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October 30, 2005

Nicholas D Kristoff: Time for the Vice President to Explain Himself.

Nick Kristof takes a break from his rather good reporting on famine and slavery to call for Dick Cheney to either explain himself or resign:

I owe Patrick Fitzgerald an apology.

Over the last year, I've referred to him nastily a
couple of times as ''Inspector Javert,'' after the
merciless and inflexible character in Victor Hugo's
''Les Miserables.'' In my last column, I fretted aloud
that he might pursue overzealous or technical
indictments.

But Mr. Fitzgerald didn't do that. The indictments of
Lewis Libby are not for memory lapses or debatable
offenses, but for repeatedly telling a fairy tale
under oath.

Moreover, Mr. Fitzgerald was wise not to push onto
mushier ground. It appears he was tempted to indict
Karl Rove, but he's right to refrain unless the
evidence against Mr. Rove is similarly strong. If it's
a borderline call, as it seems, Mr. Rove should walk.

So where do we go from here?

First, Democrats should wipe the smiles off their
faces. This is a humiliation for the entire country,
and their glee is unseemly. Moreover, the situation is
not that neocons are all crooks, but that one
vice-presidential aide must be presumed innocent of
trying to cover up conduct that may not have been
illegal in the first place.

Second, President Bush needs to clean house. Just as
special prosecutors should steer clear of questionable
indictments, presidents should avoid questionable
characters.

Mr. Rove escaped indictment, but he has been tarred.
He apparently passed information about Valerie Wilson
to reporters and then conveniently forgot about one of
those conversations. He also may have misled the
president, and the White House ended up giving false
information to the public. It's fine for Mr. Rove to
work as a Republican political adviser, but not as
White House deputy chief of staff.

Even more important, Vice President Dick Cheney owes
the nation an explanation. According to the
indictment, he learned from the C.I.A. that Joseph
Wilson's wife worked at the agency and told Mr. Libby
that on about June 12, 2003. Why?

There may be innocent explanations. I gather from the
indictment and other sources that Mr. Cheney and Mr.
Libby were upset in May and June 2003 by a column of
mine from May 6, 2003, in which I linked Mr. Cheney to
Mr. Wilson's trip to Niger. If Mr. Cheney and Mr.
Libby thought that my column was unfair, or that Mr.
Wilson was exaggerating his role, they had every right
to ask for a correction or set the record straight.

But they never raised the issue with me -- nor, when
Mr. Wilson went public, did they make their case
publicly. Certainly the solution was not to leak
classified information about Mr. Wilson's wife.

Mr. Libby is now accused in effect of lying to protect
Mr. Cheney. According to the indictment, Mr. Libby
insisted under oath that he had heard about Mrs.
Wilson from reporters, when he had actually heard
about her from his boss. You can't help wondering if
this alleged perjury was purely his own idea and
whether Mr. Cheney was aware of it.

Since Mr. Libby is joined at the hip to Mr. Cheney,
it's reasonable to ask: What did Mr. Cheney know and
when did he know it? Did the vice president have any
grasp of the criminal behavior allegedly happening in
his office? We shouldn't assume the worst, but Mr.
Cheney needs to give us a full account.

Instead, Mr. Cheney said in a written statement:
''Because this is a pending legal proceeding, in
fairness to all those involved, it would be
inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or on
any facts relating to the proceeding.''

Balderdash. If Mr. Cheney can't address the questions
about his conduct, if he can't be forthcoming about
the activities in his office that gave rise to the
investigation, then he should resign. And if he won't
resign, Mr. Bush should demand his resignation.

It's not that there's a lick of evidence that Mr.
Cheney is a criminal. There isn't. But the standard of
the office should be higher than that: the White House
should symbolize integrity, not legalistic refusals to
discuss criminal cover-ups. I didn't want technical
indictments of White House officials because they
inflame partisanship and impede government; for just
the same reason, it's unsavory when a vice president
resorts to technical defenses and clams up.

At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia
in August 2000, Mr. Cheney won adoring applause when
he suggested that Bill Clinton's deceit had besmirched
the White House. Mr. Cheney then pledged that Mr. Bush
would be different: ''On the first hour of the first
day, he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval
Office.''

Mr. Cheney added of the Democrats: ''They will offer
more lectures, and legalisms, and carefully worded
denials. We offer another way, a better way, and a
stiff dose of truth.''

You were right, Mr. Cheney, in your insistence that
the White House be beyond reproach. Now it's time for
you to give the nation ''a stiff dose of truth.''
Otherwise, you sully this country with your own
legalisms.

Which rather leads to an interesting thought. A game to be played. If Ol’ Dick really does go, who should George appoint as his replacement? Condi as positioning for that run in ’08? Hillary in order to show real bipartisan determination to heal the wounds of the country? Harriet as a consolation prize?

How about a Bush brother? No, not Jeb, there’s another one isn’t there? Steve? Had some problems with a Savings and Loan I think? Good Republican precendent for that isn’t there? Anyone remember Spiro? Ted Kennedy? Be the only way to get him out of the Senate before his liver fails.

Actually, I’m afraid none of these would quite do it. There is only one possible candidate, one who has been training and waiting for years to serve the Nation, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next Vice President of the United States.

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October 30, 2005 in Politics | Permalink

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Comments

Neil was the Bush brother who blew up the Silverado Savings & Loan.

Posted by: dsquared | Oct 30, 2005 2:40:30 PM