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          Sen. Howard Baker and Sen. Sam Ervin during the Watergate hearings.

Someone had to ask it eventually, didn’t they?  Since I haven’t heard this one yet, I’m asking it myself:

What has the President declassified and why did he leak it?

Honestly, isn’t that the question we’re all asking ourselves now? And since the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress has done very little oversight for the last five years, it’s not likely that any of us will be getting answers to this any time soon, is it?  But was it plausible deniability that kept the initial selective NIE declassification only between Libby, Cheney and Bushn — or will we now learn that this was yet another Scooter Libby lie?  (Or at least, will the WH spin it that way?)  Was there any paper trail — shouldn’t there have been — but if there was, then why the charade of asking other Cabinet-level officials to re-declassify those parts of the NIE without telling anyone the President had already done so? 

What else has been selectively declassified for public manipulation purposes? 

How many times has the Bush Administration used its declassification power for their own, personal political gain — how many times have they lied to the public by omitting the whole truth?  How many media-planted lies have then been used by Administration officials in public interviews as justifications for their actions?  Did Condi know when she was prattling on about mushroom clouds that she was flat out lying to the public? 

Shouldn’t someone in this Administration be held accountable at some point for all the lies — and for being so weak, so craven, so unwilling to face the whole truth, especially after so many of our brave men and women in uniform have lost their lives and limbs in a war ginned up on these public lies?  Isn’t declassifying something solely to bolster your political position with the American public a misuse of your power — especially given the sensitivity of the information and the fact that public disclosure of it without a thorough vetting by the intelligence agency might mean that sources were burned by your actions?  Does the Bush Administration even care about the consequences of their petty and impulsive behavior — or has cheating simply become their preferred mode of operation?

We have a President and a Vice President who put their own, personal political vendetta and their desire to maintain a hold on power and look good to the public ahead of our national security interests.  George Bush declassified a selected portion of the NIE unilaterally (only the ones favorable to his argument, not the parts that said he was flat out wrong, so the public only got half the story in the lead-up to the war), and in doing so bypassed the clearance procedures that would have ensured that long-term US national security interests would not have been threatened by any portion of this disclosure.  This is beyond selfish, beyond cheating — it is reckless and it is wrong.  Getting even with a political enemy should never, ever come before protecting this nation as a whole — and worrying about your own political skin is a pathetic excuse from a weak man who puts himself above his country and above his duty to protect our nation’s most closely guarded secrets.  Shame on you, Mr. President.

Where is Howard Baker when you really need him?

I’ve been thinking for a while about which Republican currently in the House or Senate, or in the greater political hierarchy, would have the stature, the power and the integrity to meet with President Bush and tell him that he not only has to clean house, but that he has to own up to his Administration’s lies and Constitutional missteps…or else.

But how do you find someone who can get through to George Bush, a man who has so surrounded himself in his own little warm bubble where only Condi and Karl and Laura and his mommy get through, and occasionally Dick (although I’m thinking not so much since he shot that hunting buddy in the face, but that’s just my speculation…). 

I’m not trying to be flip here, honestly — who in the Republican party has that stature?  Who could get through to King George that he really, truly is not entitled to play at being king?  That he’s a President, who works for the whole of the nation, and that its about time he started acting like one.

James Baker?  Bushie doesn’t listen to his dad’s buddies any more, not after that Brent Scowcroft public scolding on the Iraq War.  Ditto on Lawrence Eagleburger.  And let’s not even mention Stormin’ Norman.

Fred Thompson?  Um…no.  He’s busy getting his nose powdered on the Law & Order set, when he isn’t shepherding Supreme Court candidates around the Hill.

Colin Powell?  Brrr…is there a chill in the air, because I think that relationship is still awfully frosty.

Any Senators or Congressfolk come to mind for anyone?  Because I honestly can’t think of any that really fit the bill.

Bill Frist?  Erm…no.  Mitch McConnell?  Never risk his position for moving up when Frist implodes.  Denny Hastert?   Hahahahaha.  John Boehner?  HAHAHAHAHA. 

No, seriously, are there no Howard Bakers out there any more?  Because if not, we are in some serious doo doo — and we’d better all hope for some serious electoral shift towards Democrats in the 2006 elections, because there is no accountability on the horizon until that happens.

Howard Baker put his nation first, and became an icon of ethics and patriotism as a result of his conduct during the Watergate hearings and his willingness to put what was the right thing to do for the nation ahead of what was the political thing to duck behind for his party.  Sure as hell haven’t seen a lot of that in Washington lately, have we?

Maybe Howard Baker is free this weekend…I hear Camp David is swell this time of year.  I’m just saying.

UPDATE:  I meant to also put in some thoughts on the inevitability of all of this, having sold their political souls to Karl Rove and his ends justifies the means no matter how much of your ethics is sacrificed political machinations.   If all you care about is winning, then all you have is a hollow shell.  It’s the winning in order to implement something substantial to help others, to move us forward, that ought to animate the people in whom we entrust so much power.  Instead, what we get is an entire group of leaders who are animated by their own avarice.  Pathetic.