Monday, February 19, 2007

Toensing Up for a Fight

Every so often some allegedly responsible and respected authority goes so far off the rails that common sense demands a public flogging. Today’s subject is Victoria Toensing, described by the Washington Post “a deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, [currently] a Washington lawyer.” In other words, a member of the Republic Party.

Ms. Toensing fancies herself not just a brilliant legal scholar, but clever. Her op-ed piece, “Trial in Error,” is written in the form of a legal brief, defending Scooter Libby from as nefarious a conspiracy of ne’er-do-wells as have trod the earth since The New Deal.

According to her screed, if Libby is on trial, then so should the following: Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the CIA, Joe Wilson, the media, Ari Fleischer, Richard Armitage, and the Justice Department.

On what grounds? Fleischer, for doing just as Libby is alleged to have done, lie under oath about who he told what about Valerie Plame. DOJ, for abdicating their responsibility by appointing Fitzgerald in the first place. Everyone else? For ignoring what she considers to be a time-honored tradition of ignoring perjury if the lies don’t cover up a crime.

Her logic: Plame was not undercover, so no one was legally prohibited from talking about her. Since talking about her was not a crime, lying under oath about talking about her is also not a crime. Therefore, Libby stands unjustly accused.

Toensing’s premise that Plame was not undercover is refuted in tedious detail here. It’s the lesser of her offenses, a mere misstatement of facts. Republicans have made a science of that for several years now. It’s the entire premise of her piece that offends common sense. If Libby is unjustly accused because there’s no perjury without a precedent crime, then what the fuck was the rationale for impeaching Bill Clinton?

I occasionally back away from political comment because even I think I sound like a broken record. (For those of you too young to remember broken records, ask someone.) Still, the disingenuousness of Republican comment over the past six years continues unabated, and must be contested. We all know what happens when the same lies are told often enough and shrilly enough. And we all know what happens after that.

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