Gergen Now Compares the Wilson/Plame Affair to Monica Lewinsky and Impeachment

As reported here by NewsBusters, U.S. News and World Report’s editor-at-large David Gergen on CBS’s “Early Show” last Friday made the claim that the Wilson/Plame affair had some similarities to Watergate. Today on the same program, Gergen changed direction, and is now comparing this “scandal” to former President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings (video link to follow):

“Well, you know, the country went through a large conversation about that just a few years ago about Bill Clinton because the underlying events there with Monica Lewinsky were not illegal. But what he got charged with and what he was impeached by in the house was whether he had lied about it after the fact. So -- and we know -- you know, Harry, going way back to Watergate, that the standing rule -- standard rule in Washington is the cover up is always worse than the crime. So I would be cautious in dismissing the idea that if there's no underlying crime, there's nothing serious about this. Perjury and obstruction of justice have long been regarded as serious crimes. You're expected under the majesty of the law, to tell the truth to investigators. And Richard Thornburgh, a former Republican attorney general, has taken a view, I think rightly, that perjury and obstruction are in and of themselves serious.”

No mention was made about the Senate acquitting Clinton, or that no criminal indictments were ever filed against the former president for perjury or suborning perjury. 

What follows is a complete transcript of this report, and a video link.

Harry Smith: The grand jury investigating the case of who blew the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame may deliver possible indictments as early as this week. As we said, president Bush's senior White House advisor Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby are considered central figures in the probe. "U.S. News & World Report" editor at large David Gergen served four White House administrations and joins us from Washington. Good morning, sir.

Gergen: Good morning.

Smith: This news out of "The New York Times" that it was in fact Vice President Cheney who gave the identity of Valerie Plame to Scooter Libby. Libby said all along he got the identity from reporters. What do you think that means? I know I'm asking you to read tea leaves this morning, but what do you think it means?

Gergen: It has more political ramifications than legal ramifications, so far as we know with regard to Mr. Cheney. He's now for the first time been brought directly into the case. Heretofore he had not been. There had been a lot of speculation but he appears to be in no legal jeopardy himself, the vice president doesn't. Because whatever he told Libby, both were entitled to know about Joe Wilson’s wife. They both had security clearances. There’s nothing illegal about it. Both were entitled. It doesn't have political ramifications. Of course for Mr. Libby there are potential legal ramifications as Bill Plante just reported in his piece because as far as we know Mr. Libby told the grand jury he first learned about this from reporters, not from Mr. Cheney. So the question is, is he possibly going to be indicted for steering the grand jury away from his boss, trying to protect his boss and is that an obstruction of justice?

Smith: The question becomes already this morning the sense that the prosecutor is already coming under criticism because if the charges that end up coming down, if the indictments coming down end up obstruction of justice or even if it is perjury, as significant as it is, if this guy can't prove the larger point, that she was outed in some deliberate way by somebody in the administration, what is the point of this entire investigation?

Gergen: Well, you know, the country went through a large conversation about that just a few years ago about Bill Clinton because the underlying events there with Monica Lewinsky were not illegal. But what he got charged with and what he was impeached by in the House was whether he had lied about it after the fact. So -- and we know -- you know, Harry, going way back to Watergate, that the standing rule -- standard rule in Washington is the cover up is always worse than the crime. So I would be cautious in dismissing the idea that if there's no underlying crime, there's nothing serious about this. Perjury and obstruction of justice have long been regarded as serious crimes. You're expected under the majesty of the law, to tell the truth to investigators. And Richard Thornburgh, the former Republican attorney general, has taken a view, I think rightly, that perjury and obstruction are in and of themselves serious. Let's wait and see. We don't know whether the prosecutor will decide to prosecute based on what we've heard so far.

Smith: In the 40 seconds or so I have left let me ask you this. What will it mean to the bush administration if in fact indictments are handed down this week?

Gergen: If indictments are handed down, it's going to be a real blow to the administration and comes at a terrible time. We've got this confluence now -- people are calling it the imperfect storm. You've got potential indictments this week. You've got pressure building up among conservatives for Harriet Miers to withdraw and you’ve got the death toll in Iraq, again, sadly, ready to go over the 2,000 mark. Those coming together I think put the White House in the darkest place it's been since the president took office. It's going to be long climb out of the hole. If he were to lose Karl Rove, he'll lose a right arm. And it’s really hard to climb out of a hole without your right arm. 

Video Link

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.