Can’t anybody here play this game?

Over the past few years, I’ve reluctantly come to a conclusion about the Bush administration. They have one huge, gaping, flagrant flaw, one area where they are incredibly inept: they simply have no clue how to deal with certain types of political attack. And as a consequence, they end up getting slammed for doing the right (or, at least, legal) thing — but utterly and completely bollixing up the whole situation.

We see that in Iraq. There were sound, valid reasons for our invasion and removal of Saddam’s regime. Those reasons are still valid today, and I still support it. But critics of the war managed to rewrite the argument into “Bush said Saddam has stockpiles of WMDs to justify the invasion, he didn’t, so Bush lied us into war.” And no matter how many times you go back to the actual historical record, it’s ignored by the critics and their own “reality.”

We see that in the Plame/Wilson mess. Wilson out-and-out lied about his CIA-sponsored mission to Niger, saying that he found no evidence Iraq was seeking uranium. Plame lied when she said she had no role in his getting that assignment. And their supporters lie when they say Wilson’s report disproved the “16 words” in Bush’s State Of The Union speech, when Bush specifically said “British Intelligence” had uncovered evidence that Saddam was seeking uranium in Africa. And Plame’s identity was not first revealed on orders from Bush, but by bumbling idiot (and war critic) Richard Armitage. But the Bush administration’s response to the attacks were so inept that Scooter Libby is now facing prison time for, as someone far wiser than I opined, “lying about telling the truth about a liar.”

We see that in the fired US attorneys mess. There should have been no story there. All eight had served their full four-year term; from the moment that anniversary passed, they continued to serve solely at the president’s pleasure. And as others have noted far more thoroughly than I ever could, the paper trail on these attorneys (which many media had access to, and selectively excerpted to prove their point and suppress “inconvenient truths”) shows that the “political” issues revolving around these attorneys were often a conflict between what the Bush administration held as priorities for prosecutorial resources, and what these attorneys considered important — or not.

What the Bush administration should have done was to say, simply, that these attorneys’ policies and practices were in conflict with the administration’s, and as such the president exercised his legal and established authority to remove them and replace them with those more in tune with his priorities. Period. End of discussion.

But no. They let themselves get blindsided, run over by a rampantly partisan freight train, and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is on the hot seat over allegations that he lied and/or misled Congressional inquiries on the matter. And like Scooter Libby, he could get nailed to the all over it.

One of the lasting legacies of the Watergate scandal was the lesson that “it’s not the crime, but the coverup” that most often gets people. Now we see that evolved further, where there doesn’t even have to be a fundamental underlying crime, or even an orchestrated conspiracy to cover up matters, to trigger legal troubles.

I’m not overly comfortable with this development. It strikes me as getting dangerously close to politicizing the judicial process, turning what should be political matters into legal and criminal ones.

But that doesn’t change the fact that such things are reality now, and must be dealt with now. And the Bush administration damned well better get its head out of its ass and learn to deal with it, because it ain’t getting any better any time soon.

Neal Gabler: Fox News Isn't a Legitimate News Source
A law unto myself