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How will the Plame game end?

October 14, 2005 | Page 3

KARL ROVE and Lewis "Scooter" Libby led away from their White House lairs in handcuffs.

That picture--or something like it--could flash across your TV screen soon. The arrest of the White House advisers--and two men widely seen as the real powers behind the throne--seems a real possibility as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the Valerie Plame leak scandal comes to a conclusion.

Fitzgerald is in charge of indicting anyone who broke the law in connection with the outing of Plame as an undercover CIA agent to the press--in apparent retaliation for her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly challenging one of the Bush administration's chief lies to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Before the invasion, U.S. officials claimed they had evidence that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government had tried to buy materials for nuclear weapons from Niger. Wilson later said publicly that he went to Africa to investigate the claim and found it to be false. Infuriated White House staffers seem to have fed Plame's name to the media while she was still an active agent--a violation of federal law.

Rove and Libby claim in their defense that they learned Plame was a CIA agent from other reporters, not official sources--and then passed the information on to their own favorites in the press.

The whole affair has exposed the hypocrisy and sleaze of hardball politics in Washington.

And there's plenty of hypocrisy to go around--starting with the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who has the reputation of going to any length to get his way. "He's relentless, and he doesn't give a flying fuck about the press or the First Amendment," said one former newspaper editor. "He'd throw us all in jail if it would help him make his case."

Then there's New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who went to jail for refusing to reveal the source who exposed Plame--and then strangely emerged from incarceration after three months and began cooperating with Fitzgerald.

Before the Iraq invasion, Miller was a media mouthpiece for the neocon's fabrications about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Now, her turnaround with the grand jury has fueled speculation that Miller was the person who started Plame's name circulating within the incestuous circles of Washington powerbrokers and the well-paid journalists who write about them.

Anyone who despises the Bush administration would be overjoyed to see Rove, the ruthless political manipulator, put on the spot for one of his many dirty tricks.

And if Fitzgerald's indictments take down him or Libby, it will add to the political crisis facing George Bush and the Republicans. After starting the year in command of all branches of the federal government and with the momentum of their election trouncing of the Democrats behind them, the Republicans have seen the climate change.

In the end, though, Washington can survive any number of indiscretions as long as the real scandals--illegal wars halfway around the world, poverty amid wealth in the richest country on earth, a health care system that doesn't work for large parts of the population--go unconfronted.

The real challenge to the Bush administration's wars at home and abroad will come from outside Washington.

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