Friday, March 16, 2007

Manufacturing a Scandal

Today there was one innocuous development in the so called US attorney firing scandal. An email was leaked. While neither Carl Rove or Attorney General Gonzalez either authored or received the email, they were both mentioned. The email stated that Rove had inquired of the White House Counsel's Office what they were planning regarding the US Attorneys. The author of the email also stated that he talked “briefly” with Gonzalez weeks earlier about the US Attorney situation.

From this limited new development came this McClatchy news story by Ron Hutcheson and Margaret Talev. It is a good example of how a biased press can work together with their friends in the Democratic party to manufacture a scandal out of the thin air. The article is basically innocent facts spun to sound bad and intermixed with unchallenged overthetop quotes by some of the most partisan democrats.

Here are excerpts with my comments.

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced more pressure to resign Thursday as new evidence suggested that he and presidential adviser Karl Rove played bigger roles in developing plans to fire U.S. attorneys than they've acknowledged.
This is a very ominous start. After all the Attorney General is being pressured to be resign. But pressure by who. The article leaves that hanging for dramatic effect.

Rove has been President Bush's chief political adviser since Bush's first campaign for Texas governor, and the latest developments angered members of Congress, created new credibility problems for the administration and increased calls for Gonzales' resignation.
Again, things sound bad for the president. Members of Congress are mad and there are credibility problems. It does not say which members of Congress are mad or why there would be credibility problems. I guess we need to read on.

Democrats cited Rove's involvement as more evidence that the firings were intended to purge prosecutors who refused to let partisan politics influence criminal investigations.
Here is the real guts of the alleged scandal. If the administration made decisions on firing US Attorneys in order to influence particular criminal investigations for political reasons that would be wrong. That would be a legitimate scandal (although probably not a big one). But there is no evidence anywhere that this is the case and apparently the authors don’t have any evidence, because if they did they would have inserted it here. Instead they print the blind assertion of unnamed Democrats. They do so without questioning the accuracy. The statement simply hangs there with the understanding that the reader will accept it as true.

Administration e-mails from early January 2005 show that Rove and Gonzales were directly involved in the initial planning to oust prosecutors who had fallen out of favor. Recounting in an e-mail a conversation he had had with Gonzales, aide Kyle Sampson said that they'd decided to replace 15 percent to 20 percent of the 93 U.S. attorneys while retaining those who "are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc."
This it the first time there is any factual information stated. But even here their summary of the email is a biased reading. They say that the email shows that Rove and Gonzales were directly involved, but if you read the email their involvement is not so substantial. Rove’s involvement was limited to asking someone in the White House Counsels Office how they planned to proceed with the US attorneys. From a proper reading of this email it looks like Rove was not involved in the decision at all, he just wanted to know what it was going to be. Later on in the article they admit that Rove’s role was limited, but for now the reader is led to believe that Roves involvement was “direct.”

At the time, Gonzales was serving as White House counsel while awaiting confirmation to become attorney general. Sampson became his chief of staff at the Justice Department and continued to oversee planning for a mass firing. Sampson resigned earlier this week amid the growing controversy over the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
He resigned over the growing controversy, but what exactly is the controversy and why is it growing?

An e-mail from another White House aide said that Rove wanted to know "how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc."
Hear they Finlay quote the only passage in the email dealing with Rove’s involvement. It hardly sounds direct does it.

The e-mails, which the Justice Department released after the contents were leaked to ABC News, call into question Gonzales' assertion that he was essentially in the dark about the plans to dismiss federal prosecutors.
You might notice that the real scandal seems to have changed from partisan influence, of which there appears to be no evidence, to when did Gonzales know of the plan. Why, exactly, is that important?

The White House downplayed the significance of the e-mails but backed away from earlier statements that the plan to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys originated with former White House counsel Harriet Miers and was swiftly rejected by Gonzales and Rove.
"I do not have the specific answer for you as to whose idea it was," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Now the issue seems to be who first had the Idea to fire US Attorneys. The authors are right that there is some dispute about this, but why is that important?

The Justice Department issued a statement saying Gonzales "has no recollection of any plan or discussion to replace U.S. attorneys while he was still White House counsel."
In a speech earlier in the day at Troy University in Troy, Ala., Rove dismissed the controversy as "a lot of politics" and said the U.S. attorney firings were proper.
The e-mails don't indicate that Rove took any position on how many U.S. attorneys should be replaced, but they do show that he took an early interest in the dismissal plan.
This paragraphs seems completely at odds with the earlier assertion that Rove was “directly involved in the initial plan to oust prosecutors.” They try to make Rove’s inquiry sound ominous by then stating he had an “early interest.”

"The notion that the president's top political adviser was so deeply embroiled in this decision is the final nail in the coffin of the administration's contention that this was done for performance-related issues and not politics of the lowest kind," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
They put this unrefuted quote hear to make it sound like there was something more here then their own story just admitted there is. They include this quote, without questioning it or having comment from the other side, even though it seems to contradict the facts. Again, according to the email in question, Rove’s role was limited to asking the counsels office what they were doing. That is hardly “embroiled in the decision.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House subcommittee that's leading the inquiry, said documents showing Rove's involvement and Gonzales' prior knowledge signal "a deliberate attempt to place partisan ideology at the center of the justice system in a way not seen since the Watergate scandal."
Yet another democrat being quoted without refutation stating something against the weight of the evidence in this case. According to Sanchez, since rove asked the council’s office what they were going to do abut the US attorneys we have another Watergate. This quote is completely outlandish and is not supported by any facts in the article or any facts any place else.

To recap we have a scandal where there is no evidence that anybody did anything wrong. We have a new development that showed Rove had very limited involvement in the so called scandal. From that we have a news story which plays this as the worst scandal since Watergate
Something tells me this is not the last time we will see democrats working together with a willing press to create scandals. This is going to be a long two years.

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