Another reason I’ve been stepping away from the politics posts – the estimable Charlie Pierce has this beat covered. Here he eviscerates the Politico-Industrial complex’s continued infatuation with gasbag Newt Gingrich. “Not to stick up for Karl Rove but, Jesus H. Christ on a special episode of Blossom, there is no serious comparison to be made.” Naturally, CNN — home of Serious People™ like David Gergen — has recently picked him up as a political correspondent.
Still, the Republicans’ recent intemperate rhetoric aside, one could argue we’re seeing the slow-motion devolution of a movement that began over a half-century ago, with Goldwater in 1964. Since then, Nixon notwithstanding, the Republicans have moved continually to the right, engaging in putsch after putsch to retain the purity of their conservatism (to say nothing of the precious bodily fluids.) Even the much-beloved Ronald Reagan, pretty far right for his day, would be considered a pinko by the standards of the contemporary Tea Partier, as would, in many corners, the Muslim-coddling Dubya.
And so, here we are at the end of the rainbow. The snake is eating itself. Not for nothing is Newt Gingrich, once the Robespierre of this particular Revolution, now frantically swimming right to save his own head — He doesn’t want to end up like Rove. (Speaking of which, Presidents Collins and Snowe, take note: There is no room for you at this table anymore.)
As for the evening’s big winner, well, obviously I think O’Donnell is frighteningly wrong on just about everything, from creationism to onanism, and she’d be an absolute disaster in the Senate. (Good thing she seems unelectable.) Still, however much we disagree, I have to confess a soft spot for anyone who takes their Tolkien seriously.
I don’t mean to be too harsh — There’s nothing terribly wrong with this edutainment-y attempt to explain de-Baathification, highly dubious detainee procedures, and most notably the faked WMD casus belli to disinterested laypersons by way of action-thriller. And, in a way, I sorta admire the gutsiness of the the attempt. But, if you were already well aware of these grim developments, and I assume most GitM readers are, then it’s hard to escape the sensation that one is mainly just being talked down to for two hours. Wait, there were no WMD in Iraq? You’re kidding me, right? And, while I’m a great fan of Greengrass’ previous output — I said over and over again in this space that I wish he had stuck with Watchmen, and on the Top 100 films of last decade list, Bloody Sunday was #84, his two Bournes were at #49, and the exemplary United 93 was at #6 — The Green Zone feels quite a bit more leaden than usual.
As with the political edutainment project Greengrass aspired to here, I like the idea of fusing his highly visceral action work (the Bournes) with his fly-on-the-wall discursions into recent history (Sunday, ’93)…on paper. But The Green Zone gets lost somewhere in the interstice, and lacks the gripping power of either of these previous Greengrass grooves. Instead, Zone ends up mostly being two grainy hours of watching Matt Damon run around at night, as he tries to uncover an insidious government plot that our nation has been fully aware of for years…and has chosen to greet with a yawn.
More on that depressing problem in a bit, but, first, to bring y’all up to speed: Loosely based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a non-fiction examination of Dubyaite imbecility and excess in post-war Baghdad, Green Zone begins with a brief sequence set amid the original Shock-and-Awe period of the war, followed by, a few weeks later, a tense raid on a possible WMD storehouse by American soldiers. Led by Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon), this crack MW2-ish assault ends up finding, well, bupkis, just like the time before and the time before that.
To Chief Miller, the problem here is obvious — the intel must be rotten. But, when he brings this up at the next briefing for high-level military muckety-mucks, he is basically told to shut up and do his job. Nonetheless, events soon conspire to introduce Miller to the “Jack of Clubs” in the Dubya deck, a Baathist general (Yigal Naor) with a still-clearly extant power base in Baghdad. And, when our hero digs deeper to figure out how this Jack might know “Magellan,” the top-secret source of all this lousy intel, he soon finds himself trapped — along with a very Judith Miller-y reporter (Amy Ryan) — in a power play between a slimy executive branch bureaucrat (Greg Kinnear, stuck no more) and a grizzled CIA hand (Brendan Gleeson), one that might just end up getting Miller fragged by the creepy Special Forces guy (Jason Isaacs, with great accent) who keeps popping up…
Along the way, there’s a digression into a detainee facility with all the makings of an Abu Ghraib waiting to happen, the tearful homecoming of the administration’s hand-picked Iraqi stooge (re: Ahmed Chalabi), some rather pained attempts to make the decision to de-Baathify an action beat…In other words, Green Zone is basically an attempt to dramatize the Iraq war for people who, for whatever reason, weren’t paying much attention the first time ’round. And, to be fair, it’s done with solid acting all around (including several folks recognizable from United 93), quality production values, and a reasonable degree of versimilitude throughout. (Note also the brief Paul Rieckhoff cameo, which should nip any IAVA whining about dramatic license right in the bud.)
