There's an old piece of advice given to lawyers and other debaters, not less practically acute than it is morally shabby: "If you can't prove what you want to prove, prove something else and pretend it's the same. "
The diehard few who are trying to confuse the public about whether Valerie Plame was a covert intelligence officer, and whether publishing that fact was therefore unpatriotic (certainly) and criminal (probably) seem to have that advice down pat.
Shewascovert[*], and there's no way to prove that she wasn't. But it's easy to show that hername, and the name of her cover employer, weren't secret. So the slime-and-defend brigade keeps insisting on those facts, which no one ever doubted, as if that proved something.
Just to repeat the obvious:
What was secret about Valerie Plame and her putative employer was that she was a CIA officer and her putative employer was a CIA front. There was nothing indiscreet or insecure about her husband listing his wife's name in his biography, or about Valerie Plame listing her employer's name on her campaign contribution forms. The security violation, and the crime, was connecting either of those names with the CIA.
Another trap laid by the slime-and-defenders, one into which I admit to having fallen, is assuming that "Valerie Plame" was Ms. Wilson's "workname," or that, if it was, it was her only workname. We know that she was "Valerie Wilson" socially and "Valerie Plame" for some professional purposes. But that doesn't mean she wasn't "Julia Jane Pforzenheimer" at other times and places. Still, whoever knows that "Valerie Plame" names a CIA officer and that "Brewster-Jennings" names a CIA front knows a lot more than it is healthy for this country for anyone outside the Company ever to have known.
Is that clear, Mr. Limbaugh? Or would you like it explained again, in shorter words?
Amid all the discussion of whether investigators should try to squeeze the names of the officials who outed Valerie Plame out of the reporters whom the officials told, no one has mentioned a much simpler step the President could take -- could, for that matter, have taken any time since July 14 -- to "get to the bottom of this," as he reportedly would like to do.
Reader Michael Ham offers the suggestion, elegant in its simplicity:
The President should require every official in his administration at Executive Level II or higher (that's cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies, plus others of equivalent rank) to submit, within 48 hours, either a sworn statement that he or she had no discussion mentioning Joseph Wilson's wife with any reporter in the period before July 14, 2003 (the date of the first Novak column) and has no knowledge of anyone who did have such discussions, or a sworn statement listing any such discussions as that person did have or any knowledge that person has regarding such discussions by other persons.
The President has, of course, no power to compel compliance with that order. He does, however, since all of the officials involved except the Director of the FBI and the Director of Central Intelligence serve at his pleasure, have the power to dismiss anyone who refuses to submit such a statement, or who submits a statement claiming the privilege against self-incrimination.
It would take intrepidity amounting to temerity for anyone to falsely certify innocence under oath, given the high probability that the truth will come out. There might be legal defenses for the original act, but not for a false statement.
The President's power to follow Mr. Ham's advice is clear. And it would clearly help "get to the bottom of this."
The polls don't close for another nineth minutes and the count will take hours, but I see no reason to disblieve either Drudge or the exit polls he reports: the recall will pass comfortably and Schwarenegger will crush Bustamante.
There's lots of blame to go around: Schwarzenegger for running such an intellectually dishonest campaign, the press for not calling him on it, the California Broadcaster's Association for setting up the one debate format he could survive, the press again for being so slow and lax in unearthing the skeletons in his closet, the bloggers and talk-radio hosts who falsely portrayed Bustamente as some sort of ethnic separatist, Susan Estrich for deciding that the weekend before the election was a good time to give aid and comfort to the enemy, the "family values" Republicans for cynically embracing the permissiveness they pretend to hate as long as it involves a Democrat, Cruz Bustamante for taking Richie Ross's horrible campaign advice and Ross for offering it, Gray Davis for refusing to endorse Bustamante in Round II and thus making a truly united front for the Democrats impossible, &c, &c, &c.
But the people I'm maddest at right now are the national and state Democratic leaders, including Bill Clinton and Dianne Feinstein, who decided that the voters of California would not be allowed a decent alternative to their current coin-operated governor. The calculation couldn't have been more cynical: "Californians hate Davis, but if we confront them only with choices that are even worse they will, once again, grit their teeth and vote for him again."
Well, it didn't deserve to work, and it didn't work. The Darrell Issa/Wilson/Quackenbush/ developer/Rove/Schwarzenegger coup didn't deserve to work either, and the people of California don't deserve being stuck with him, but there's some satisfaction, however grim, in not having allowed ourselves to be rolled once again.
In a state with 35 million inhabitants, half of them Democrats, it should have been possible to come up with at least one candidate for governor who didn't make you want to vomit. The party sachems who couldn't, or wouldn't, get that person on the ballot had a pouding coming to them, and today they got it.
And for God's sake let's not hear any nonsense about another recall drive. Even if the signatures could be gathered, the voters would laugh at it, and at the people who have spent the last six months arguing that recalls are undemocratic but now decide that only recalls against Democrats are undemocratic. Let Schwarzenegger deal with the budget mess, and concentrate on having a decent candidate -- not, for example, Bustamante or Lockyer -- to run against him in 2006.
And to those of you who spent today pounding the pavement and running the phone banks in what was almost certainly a doomed cause: Stand tall. A year from now, many of the people who voted today are going to wish they'd listened to you.
If you're in the LA area, opposed to the Schwarzengroper, and have some time to spare tomorrow, there's need for Get Out the Vote workers.
For door-to-door campaigning:
No on Recall
San Fernando Office
16000 Ventura Blvd., #405
Carolyn Smith, (818) 995-3367
For phone banking:
California Democratic Party
888 Figueroa St., #400
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 239-8730 phone
Things are looking grim, but not hopeless: Davis claims to have polls showing the recall a toss-up, and Schwazenegger's people scoff but won't say what their numbers are. Anyway, the effort has to be made.