Friday, October 28, 2005

''Carl Bernstein Finds Plame Parallels To Watergate''

"As the anticipation over possible indictments in the Valerie Plame case reaches excruciating levels, Watergate legend Carl Bernstein warns that comparisons to the case that made him famous more than 30 years ago must be viewed carefully.

Still, the former Washington Post reporter who shared a Pulitzer Prize for helping to expose the Nixon administration's wrongdoing says some parallels can be drawn between the two investigations, particularly the way both helped uncover extended dishonesty in the White House.

"We are obviously watching and the press is beginning to document the implosion of a presidency," Bernstein said Thursday, just hours before the Plame grand jury is set to expire. "How destructive that implosion is going to be, ultimately, we don't know yet.

"But what the Plame leak investigation has unveiled is what the press should have been focusing on long before and without let up--how we went to war, the dishonesty involved in that process in terms of what the president and vice-president told the American people and the Congress, and the routine smearing by members of the Bush administration of people who questioned their actions and motives."

Bernstein compared that to the way the Watergate investigation uncovered widespread dishonesty in the Nixon administration in a similar way. "Beware of exact comparisons," he said. "However, in Watergate, the cover-up of the role of Nixon's aides in the Watergate break-in led to the discovery by the press and the political institutions of the larger crimes -- the so called 'White House horrors' -- meaning the constitutional crimes of the president and his men.

"In the case of the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Plame, there also has been a political cover-up, not necessarily a criminal one, having to do with the question of how we went to war and the smearing of this administration's opponents," he added. "The question of whether or not there is criminal culpability by Lewis Libby or Karl Rove is less-important, I believe, than the fact that their actions have finally shed light on questions that long ago should have been examined much more closely by the press and the political establishment, and particularly the president's fellow Republicans."

Bernstein found a similarity there as well, noting "in the Nixon administration, courageous Republicans decided it was important that the president's actions be scrutinized and that hasn't occurred in large measure (in the Plame case). But the implosion that seems to be occurring would indicate that that kind of scrutiny might be on the way."

Citing the Plame case's connection to the Iraq War, and the lies that led up to U.S. involvement, Bernstein found another similarity to Watergate. "The long range interests of the country are affected every bit as much by the (Iraq) war as (by) the events of Watergate," he declared. "What we are seeing is a broad question of the honesty of how we got into this war and the honesty of a presidency."

When asked how the special prosecutors in the Watergate case compared to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's work in the Plame matter, Bernstein zeroed in on his subpoenaing of reporters to testify. "Most of our sources in Watergate were in the Nixon administration and some of them probably broke the law," he said. "I think the unfortunate thing about this special prosecutor's investigation is that it took him hauling reporters in to court before a lot of the relevant questions about the president were raised in the press."

That delay in press alertness, he said, was similar in both the Watergate case and the Plame matter. "It took a long time for the press to stay with the story of Watergate and it has taken the press a long time to stay with the story of this presidency's truthfulness and how it went to war."-from Joe Strupp's article in Editor&Publisher.

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