But, for all its edutainmenty truths to tell, Green Zone still ends up feeling rather fake and film-ish to me, perhaps in part because — unlike Greengrass’ other recent histories — it seems to subscribe to a very movie-like All the President’s Men view of things, where, once word of misdeed gets out, justice will be done tho’ the heavens fall. Not to get all Debbie Downer up in here, but that’s not really the way the world works anymore, is it? One of the saddest and scariest moments in the recent and very worthwhile Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America is when Ellsberg explains how he thought everything would change once the Pentagon Papers got out…and then he finds that, in the face of clear and irrefutable evidence of government wrongdoing, most people just shrugged.
This is the uncomfortable horror that Green Zone almost seems willfully designed not to recognize. The whole premise of the movie seems to be that, if We the People knew what really went down in Iraq (or could just be taught via action-movie), we would be totally livid about the corruption involved. But, is the problem really that the American people don’t know what happened in the build-up to Iraq? Or is it that we know pretty well what happened and don’t much seem to care?
Just as with our indefensible dabbling in torture and indefinite detention in recent years, we have known about the lies and incompetence that fueled the Iraq fiasco for awhile now. And, alas, nothing ever happened. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the whole awful, lying lot are still deemed Serious People with Serious Opinions by the nation’s domesticated media watchdogs, who, by the way, have also been studiously ignoring the Blair hearings overseas. Our current president, elected with the largest mandate for change in a generation, has deemed all of this just the sins of the past and refused to “look backward” (or worse, made himself complicit in these Dubya-era crimes.) And life continues, much as it has this past age, with no sense of reckoning whatsoever for the Big Lies that were told.
One of the main reasons Bloody Sunday and United 93 work so well is that they offer complex, nuanced portraits of complicated times. But, as Green Zone moves along, it just ended up feeling more and more like a cartoon to me, and one predicated mainly on wishful thinking. Like I said, I guess I admire what Paul Greengrass & co. were trying do here, but Green Zone as an action film feels flat and mostly uninvolving. And Green Zone as a political enterprise — Iraq War: The Movie!, basically — often seems at best condescending and at worst dangerously naive.
Remember the persecuted prosecutors? The Senate Judiciary does, voting 12-7 to hold Karl Rove and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress. “Two Republicans, Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley, joined the committee Democrats in the contempt vote. Today’s action means contempt citations are now pending in both the House and Senate.“
“‘We will take the evidence where it leads us. We will not leave any stone unturned.’” Well, Sheryl Crow’s the least of his worries now. Based on the fact that several different current investigations seem to point his way, the White House’s Office of Special Counsel opens an inquiry into Karl Rove, to ascertain if (and how often) he’s violated the Hatch Act. “‘This is a big deal,’ Paul C. Light, a New York University expert on the executive branch, said of [Special Counsel] Bloch’s plan. ‘It is a significant moment for the administration and Karl Rove. It speaks to the growing sense that there is a nexus at the White House that explains what’s going on in these disparate investigations.’” And, in related news, John Edwards calls for Rove’s firing, based on his refusal to testify about the persecuted prosecutors.
“‘You can’t erase e-mails, not today,’ Leahy said in an angry speech on the Senate floor. “They’ve gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there — they just don’t want to produce them. It’s like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes.‘” Breaking last Friday: Just as the persecuted prosecutors case boils to a head, four years of Karl Rove’s e-mail go conveniently missing from the RNC archives. And, also developing on the prosecutorial front, another subpoenaed Justice official, Michael Battle, has contradicted Gonzales’ earlier professions of ignorance on the subject, setting up the Attorney General for a raucous time during his hearings tomorrow: “Gonzales…has been preparing for a pivotal appearance on Tuesday before the committee, including mock testimony sessions lasting up to five hours a day, officials said. Better get that story straight, Al.
“‘I’ve always been trained that loyalty is a two-way street,’ Iglesias answered. ‘I started thinking: Why am I protecting these people who not only did me wrong but did wrong to the system for appointing U.S. attorneys?’” The House and Senate Judiciary Committees listen to testimony from eight former U.S. attorneys concerning what appears to be an epidemic of illegal GOP arm-twisting. “The [Justice] department has also acknowledged that Cummins, the Little Rock prosecutor, was asked to resign solely to provide a job for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.“
All the t’s have been crossed and Novaks have been questioned…Now, according to the Post‘s Jim Vanderhei, Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s extended investigation of Karl Rove is nearing resolution. “Rove expects to learn as soon as this month if he will be indicted — or publicly cleared of wrongdoing — for making false statements in the CIA leak case, according to sources close to the presidential adviser. An indictment would be devastating to a White House already battered by low poll numbers, a staff shake-up and a stalled agenda.”
