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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 19 July 2005

Topic: Breaking News

SCOTUS: Let the fun begin! ('Here come da judge, here come da judge!')

Early Tuesday evening in Los Angeles:

Bush Nominates Judge John C. Roberts
Deb Riechmann, Associated Press, Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - 4:45 pm Pacific Time

The link here is to the AP wire on the topic, so the versions change. More than an hour before the announcement there was this:
President Bush chose federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday as his first nominee for the Supreme Court, selecting a rock solid conservative whose nomination could trigger a tumultuous battle over the direction of the nation's highest court, a senior administration official said.

Bush offered the position to Roberts in a telephone call at 12:35 p.m. after a luncheon with the visiting prime minister of Australia, John Howard. He was to announce it later with a flourish in a nationally broadcast speech to the nation.

Roberts has been on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since June 2003 after being picked for that seat by Bush.

Advocacy groups on the right say that Roberts, a 50-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y., who attended Harvard Law School, is a bright judge with strong conservative credentials he burnished in the administrations of former Presidents Bush and Reagan. While he has been a federal judge for just a little more than two years, legal experts say that whatever experience he lacks on the bench is offset by his many years arguing cases before the Supreme Court.

Liberal groups, however, say Roberts has taken positions in cases involving free speech and religious liberty that endanger those rights. Abortion rights groups allege that Roberts is hostile to women's reproductive freedom and cite a brief he co-wrote in 1990 that suggested the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 high court decision that legalized abortion.
And over an hour after the announcement the opening way this:
President Bush named federal appeals judge John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday to fill the first Supreme Court vacancy in a decade, delighting Republicans and unsettling Democrats by picking a young jurist of impeccably conservative credentials. …
Well, the core of the Republican Party was a bit slow to be delighted. As I heard on the cable shows in the background, out in Colorado Springs, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, the gatekeeper of Republican values (evangelical Christian rule of the avenging American Jesus), took an hour to think about whether this was a good thing, then gave his stamp of approval. The left is not yet jumping up and down in anger, although they need an hour or two.
"The president has chosen someone with suitable legal credentials, but that is not the end of our inquiry," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Referring to planned hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Reid said, "I will not prejudge this nomination. I look forward to learning more about Judge Roberts."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats would want to probe Roberts' views to see whether he holds "mainstream values."
And so it begins.

Want to know more about the guy? See this history of his legal career and views or this one. ScotusBlog now has another blog devoted to nominations to the court, where you can read the criminal law opinions the guy has written. The text of his 2003 confirmation hearings can be found in PDF format here and here, if you get off on such things.

I'm with the editors of the legal site Talk Left in deciding to hold off -
? it's too soon to start opposing Judge John G. Roberts. Most of us knew nothing about him before tonight. He's only been a Judge for two years. Before that he was deputy solicitor general. The legal arguments he made while working for the Government or as a corporate lawyer may or may not reflect his personal values, or how he would rule as a Supreme Court Justice.

I'd like to know more about him before I make up my mind. I don't think it helps that liberal groups are coming out swinging so soon. It has the appearance that they would oppose anyone Bush would nominate.

It's obvious we're going to get a conservative Supreme Court nominee. Bush is President and the Senate is Republican-dominated. For now, I'm just happy it wasn't a rabid right-winger like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, Edith Jones (not to be confused with Edith Clement, who probably would have been okay,) Ted Olson or one of the Fourth Circuit judges that were reportedly under consideration.

I'm more worried about Bush's second pick, the one he will make when Chief Justice Rehnquist retires, when his key aides may be out from under the gun of, or already indicted by, Fitzgerald's grand jury.

I do not want to fall into the Administration's trap of getting so distracted by this judicial nomination that I don't pay attention to other injustices of the Administration, like the war in Iraq, the detainees, military tribunals, the potential abolition of habeas corpus in death cases, and Rove Gate, to name a few.
And it's not like the other news is going away, even if all else will be sparsely reported. This could be a good, juicy fight and our news media, chasing the advertising bucks, does not multi-task much. Our press is more hedgehog than fox - in fact, Fox News ought to be called Hedgehog News (see Hedgehogs and Foxes from December 21, 2003 in these pages).

But what of the Rove business? I wrote to my friends Monday evening that I was getting sick of the Karl Rove business and I'd get back to it later. Christopher Hitchens wrote Monday on how awful Wilson and his wife are - and how Rove had no choice but to attack. Whatever. So what? One can comment to speculation and opinion, but to what end? What's the point of saying - "Look! Bullshit!" - as there are no new facts, or just little ones?

Hitchens in Rove Rage: The Poverty of our Current Scandal argues that Saddam Hussein certainly was trying to buy uranium and only fools believe otherwise. And he ends with this:
Joseph Wilson comes before us as a man whose word is effectively worthless. What do you do, if you work for the Bush administration, when a man of such quality is being lionized by an anti-war press? Well, you can fold your tent and let them print the legend. Or you can say that the word of a mediocre political malcontent who is at a loose end, and who is picking up side work from a wife who works at the anti-regime-change CIA, may not be as "objective" as it looks. I dare say that more than one supporter of regime change took this option. I would certainly have done so as a reporter if I had known.

