The Hunting Of The President
June 6, 2005 - 2:41pm ET
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A few weeks ago, I wrote that for the Downing Street Memo to have any effect, members of Congress would have to get behind an investigation into the document. Now, it seems, the game is on.
"But for those aligning with the Conyers camp, it will not be easy to raise awareness in the mainstream media, even with CNN's belated recognition. We learned from the 2004 election cycle that the mainstream media will not pursue controversial investigations without political backstopping."
I'm pleased to report that early congressional support has made a difference. Rep. John Conyers gathered 88 signatures on a letter to the White House demanding that the president explain the memo. That letter was rebuffed by the White House but it was enough to get CNN and the LATimes on the case. A few days later, the Washington Post filed its own story.
On Thursday, Senator John Kerry announced he would be raising the Downing Street Memo in Congress upon his return from recess. That, predictably, led to a reaction from the conservative media machine.
In today's National Review Online, the conservatives reveal their concern and unease. In their opening salvo, James S. Robbins attempts to argue that the memo is "old news." He argues that the three major pieces of information contained in the memo were all previously known and where necessary, previously discredited.
Robbins treats the Downing Street memo as a series of new accusations. This is wrong. The Downing Street Memo is a new source document that is evidence, not accusation. It is evidence that the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq by April 2002. It is evidence that the Bush administration acted on that decision and was using Operations Northern and Southern Watch to hit Iraqi command and control targets to prepare the battlefield in advance of a declaration of war and Congressional authorzation. It is evidence that the Bush administration had decided to "fix the facts" around the policy they could not otherwise justify to the American people.
So, when Robbins says, for example, that the "The charge of intelligence fraud (if it is such a charge) has already been investigated and found baseless," his statement relies on an investigation (the Silberman-Robb Commission) that was not only unable to look at the political use of intelligence, it relies on an investigation that did not have in hand the evidence he is attempting to refute.
What Robbins does not do, however, is provide a refutation that deceiving the American people and Congress is not an impeachable offense. If the evidence in the Downing Street Memo can be further corroborated—which will most likely require more high-level leaks—the Downing Street Memo could be the equivalent of the Watergate break-in.
And now John Kerry is stepping into the fray. Perhaps Senator Kerry can expand the protective umbrella around the media and enable a new generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins to dig into this story. It will take time and patience, but there must be a few officials left in office who—for whatever reason—are willing to reveal the truth.
In the meantime, we've learned from Rep. Conyers' office that he has opened up his letter to the American people and has received 100,000 signatures already. As Bill Moyers suggested last friday, it's time to wade in. Sign up with Rep. Conyers and ask your editorial board to cover the story.
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