Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bill the White House for three tons of caulking and window sealant.

I'm not possessed of the keenest legal mind -- hell, there were episodes of Matlock that had me confused -- so I've generally been avoiding the whole "George W. Bush and the leaks" thing. But I have noticed that the general Republican spin seems to have settled on this: "Ach, so what? Bush can leak whatever he wants, and it's all perfectly legal."

I guess my problem with that is that it doesn't make sense when considered as part of the timeline of what actually transpired. If the Administration's actions were legal the whole time, why have we endured several years of stonewalling, meta-narratives, grand jury investigations, indictments, and all that? Why didn't the President just stand up and say, "You know what? Here's a document I'm declassifying. The document says _____, and I'm declassifying it in response to _____."

In reference to this whole deal, John Scalzi posted a comment in the thread (connected with this post), in response to just such a "Hey, Bush did it, so it's perfectly legal!" claim:

Oh, you mean his "Let's declassify certain information that helps us, and then not tell anybody that it's declassified and then present it as a leak and then act all indignant that people are leaking in our administration, but then pull out this excuse when the leak eventually gets traced back to us" maneuver. Yeah, it's legal. However, there aren't very many words in the English language that fully describe the utterly repugnant moral and political cynicism of a maneuver like that, Brian, and I feel very sad for you that "it's not illegal if it's the president" is the only argument this administration allows you to present for its behavior.

Over at The American Prospect, Greg Sargent had a good response to the "What Bush does is legal" argument the other day, concluding thusly:

So to recap: Libby has revealed that Bush authorized a leak of classified info for political purposes. End of story.

I just want to know, if the President's actions here are completely legal and justifiable, just why it is that everybody's acting so damned guilty over there until now. Maybe it's because they suddenly realized that lots of their supporters have already bought into the "What the President does is legal" argument once (in reference to the NSA wiretapping scandal).

I do know one thing: these guys wouldn't have made it to the first commercial break against Ben Matlock.

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