Fifth time’s the charm? Karl Rove returns once more to testify before Patrick Fitzgerald’s Plamegate grand jury, mainly to discuss his interactions with TIME reporter Viveca Novak. Will this fifth round of testimony of Dubya’s consigliere result in an indictment (and finally make Karl a household name?) Hopefully, we’ll know sooner rather than later. Update: Make that 2-3 weeks.
I dannae if the ship of state could take any more…As suspected, the continuing White House shakeup claims another victim in press secretary Scott McClellan. (Text of statement.) Also, Rove got reassigned from policy to politics, but that sounds like more of a cosmetic switch than anything else.
“The curtain got pulled aside, and there’s not even a wizard behind it…these people are incompetent.” As you probably heard, Karl Rove emerged from hiding to offer his blueprint for Republican resurgence in 2006. Yep, you guessed it: terror, terror, terror, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, garnished with a smattering of tax cuts. But, to their credit, it sounds like Dems are relishing this coming fight, with Intelligence Committee Dem Jane Harman pushing back once more on the illegal wiretaps, and, in keeping with the recent trend of presidential also-rans finding their voice, John Kerry taking off the gloves on the Sunday shows. “Osama bin Laden is going to die of kidney failure before he’s killed by Karl Rove and his crowd.“
“One final note: Luskin is unhappy that I decided to write about our conversation, but I feel that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said.” TIME reporter Viveca Novak explains her testimony before the Fitzgerald grand jury. Novak, who may well have tipped Luskin to a hole in Rove’s story, is now on a leave of absence with TIME “by mutual agreement.”
“After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that ‘God put me here’ to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that ‘he’s the man,’ the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reelection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.” By way of Salon‘s War Room, The New Yorker‘s Sy Hersh scrutinizes the terrifying dogmatism and tone-deafness at work in the White House with regards to Iraq.
Here’s more: “[Rove and Cheney] keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,’ the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. ‘Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,’ the former official said, ‘but Bush has no idea.’“
Meanwhile, the investigations continue. This weekend, Time reporter Viveca Novak announced she’s cooperating with Plamegate prosecutors, who have been asking her about her conversations with Robert Luskin, Karl Rove’s attorney, beginning in 2004. Doesn’t sound like Rove is off the hook, does it? Update: Apparently, Novak was Rove’s alibi: “‘This is what caused [Fitzgerald] to hold off on charging’ Rove, the source said. But another person familiar with the conversations said they did not appear to significantly alter the case.“
Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald re-ups on another grand jury, suggesting anew that the Libby indictment was just the first phase of the investigation. Meanwhile, speculation run rampant on the identity of Bob Woodward’s new source: Apparently, it’s not Cheney, and spokesmen for Rove, Card, Bartlett, Powell, Armitage, Tenet and McLaughlin have all denied it, too (Not that the word of White House officials means all that much these days.) Stephen Hadley, perhaps?
Washington Post editor Bob Woodward testifies to the Fitzgerald grand jury about a third senior White House official involved in disclosing the identity of Valerie Plame, besides Libby and Rove. (Woodward’s statement.) This means Libby likely wasn’t the first to leak Plame’s identity, but the new info has no bearing on his perjury or obstruction of justice indictments.
For Woodward’s part, his statement and public comments about the case alternate between high dudgeon (“It was the first time in 35 years as a reporter that I have been asked to provide information to a grand jury”) and open ridicule (“When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great.“) Mostly, he just seems cranky that he — award-winning journalist Bob Woodward! — was forced to take time away from another puff piece book on Dubya to testify about a felony in the White House. But this isn’t news. Frankly, Woodward has been embarrassing his legacy for years…almost any of his talking-head stints on Larry King illustrate that. Since at least the early Clinton years, he’s been more desirous of maintaining his high profile and insider status than in promoting good journalism or good government. (And in that, he’s reflected the trajectory of many in the newsmedia.) Update: The Post is somewhat irked.
“Why would an experienced lawyer and government official such as Libby leave himself so exposed to prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald?…To critics, the timing suggests an attempt to obscure Cheney’s role, and possibly his legal culpability.” The Post suggests anew that, in the investigation into the Valerie Plame leak, Scooter Libby fell on his sword for Cheney. Meanwhile, National Journal‘s Murray Waas reports that Karl Rove’s fate rests on Libby’s testimony, meaning it may be some time before “Bush’s Brain” is indicted, or in the clear.