OK, then, how do the opponents of regime change in Iraq make my last sentence into a statement of criminal intent and national-security endangerment? By citing the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. This law, which is one of the most repressive and absurd pieces of legislation on our statute book, was a panicky attempt by the right to silence whistle-blowers at the CIA. In a rough effort to make it congruent with freedom of information and the First Amendment (after all, the United States managed to get through the Second World War and most of the Cold War without such a law), it sets a fairly high bar. You must knowingly wish to expose the cover of a CIA officer who you understand may be harmed as a result. It seems quite clear that nobody has broken even that arbitrary element of this silly law.

But the coverage of this non-storm in an un-teacup has gone far beyond the fantasy of a Rovean hidden hand. Supposedly responsible journalists are now writing as if there was never any problem with Saddam's attempt to acquire yellowcake (or his regime's now-proven concealment of a nuclear centrifuge, or his regime's now-proven attempt to buy long-range missiles off the shelf from North Korea as late as March 2003). In the same way, the carefully phrased yet indistinct statement of the 9/11 Commission that Saddam had no proven "operational" relationship with al-Qaida has mutated lazily into the belief that there were no contacts or exchanges at all, which the commission by no means asserts and which in any case by no means possesses the merit of being true. The CIA got everything wrong before 9/11, and thereafter. It was conditioned by its own culture to see no evil. It regularly leaked - see any of Bob Woodward's narratives - against the administration. Now it, and its partisans and publicity-famished husband-and-wife teams, want to imprison or depose people who leak back at it. No, thanks. ?
Unpacking that it comes down to the CIA being anti-regime-change fools and cowards who couldn't see the truth. Yeah, yeah.

The argument is flawed? Josh Marshall, after reviewing Hitchens' questionable citations of evidence, one by one, writes this -
But why mess with preliminaries? The Iraq Survey Group more or less owned Iraq for more than a year, had access to all the evidence leading up the war, all the evidence in Iraq, all the scientists arrested by the US military, everything we've learned since the war. ? the ISG concluded that Saddam's regime had not sought uranium either at home or abroad since 1991, period.

What else is there to say?
Oh, lots - but why bother?

The White House has a political problem that is more immediate. Karl, and now Scooter, may be in deep trouble.

Tom Noah in his continuing Rove Death Watch comments, as do so many others, on the president's change of position, from "anyone who was involved" is so fired to "anyone who is indicted" is so fired, to "anyone who is found guilty and convicted" is so fired. Whatever. It's become a joke. And the polls show only a quarter of the people now think the White House is cooperating in getting this straightened out. It's a mess.

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly has a cool analysis of how the came to be such a big deal, in Nukes and the Base - "So why did the White House go nuts? What were they so scared of that they went into full-blown smear-and-destroy mode?"
? the White House political operation wasn't lashing out just because of Joe Wilson. They were lashing out because they believed their political lives depended on their own supporters continuing to believe that Saddam had been actively working on a nuke program. Without that belief, they'd lose support within their own base even if they eventually found evidence of chem and bio programs.

In Karl Rove's world, the base is sacred, and nukes were the key to their support. Joe Wilson threatened to open a crack in that support, and that's why he had to be destroyed.
Perhaps so. That works, but it doesn't fix anything.

The real mess, as Frank Rich argued over the weekend in the New York Times, is that This case is about Iraq, not Niger. -
The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a CIA operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

So put aside Mr. Wilson's February 2002 trip to Africa. The plot that matters starts a month later, in March, and its omniscient author is Dick Cheney. It was Mr. Cheney (on CNN) who planted the idea that Saddam was "actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time." The vice president went on to repeat this charge in May on "Meet the Press," in three speeches in August and on "Meet the Press" yet again in September. Along the way the frightening word "uranium" was thrown into the mix.
Well, maybe it is really about the whole war.

It was a good time to change subjects and get this Supreme Court nomination to the top of the news mix. After all, there is mounting evidence that the special prosecutor has Rove clearly committing perjury, if nothing else. (See this and this.) Ari Fleischer seems to be involved (see this). And on it goes.

And late Tuesday a group of eleven former intelligence officers delivered a letter to the Republican and Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate on the Plame case. They're pissed, and end with this:
Our friends and colleagues have difficult jobs gathering the intelligence, which helps, for example, to prevent terrorist attacks against Americans at home and abroad. They sometimes face great personal risk and must spend long hours away from family and friends. They serve because they love this country and are committed to protecting it from threats from abroad and to defending the principles of liberty and freedom. They do not expect public acknowledgement for their work, but they do expect and deserve their government?s protection of their covert status.

For the good of our country, we ask you to please stand up for every man and woman who works for the U.S. intelligence community and help protect their ability to live their cover.
And who are these guys?

Larry C. Johnson, former Analyst, CIA
Mr. Brent Cavan, former Analyst, CIA
Mr. Vince Cannistraro, former Case Officer, CIA
Mr. Michael Grimaldi, former Analyst, CIA
Mr. Mel Goodman, former senior Analyst, CIA
Col. W. Patrick Lang (US Army retired), former Director, Defense Humint Services, DIA
Mr. David MacMichael, former senior estimates officer, National Intelligence Council, CIA
Mr. James Marcinkowski, former Case Officer, CIA
Mr. Ray McGovern, former senior Analyst and PDB Briefer, CIA
Mr. Jim Smith, former Case Officer, CIA
Mr. William C. Wagner, former Case Officer, CIA

Geez. So let's talk about Judge Roberts.

Posted by Alan at 21:13 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 19 July 2005 21:18 PDT home

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