaggerate. The tragic thing is that at the exact
moment when the Republican Party is staggering under
the weight of its own mistakes, the Democratic Party's
loudest voices are in the grip of passions that render
them untrustworthy.

On Friday we saw a man, Patrick Fitzgerald, who seemed
like an honest and credible public servant. What an
unusual sight that was.

I think you can still see some of the bitterness that conservatives have for the Bush Administration in that last para. Honest and credible...compared to whom?

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October 30, 2005 in Politics | Permalink

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