“He’s weary. His wife and only child, who is approaching college, miss him. He has monstrous legal bills. His unique bond with the President is under stress. His most important work is done. Karl Rove’s colleagues don’t know exactly when it will happen, but they are already laying out the reasons they will give for the departure of the man President George W. Bush dubbed the architect.” TIME Magazine suggests anew that Karl Rove is on his way out, and he won’t be leaving alone. According to the article by Mike Allen, “[s]everal well-wired Administration officials predict that within a year, the President will have a new chief of staff and press secretary, probably a new Treasury Secretary and maybe a new Defense Secretary.”
“Karl does not have any real enemies in the White House, but there are a lot of people in the White House wondering how they can put this behind them if the cloud remains over Karl…You can not have that [fresh] start as long as Karl is there.” As Scooter Libby pleads not guilty, the White House contemplates its Rove problem. No enemies, perhaps, but the fact that a story like this is leaking suggest someone wants Rove out. Update: In light of recent events, Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg revisits the Bush/Rove = McKinley/Hanna analogy.
“‘Everyone thinks it is over for Karl and they are wrong,’ a source close to Rove said. The strategist’s legal and political advisers ‘by no means think the part of the investigation concerning Karl is closed.’” As Scooter Libby preps for his Thursday arraignment, Rove continues to sweat the Fitzgerald investigation. Meanwhile, Cheney picked Libby’s replacements yesterday, and they’re more of the same: The new chief of staff, David Addington, was the co-author of the infamous torture memo, and Cheney’s new national security advisor, John Hannah, acted as the conduit for false Iraq intel in the lead-up to war. And, as you might expect of Cheney’s cronies, both are already implicated in Plamegate.
“‘The president said anyone involved would be gone,’ Reid said. ‘And we now know that Official A is Karl Rove. He’s still around. He should be let go.’” On the Sunday circuit, the Dems make the case for Rove’s dismissal, in keeping with Dubya’s earlier pledge to fire anyone involved in the Plame leak. And, last-minute Hail Mary notwithstanding, Rove still appears to be in legal trouble. “In prosecutorial parlance, this kind of awkward pseudonym ["Official A"] is often used for individuals who have not been indicted in a case but still face a significant chance of being charged. No other official in the investigation carries such an identifier.”
But how deep go the roots? As you know by now, Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby (a.k.a. “Cheney’s Cheney“) has been indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements. (So much for “restoring honor and dignity to the White House.”) As for the other rumored indictment, it seems Karl Rove has slipped off the hook for the time being, but the investigation continues…
For Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, the White House, and all of Washington, the waiting is the hardest part. But, word is we’ll know the results of Fitzgerald’s Plamegate inquiry tomorrow, and not a moment too soon.
“Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way.” (Then again, pretty much everything about this administration is bush-league.) A new report indicates that, contrary to previous White House statements and leaks, Dubya knew about Rove’s role in Plamegate from the start. Strange this information is being leaked on the eve of indictments…
“Greg Mitchell, who edits Editor & Publisher, writes, ‘Miller did far more damage to her newspaper than did Jayson Blair, and that’s not even counting her WMD reporting, which hurt and embarrassed the paper in other ways.’ Jay Rosen concurs. ‘There’s no question,’ he says, ‘this is bigger than Jayson Blair.’” Salon‘s Farhad Manjoo deconstructs the NY Times coverage of Judy Miller’s involvement in Plamegate (available here), and explains why Cheney chief Lewis Libby, in particular, may now be facing an obstruction of justice charge. If it’s any consolation, Scooter, Rove’s in hot water, too.
“‘The one that people are most worried about is Abramoff because it seems to have such long tentacles…This seems to be something that could spread almost anywhere…and that has a lot of people worried.’” As Rove testifies for a fourth time before Patrick Fitzgerald’s inquiry into Plamegate and Boss DeLay’s phone records are subpoenaed by Texas DA Ronnie Earle, the WP surveys the political fallout from the many GOP corruption scandals currently in play.
“There is no reason for Rove to make this appearance unless he and his counsel believe he is at serious risk of indictment. None.” On the day after former White House procurement chief David Safavian is indicted on five counts of lying and obstruction of justice, Karl Rove decides to testify for a fourth time before the grand jury delving into the felonious unmasking of Valerie Plame (presumably to stave off his indictment, or that of someone above him.) So…Rove, Safavian, Libby, Abramoff, Frist, DeLay…how many investigations and indictments can the GOP leadership rack up? Is the whole rotten edifice of GOP corporate cronyism threatening to topple? One can only hope.