How the “Game” is played?

In listening to the "Beltway/K St." crowd discuss the ever widening Abuse of Power scandal surrounding the Bush Administration I am struck by the profound immorality of many of the statements being made by people who have served for decades at the right hand of presidents and members of Congress.

"That’s just how the Game is Played," or "Let’s not Criminalize Politics" would be samples of the kind of rhetoric floating around these days in the world of the "talking heads."  What is meant by that? 

The idea implicit in statements of this kind by people like Christopher Matthews, David Gergen and Pat Buchanan is that there is nothing wrong with using the power of the executive branch of government to manipulate the press to destroy the reputations and livelihoods of political opponents.  The belief seems to be that pressurizing or seducing media executives to accept false and misleading statements about critics of the policies of the government of the day is just a form of "contact sport" and that, in fact, all is truly fair in love, war, and now politics.  It seems that the "wise men" also believe that it is just part of the game to "recruit" reporters for the national print media and then use them as instruments of propaganda to deceive the public and contribute to the destruction of the "loyal opposition."

If it is true that the politics of personal destruction are so widely accepted by the political establishment in the city named for one of the most honest men who ever lived, then perhaps we should change the name of the place.  Maybe "Nixon City" would be more realistic or perhaps "Pedernales Flats" for one of my "favorite" presidents.

Patrick Fitzgerald is evidently still deciding what to do about the cruel and selfish "system" that his investigation into the equivalent of the "bungled burglary" has revealed.  To my mind, the central question before him and his grand jury is not whether or not some combination if these monkeys "outed" Mrs. Wilson.

No, the main issue is whether or not it is a crime punishable under federal law for federal officers and employees to use the power of the state to combine in the covert destruction of a man’s reputation and livelihood. 

It seems possible that the putative conspirators have violated the civil rights of Joe Wilson by so combining against him.  If Fitzgerald thinks so, and a conviction occurred on this charge….

There might be some change in the "rules of the game."

Pat Lang

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16 Responses to How the “Game” is played?

  1. Alvord says:

    I think your analysis of the real crime is right on target. Maybe this is an indicator of what is to come: The democratic establishment of the Chicago city government was shocked when Fitzgerald came down with an indictment because they illegally bypassed their hiring rules to give a government job to a political crony. They were shocked because that was the way they have done business in Chicago for many years. I hope the current governing crowd in Washington, DC gets a shock too.

  2. gloria says:

    I suspect there is also the issue of lying to Fitzgerald. It will be very difficult for the Bushiteers to rationalize this because they had another president impeached for lying about something less central to our actual governing.
    Given that Rove and Cheney are possible targets then one can understand the panic. The American “system” strikes back in it’s usual and indirect clumsy way which has kept us muddling along for several centuries.
    I myself am hoping for the resignation of the vice president, his replacement by Ms. Rice and the resignation of a president who wanted a job that was fun and now feels it’s more important that he “spend time with his family.”
    This could give the United Staes something like a clean start as it tries to repair it’s recent foreign policy failures. We could at least temporarily regain some of the respect of the world.
    Of course this is fantasy, but I’d like to see it.

  3. b says:

    @gloria – Rice as VP would give America clean start?
    What was Rice’s job the last years? She was in the very middle of the WHIG and their plan and deads.
    My foreign impression – as long as Bush is not impeached and the torture gangleaders not in prison their is no way for the US to regain some respect in the world.

    Pat – good post

  4. J i O says:

    Jim “one-helluva-writer” Wolcott has great things to say about your post. It’s an enviable kudos from one of the best, Pat. Congrats!
    On another subject, what do you make of Justin Raimando’s article today suggesting that Patrick Fitzgerald has been colluding with Paul McNulty, who’s prosecuting the Larry Franklin AIPAC matter?
    What could enable/prevent collaboration between Federal prosecutors Fitzgerald and McNulty? Could they possibly show links between Likud and WHIG through AIPAC?

  5. Some Guy says:

    Great post, Colonel. One of the things I enjoy about your blog is that you so often cut to issue, speaking to anxieties and frustrations I feel myself.
    I never cease to be surprised that so many otherwise intelligent (if morally hobbled) people resort to childish logic: “they did it so I can too.”
    Listening to journalists tsk-tsk Fitzgerald and what it will do to their access to power has been nothing short of grotesque. Journalists, good ones, are necessary to bring abuses of power to light. But they cannot prosecute crimes. Waiving away prosecutors because it hurts journalistic access undercuts the very reason for sleuthing out such abuses. What is left is nothing more than a game of publicity for criminal brilliance. Absent any meaningful threat of legal accountability, it would merely bring fame to the abusers: “Look how masteruflly they manipulated us! Sure wish they wouldn’t but wow! Genius!”
    It is obscene.

