Anything But the Facts

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne is considered a mainstream Democrat, not a fringe figure on the left. And he is generally regarded as a principled liberal. So what can we conclude about the state of the Democratic Party when its best representatives, like Dionne, can’t make an honest argument? Consider Dionne’s latest column, a triumphalist account of the legal troubles now besetting Republicans Tom DeLay, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

Dionne regards these problems as chickens that have come home to roost, exposing Republican hypocrisy. (That’s a favorite theme of his.) Thus, Dionne writes:

Those who thought investigations were a wonderful thing when Bill Clinton was president are suddenly facing prosecutors, and they don’t like it. ***

These cases portray an administration and a movement that can dish it out, but want to evade responsibility for doing so, and can’t take it when they are subjected to the same rule book that inconvenienced an earlier president.

***A process that was about “the rule of law” when Democrats were in power is suddenly an outrage now that it’s Republicans who are being held accountable.

That’s the charge; let’s see what evidence Dionne has to support it. Exhibit A is the prosecution of Tom DeLay by the corrupt partisan Ronnie Earle:

It’s especially amusing to see former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay complain about the politicization of justice.***DeLay’s supporters say charges that he transferred corporate money illegally to local Texas campaigns should be discounted because “everybody does it” when it comes to playing fast and loose with political cash. That’s another defense the champions of impeachment derided in the Clinton imbroglio.

First of all, let’s put Bill Clinton off to one side. Clinton committed perjury. There is no doubt about this; he was fined for it by a federal judge, and lost his license to practice law. So those who thought Clinton should be held accountable were right.

Now, what about Tom DeLay? Dionne’s characterization of the argument made by “DeLay’s supporters,” i.e, “everybody does it,” is a grotesque misrepresentation. DeLay has argued no such thing. DeLay and his lawyers have moved to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds that 1) the acts alleged by the prosecutor do not constitute a crime under Texas law, and 2) in any event, DeLay did not commit those acts. In other words, DeLay–unlike, say, Bill Clinton–is innocent.

This is about as far as you can get from “everybody does it.” And, based on everything we have seen so far, it appears that DeLay’s defenses are solid, and the charges against him will fail.

Dionne undoubtedly knows these facts. (For one thing, I’m pretty sure he reads Power Line.) So it is utterly dishonest for him to misrepresent DeLay’s defense.

He continues by exulting over the possibility that charges may be brought against Karl Rove and Scooter Libby for discussing with reporters the fact that Valerie Plame had a desk job in Virginia with the CIA. This fact was apparently widely known, so that, for example, Judy Miller was told of Plame’s CIA affiliation by a number of people, only one of whom–Scooter Libby–she admits she can remember. Never mind: Dionne waxes wrathful over the possibility that Plame’s name may have been mentioned to a reporter:

This case goes to the heart of how Republicans recaptured power after the Clinton presidency and how they have held on to it since. The strategy involved attacking their adversaries without pity.***

Since President Bush took office, many of those who raised their voices in opposition to the president or his policies found themselves under assault, although the president himself maintained a careful distance from the bloodletting.

Now, anyone who has been following the news for the last five years knows that “attacking without pity” is a phrase that perfectly describes President Bush’s enemies in the Democratic Party, MoveOn.org., etc. Accusing the President of being a fascist, a mass murderer, a “smirking chimp,” retarded, a Hitler–that’s “attacking without pity.” What, on the other hand, did these aides do that, according to Dionne, warrants such condemnation? At most, they truthfully explained two things to reporters.

The first was that Joe Wilson, Plame’s husband, lied when he said or implied that he had been sent to Niger by Vice-President Dick Cheney, and denied that his wife had sponsored his trip. The second was that Joe Wilson lied when he wrote, in the pages of the New York Times, that his own mission to Niger had demonstrated that the President misled the American people when he said that Saddam Hussein’s regime had tried to buy uranium in Africa.

This is the really shocking omission from Dionne’s indictment of the administration. Understand, there is no doubt about the fact that Wilson’s attack on Bush was a lie. The Senate intelligence committee’s report is definitive. Wilson returned from Niger and reported to the CIA that that country’s former head of state had told him that he received an overture from Iraq that he understood as an attempt to buy uranium. So Wilson’s report supported the Africa claim, it didn’t refute it. That’s what the Intelligence Committee found, and Wilson’s claim to the contrary was a lie and a vicious slander of President Bush.

Dionne knows this. So how could he leave it out of his column? Who “attacked without pity”? Joe Wilson, who lied about a vital issue of national security, or Bush’s aides, who tried to explain the truth to reporters?

Is this really the best the Democrats have to offer? An indictment of Republicans that simply omits all of the most relevant facts? Evidently so.

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