Mon, Nov 07, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Bush has become a prisoner of the right

By Sidney Blumenthal  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

One year after his re-election US President George W. Bush governs from a bunker.

"We go forward with complete confidence," he proclaimed in his second inauguration address.

He urged "our youngest citizens" to see the future "in the determined faces of our soldiers," to choose between "evil" and "courage." But as he listened that day, Vice President Dick Cheney knew the election had been secured by a cover-up.

"I would have wished nothing better," said US Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in his press conference of Oct. 28 announcing the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, "that, when the subpoenas were issued in August 2004, witnesses testified then, and we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005. No one would have went to jail."

The indictment documents that Cheney confirmed the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent, to him. The indictment also describes a figure called "Official A," subsequently disclosed to be Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, who informed Libby that he had told the conservative columnist Robert Novak of Plame's status.

The next day Libby conferred with Cheney on how to handle the matter; that very day, Libby revealed Plame's identity to two reporters. Then Libby falsely testified that he had learned Plame's name from reporters.

On Sept. 30, 2003 Bush emphatically stated that he wanted anyone in his administration with information about the Plame leak to "come forward." On June 10, last year, he pledged that anyone on his staff who leaked Plame's name would be fired.

When the Libby indictment was announced, Bush and Cheney praised him as a fine public servant. Still under investigation, Rove remains in the West Wing. But Cheney knew during the presidential campaign that he had discussed with Libby how to deal with Plame. Now Bush knows that Rove had enabled Robert Novak to publish her identity. But the president's promise to fire officials is suddenly inoperative.

Libby's alleged cover-up was undertaken in the spirit of neoconservative Leninism. Any tactic is rationalized by the vanguard, which sets all policy and uses the party as its instrument. If he had testified truthfully in October last year, the result would have consumed the final days of the campaign. His Leninist logic permitted him to protect the Republican cause, but he has tainted Bush's victory in history.

Bush took his win last year as a resounding mandate for a right-wing agenda. With each right turn, however, his popularity declined. Iraq acted as an accelerator of his fall. His nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court was an acknowledgement of his sharply narrowed political space.

While the Republican masses supported him, the Leninist right staged a revolt. In Bush's cronyism and opportunism they saw his deviation. With the prosecutor's indictment imminent, Bush withdrew Miers. Broadly unpopular, he could not suffer a split right. His new nominee, federal judge Samuel Alito, a reliable sectarian, is a tribute to his bunker strategy.

Hostage to his failed fortune, Bush is a prisoner of the right. His administration has become its own republic of fear. Libby's trial will reveal the administration's political methods. Cheney, along with a host of others, will be called to testify. Whatever other calamities may befall Bush, their specter harries him to the right.

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