Global warming alert: There was so much hot air floating around in Washington this week that we might want to check and see if temperatures worldwide climbed suddenly. Sadly, though, that additional heat didn’t generate any actual light.
It all began on Nov. 1 when minority leader Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate to -- what else -- denounce the president. He used the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, as a convenient starting point.
“The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions,” Reid intoned.
This, of course, ignores the direct statement of Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who brought the charges against Libby. “This indictment is not about the war. This indictment’s not about the propriety of the war,” Fitzgerald announced on Oct. 28.
That would be clear enough for most of us, but not for Reid. So he generated fireworks by invoking something called Rule 21. The Senate was cleared, the doors locked, the television cameras shut down. All, supposedly, so the senators could discuss the Bush administration’s use of intelligence in the days leading up to the Iraq war.
Reid claimed success. “Finally, after months and months and months of begging, cajoling, writing letters, we’re going to be able to have phase two of the investigation regarding how the intelligence was used to lead us into the intractable war in Iraq,” he announced.
Of course, the Libby case is irrelevant to that discussion. Even if he had been attempting to mislead lawmakers about the war, he wouldn’t have succeeded. Remember that Libby’s been indicted for something he supposedly did in mid-2003. Congress voted to give the president the authority to attack Iraq a good six months earlier, in Oct. 2002. So if Libby had wanted to influence lawmakers, he was a few months late.
As for the “phase two” Reid mentioned, it was coming anyway. “Our staff told the Democrat staff just two days ago that, as of this next week, we are going to finish phase two,” Sen. Pat Roberts, chair of the Intelligence Committee, told CNN. “We hope to get it done before Nov. 14.”