Safire and Brooks Nail the Week’s Key Issues on Today’s “Meet the Press”

October 30th, 2005 12:14 PM

For those of you who haven’t seen this morning’s “Meet the Press,” I highly recommend that you do so that you can see William Safire at his best, as well as some great incites from David Brooks. What follows are key statements from the two of them concerning Plamegate, and the events of the week. Though chronological in order, the numbered quotes are separate ideas that did not immediately follow one another: 


1.  MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE:  I think that was an excellent rundown and time line of a complicated series of accusations of a cover-up, but the most important single fact that emerged from the indictment is what was not in it.  This whole thing started as an investigation of the violation of a law.  And the law that was violated was you must not deliberately out an agent who is undercover.  And what the special counsel found is that law was not broken.

2.  MR. SAFIRE:  Yeah.  But the most important thing is the whole basis of the political charge that came out of the CIA, which was desperate to try to cover up its own mistakes and its own huge failure in this case, this was an attempt by the CIA to get a Justice Department investigation of a law that had not been prosecuted in--once, perhaps in 25 years.  And everybody is walking around thinking, "Well, you see? There was a conspiracy to undermine or uncover an agent."  Well, there wasn't.  It was not.  And he said it very clearly.  And so I think we ought to keep that in mind.  This was a cover-up of a non-crime.

3.  MR. DAVID BROOKS:  Well, I agree with that.  But listen, nobody's going to remember most of the details of this six months from now.  What people want to know, is there a dark, malevolent conspiracy in the middle of the White House? Is there a cancer on the presidency, to use John Dean's phrase.  And I think what Fitzgerald showed, you know, he was in there for 22 months.  He had full cooperation from everybody.  And what he found was no criminal conspiracy to out a covert agent.  He indicted one person of perjury, which is serious.  But the White House has to be breathing a sigh of relief, and the American people have to know that the wave of hysteria, the wave of paranoia, the wave of charges and allegations about Karl Rove and everybody else so far is unsupported by the facts.  So what we have is a serious indictment of a senior government official, but we do not have a cancer on the presidency.  And the White House, you know, it wasn't a great week, but they survived it.  And if there had been five indictments, it would have been over for them.  So they'll have to be thinking, "OK, we're alive."

4.  MR. SAFIRE:  There was a great columnist once who wrote about the breaking of the president.  It was a play on the phrase "the making of the president" by Teddy White.  I think now we're in the grip of a narrative.  And the narrative is:  "This president and this presidency is finished."  And his polls are way down.  He didn't do Katrina right, the war is not over.  And everything he does is shaded by this narrative.

Now, the wonderful thing about American attention and media coverage, is the narrative has to change.  It can't stay the same, or else it's not newsworthy. And so the story will be the comeback.  And when you look at what's happened in the last few weeks, what we have overlooked is the fact that there was a constitution voted for in Iraq.  Had it been voted against, it would have been a calamity.  But it was good news, and it wasn't covered.  Katrina was supposed to--and rising gas prices, that was supposed to clobber the economy, and turn things down, and ruin the stock market.  Well, what happened?  We just found out the other day that gross domestic product rose 3.8 percent, a huge jump.  That the economy is, as it gets to 4 percent, booming.  And that has to be reflected.  But we don't cover it, because it's not in today's narrative.

But--and the appointment of Harriet Miers was a mistake.  And that got covered greatly, as it should have.  But there are two other appointments that were excellent in Roberts and in Bernanke, the...

MR. RUSSERT:  The Federal Reserve.

MR. SAFIRE:  ...Federal Reserve.  So I think now what you'll see, maybe not next week, but--and then of course, the indictment of Libby was not the indictment of Rove and it was an end of the suggestion that there was a conspiracy to out a covert agent.  So this whole narrative I see changing, and not just with the appointment of a couple of new White House aides.

For those interested, here is a link from to some of this dialogue: