You would think that the motley collection of crooks, thieves, con-men and bozos who masquerade as leaders of our nation would eventually learn the number-one lesson of politics.
It ain’t the crime that gets you. It’s the cover-up.
With the indictments of Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby today in the Valerie Plame scandal, along with the continuing investigation of Bush advisor Karl Rove, the charges stem not from the sad, sordid fact that Libby, Rove and the Vice President Cheney leaked the name of a covert CIA operative to the press but that they lied about their actions and tried to cover up their illegal and immoral activity.
Don’t these clowns ever learn? Are the lessons of Watergate, Iran-Contra and Clinton-Lewinsky beyond comprehension?
Richard Nixon became the first President to resign from office because he lied about Watergate. If, when White House Counsel John Dean first told him about who was involved in the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, Nixon had fired those responsible, gone on national television and admitted that his overzealous aides were out of control he’d have finished a second term without any problems.
But he chose to lie instead. The rest is history and history will never be kind to Richard Milhous Nixon.
Years later another overzealous aide, an ambitious Marine Corps colonel named Oliver North, lied to Congress about his role in Iran-Contra and avoided time in the slammer only because the courts overturned his conviction on a technicality.
Flash forward a few more years. Bill Clinton stood in front of the cameras and told the American people “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” He repeated that lie to a federal grand jury when, in fact, Ms. Lewinsky noshed regularly on the President’s private parts in the Oval Office. Clinton lost his law license for lying under oath and might have faced more trouble if special prosecutor Ken Starr and the hapless Republican leadership of Congress shown any trace of competence.
Had Clinton stood before the cameras and said “yeah, I got some and it was damn good,” the scandal would have been over in a week or two and we could have moved on. The whole world already knew the President chased anything in skirts. That wasn’t news. The fact that he lied about it turned it into another Washington scandal.
Lying is so pervasive in Washington that those who make it a way of life don’t even consider it so. It’s “spin” or “our position” or “staying on message” even when the message is untrue.
The culture of politics breeds deception and double-talk. Rules don’t apply. Those who defend the outright criminal actions of scandal-scarred former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay don’t deny that he committed the acts that led to indictments. Their defense is that “everyone else does it” and is therefore no big deal. Then they try to fog the issue by claiming prosecuting their boy is “motivated by politics.” Whatever happened to the concept of “do the crime, do the time?”
The GOP is already distributing talking points claiming that what Libby and Rove did is “not that serious” and “not really a crime.” And, to them, it is not. Ignoring the law is so commonplace in politics that those who commit the acts see nothing wrong with their actions.
We deserve better. Sadly, the only way we can get what we deserve is if lying scumbags like Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney get what they deserve. In a perfect world perhaps, but as we know all too well this is not, and never will be, a perfect world.