  6. Some Guy says:

    Colonel, I think Pitchfork Pat is Pat Buchanan in Wolcott’s post. For a second I thought that too, but Gargler is Gergen.
    On a related issue, claims from people like Weisman about losing the ability to get valuable information is balderdash.
    People like Colleen Rowley who blow whistles do so not because it is in their interest but because they find what is happening around them to be unacceptable. People like Rove and Libby who peddle lies to weild power do so because it is in their interest. The latter should not have their lies printed, it is not a public service. Truth tellers like the former wihl continue to seek out journalists because they feel a need to do so. The whole characterization that Rove and Libby’s operation was part of a healthy civic environment is incoherent.

  7. gloria says:

    Rice would blow the world away. A system that got tid of an incompetent president and put a black women in charge.
    Yes Rice like Powell has been loyal to the administration. But there are also indications that she has been more sensible and evidently the State Department has somewhat warmed to her since she did things like send Bolton off to the UN.
    Note that in subtle ways she defied and redirected the president on things like accepting aid for Katrina from other countries.
    I am not a “purist.” Almost anyone in this game will have made made decisions and compromises that are questionable.
    Talking about individuals who could reasonably expect to be in the running Ms. Rice is my choice, partly because conservative Republicans are actually afraid of the possibility of her getting the VP slot.
    She’d be a big improvement over Cheney.
    I will tell you my take on the system. It is a bit cynical. I believe historically we have got by with far less than perfect people. People with flaws and failings have led and misled. Differences of opinion have been resolved through deals, it is all messy. Many organizations work that way.
    Now we have Republicans who have chosen a more “purist” path. The result has been arrogance and unsurpassed corruption. I have no use for Democrats who advocate this “purist” philosophy. First they have little chance of taking power, second their vision will result in the same types of behaviors we get from the Bushiteers.
    I simply do not think that Ms. Rice is tainted with evil because she served the president. It is a choice that many individuals of greater integrity would not make, but quite frankly such individuals rarely rice to the top of the system. But you have both sides pretending this is true only for the other side. This is natural because it’s getting pretty weird.
    The thing is that it starts to piss me off. I have no doubt thast if my dream came true that the world would be stunned and since it is their interest to have more favorable relations with us incredibly hopeful. I personally believe Ms. Rice would formulate a different policy than her master.
    But before she was given a chance there would be those who do all they could to knock her down in the eyes of the world as the right did with Clinton, also a flawed person.
    This may be stupid, but I always hope. I feel like we saw some potential for greatness in George Bush after 9/11. I hope the crisis he is facing will cause him to deeply pray to his god and change his ways. I hope this and if I see even partial signs of this I would be happy. I would be so overjoyed if things worked out in Iraq and if tax cuts made us rich.
    I think there are stupid policies, but I would like to be wrong. I was skeptical of the first Iraqi election and knew deep down it wouldn’t work, but I let myself feel some joy and hope. I want these things.
    I think the presidency is almost holy, I think we’ve had no one truly fit to fill it, though people like Lincln and Washington came close. But neither meet purist standards.
    I want to believe that people can rise into it and I think here and there for a moment at least most have even as they dismally failed elsewhere.

  8. Sonoma says:

    A couple of months back, when your blog first came to my attention, we crossed swords. I honestly can’t recall the context of the beef, but it had to do with my invocation of Clinton. You rejoined something to the effect, “do you really think there’s a hair’s difference between the two parties”? You came on pretty heavy, and in thin skinned fashion I called you thinned skin, rather than bother to further explain myself. You disappeared my thread, I didn’t care, and that was that.
    However, in light of this post of yours, are you acknowledging a difference in the two parties… “philosophy of governance” (sorry-that’s my best phrasing in the time allowed).
    I suppose that’s a highfalutin’ way of asking if you believe the current leadership of the GOP is intrinsically more corrupt than that of the democrats, or not?

  9. Gauntlet says:

    Pat..I believe this Rove/Plame/Wilson Investigation will wind up being more important that Watergate and the abuses of the Nixon Administration..
    I believe there will be a minimum of two Indictments,Probably a Conspiracy charge and now even speculation of Espionage..
    At a minimum there has been every indication of a Conspiracy to Create enough Propaganda to Mislead the Congress and the People of the Untied States to Gain Support for an Invasion of Playing off of the EMOTIONS of 9/11 , The Public Fear of More Terrorists Acts, and the so called Saddam..WMD Connection we all heard repeated hundreds of times..
    Its pretty clear this administrations means and methods have been ruthless and self serving..
    I’m sure what they did to the Wilsons (Plame)is only the tip of the iceberg of a long list of trying to ruin people in this Ugly Game of Politics..
    This time they got over confident and left finger prints and a paper trail..
    Thier acts against the Wilsons () are horrendous and Evil and I hope the world fully understands how traitorous the attacks on Valorie and Joe Wilson really were..
    This has been the worst Abuse of Power and Betrayal of the Public Trust I have seen in my sixty Years ..
    They did it so they could spend 300 Billion U>S> Tax Dollars in Iraq..and get u.s. service people killed..
    All for personal reasons and personal gain..National Security has become Worse…NOT Better since this administration took office..
    I have the highest regard for Col. Lang and for his friend Larry Johnson, a former CIA Agent..who have long been the only ones I know who has been angry about the Plame Outing and Demanding Investigations and Justice from Day One the minute this became Public Two Years ago..I am Grateful for thier Comments and Public Service..and Fighting a Good and Honest Fight..
    Larry has been the only Voice to represent all the Agents who can’t speak out
    about this..including Valorie..He is thier Champion..
    Larry and Col. Lang deserve our Respect and Gratitude..
    I Salute them Both..

