"We're inside the White House now."
So says Bob Woodward, as portrayed by Robert Redford, in All the President's Men. He was, of course, talking about Watergate, a scandal in which the White House criminally used various arms of government for partisan political purposes.
Sound familiar? It will if you've been following the sordid saga of the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys by the Justice Department. And, as of this weekend, we're inside the White House now. In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Alan Weh, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party revealed that in 2005 he asked a White House staffer who worked for Karl Rove for help in getting rid of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, then followed up directly with Rove in 2006. Weh was unhappy that Iglesias refused to rush an investigation of Democratic officials in time for the '06 election.
According to Weh, his conversation with the Boy Genius went like this:
Weh: "Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?"
Rove: "He's gone."
You can almost picture Rove letting out a satisfied laugh and pressing a button on his desk, a la Dr. Evil, causing a trapdoor thousands of miles away to open under Iglesias' chair.
"He's gone." Unfortunately for Rove, so is Scooter Libby. "Cheney's Cheney" took the fall for "Bush's Brain" once already, but now that he's gone, who will be the one to fall on his sword for the president's beloved thug? Maybe Rove can give Libby a call and convince him to take the hit on this one too, with Bush offering up a pardon two-fer in January 2009.
As could be expected, Weh has already started to backpedal, telling the AP that "Rove has little or nothing to do with this."
It doesn't take one of Fox's hotshot fifth graders to figure out that someone got to Weh after the McClatchy story broke. Before his name surfaced in connection to the scandal, Rove was playing down its importance, saying at a speech in Arkansas: "My view is this is unfortunately a very big attempt by some in the Congress to make a political stink about it." But now that the Turd Blossom has hit the fan, it's the White House that is starting to reek.
Not that we should be surprised by any of this. It's just one more vile example of how Bush treats every part of the executive branch: instead of protecting the environment, the E.P.A. is used to weaken it; the V.A. screws veterans; the State Department campaigns against diplomacy; the F.D.A. undermines food safety. And now the injustice at Justice. The Bushies have a long history of playing fast and loose with the law -- evading it, stretching it, getting around it, weakening it, ignoring it, nullifying it.
But now that this use of the Justice Department for partisan advantage is unraveling, Rove and the White House must know the investigations will continue to gather steam. Just yesterday the New York Times called for the ouster of Alberto Gonzalez, as did Senator Chuck Schumer on Face the Nation.
It's an outrage that U.S. Attorneys were fired because of their unwillingness to go along with the abuse of the judicial system being imposed from the top. But the real scandal lies in those who did go along with the abuse. According to a recent study reported by TPMmuckracker.com, 79 percent of elected officials and candidates under federal investigation between 2001 and 2006 were Democrats, and only 18 percent were Republican.
Hard to believe that's just a coincidence and that the pressuring phone calls we've learned about are the only ones that were made. Now that Democrats have the power of subpoena, we can finally uncover the White House connection to those calls. Indeed, according to Newsweek, the list of which U.S. attorneys whose heads were to go on the chopping block was generated by Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzales's chief of staff, "with input from the White House."
"Input from the White House." Who do you suppose gave that input? Who in the White House is really, really helpful with giving "input" on people whose integrity stands in the way of amassing and abusing more power?
The biggest scandals always start slowly. This one is just beginning to boil, and you can bet it's not going to be a fun year to be "inside the White House" as congressional investigators, journalists, and bloggers fill in the gaps of what's shaping up to be one of the worst abuses of our judicial system since Woodward met with Deep Throat in that parking garage.
We might even be in for a slightly rewritten sequel to this cinematic exchange:
DEEP THROAT: The little ratfuckers are now running our government.
WOODWARD: Who? Be specific. How high up?
You'llWe'll have to find that out, won't youwe?
Indeed we will. The only question is: Who will play Rove? Suggestions?