Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How the game is played in Washington

Peter Pettigrew Politics From the Land of Powell

Wilkerson seems oblivious to the idea that his comments paint not only himself but Secretary Powell into a newer version of what was said of Richard Nixon during Watergate. Either, said the liberals (and others), Nixon was corrupt (if he knew about Watergate and was a participant of some sort) or he was utterly stupid (if he had no idea what was going on around him in his name). It was a lose-lose proposition that meant Nixon had to go. In the Wilkerson version, either he and his boss Powell knew all about these high crimes being committed by Bush, Cheney and company (in which case they should have done something about it post haste) -- or in not knowing what was going on around them every day proved Powell and company as little short of spectacularly incompetent in their respective posts at the State Department.

Yet Powell himself received a great deal of favorable press during his tenure. And still does, as the mainstream media lapped up his endorsement of Obama. How can this be if Powell and his staff did such a lousy job? It is one of the hardiest if hoary rules of thumb in Washington that there is a direct relationship between positive press clips and leaks. The revelation that Powell Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was in fact the leaker of Valerie Plame's CIA identity to columnist Robert Novak provided a quite accidental look-see for Washington outsiders into how the Powell people played the game, even if Novak wasn't into the burnish-the-Powell-portrait game. It was decidedly not an accident -- nor the action of a "dumb strongman" -- that Bush refused to give the Powell-Wilkerson clique a second tour of duty at State. The President had to suspect or know outright what the game was. That whatever the real object with Powell and his entourage, to give this clique another four years in which they could quietly, on a not-for-attribution basis, continue to trash their own president in precisely the kind of terms Wilkerson suddenly began spouting in public after his and Powell's departure from Foggy Bottom would be a big mistake

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