  10. Quevino says:

    Good column.
    You ask:
    “””That’s just how the Game is Played,” or “Let’s not Criminalize Politics” would be samples of the kind of rhetoric floating around these days in the world of the “talking heads.” What is meant by that? “”
    My response:
    Sounds like moral relativism to me.

  11. Michael Murry says:

    The British pragmatist philosopher F. C. S. Schiller had a great definition for the concept “sacred,” which he said “generally means a fear that the things so denominated cannot bear investigation.” Synonyms like “holy” which denote the same atavistic aversion to examination also deserve discrediting. This means that we should investigate anything and everything we wish: especially corrupt and venal (pardon the redundancy) Presidents of the United States and their unctuous underlings, one at a time or all together as circumstances may dictate.
    I certainly object to the entire idea of worshipping Maximum Leader — or worshipping anything, for that matter — so I favor a scientific search for truth wherever that leads. More investigation, I say. Less blind leader-worship, I say.
    I really don’t know where this abject need for “commandments” and “commanders in chief” got started in America. Personally, I consider the idea of someone “commanding” me rather subversive of my freedoms. I once thought Gore Vidal had gone too far when he called his fellow Americans “the most easily frightened people on earth.” Now, though, I just file that factual observation as a bookmark to William J. Lederer’s 1961 title: “A Nation of Sheep.” The ease and predictability with which those in power can reliably stampede the frightened flock seems almost too depressing to go on noticing decade after decade.
    Anyway, the press should aid in the investigation of incompetence and character assassination by helping us uncover and examine important information, not — as so many seem to think — excuse and cover up malfeasance and mendacity lest a particularly prized dinner invitation from the Secretary of War not arrive as deleriously desired.

  12. Tuli says:

    You say:
    “… the main issue is whether or not it is a crime punishable under federal law for federal officers and employees to use the power of the state to combine in the covert destruction of a man’s reputation and livelihood.
    It seems possible that the putative conspirators have violated the civil rights of Joe Wilson by so combining against him. If Fitzgerald thinks so, and a conviction occurred on this charge….
    There might be some change in the “rules of the game.”
    Not to dismiss the outing of an entire CIA and National Security enterprise. This column is why you are so respected. Let’s hope that your optimism is deserved.
    “Reason”, to quote my son’s generation, “rules.” Or, it should.
    You know that I have felt that the “Wheels Were Coming Off” for quite a while now. Interestingly, I had no ideas what wheels were coming off. But, I knew that someone’s “Wheels Were Coming Off.”
    Could this mean that “Reason Rules,” only the Shadow Knows!

  13. wellbasically says:

    OK one bit of dissent: Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame were bad targets for Bush, because they are part of the DC cocktail party elite. I don’t blame them for fighting back, and doing it in the best way they know how. I admire that.
    But I’d rather see the crimes uncovered against the littler people (like Colleen Rowley mentioned above). Or what about who set up Scott Ritter?

  14. RJJ says:

    What about Karen Kwiatkowski?

  15. Northern Observer says:

    Funny how in the current political environment, and for the forseable future, it makes more sense for a conservative libertarian to vote Democrat then it does for them to vote Republican. It is a sad comment on the rot in the GOPs policy process that it can’t even pretend to be living up to its own principles. And with conservative Democrats like Bayh and Reid front and center I don’t see why calm conservatives can’t join the big Dem tent and start calling themselves conservative Democrats. Actually we already have a catagory like that; its called independents and I think it is going to grow.

  16. b says:

    gloria writes
    “I think the presidency is almost holy, I think we’ve had no one truly fit to fill it, though people like Lincln and Washington came close. But neither meet purist standards.
    I want to believe that people can rise into it and I think here and there for a moment at least most have even as they dismally failed elsewhere. ”
    Stupidness like yours recently cost the life of over 100,000 people in Iraq. Yes I know, just sand niggers, but real people anyhow.

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