It was a technique I’d seen them use before - apparently they think it’s effective. And it seems to often be carried out by female interviewees. In the wake of the commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence by W, Anderson Cooper was interviewing Karen Hanretty, identified as a Republican strategist. They were talking about a case of perjury and obstruction of justice, pursuant to a serious breach of national security. But you’d never know it from the look on Hanretty’s face. She wore a broad smile the whole time, almost blushing, as if she were flirting with Cooper. Or as if she were gossiping about some naughty secret.
[While I don’t remember the particulars, I remember having a similar reaction to a female Republican interviewee on The Thom Hartmann Show, as well as on Tucker Carlson’s CNN show. (In the latter case, the woman tried to distance the Bush administration from the controversy surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, by declaring him an “affirmative action hire.”)]
It is often pointed out that Valerie Plame’s career as a covert CIA operative was destroyed. But that is likely the least of the damage. We may never know how many other CIA operatives’ lives were threatened, or even lost, by the actions that Scooter Libby sought to cover up. As Joe Wilson aptly pointed out on Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
“If the government official had spent the morning with a Russian military attaché, for the express purpose of disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA officer, what would Americans call that?”
It’s comforting, at least, to see several outlets of the mainstream media point out that Fred Thompson - who now is happy for Libby - displayed outrage over President Clinton’s alleged perjury over an extramarital affair. (Yes, he lied, but the issue of whether that lie was material to the Paul Jones case was never seriously addressed.)
But all of this - the threat to national security, the pain to Plame and her family, the seriousness of the crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice - all were lost on Ms. Hanretty, who was apparently thoroughly enjoying it all.
As a liberal, I find this technique irritating. But I find it doubly irritating as a woman. It delivers the 1-2 punch of belittling the seriousness of a progressive issue, while fueling the stereotype that all women are airheads.
While Congress is busy investigating many other Bush administration crimes, I’d like to see them look into the real damage Scooter Libby’s actions caused. After all, one of the many excuses for the Iraq War were the infamous weapons of mass destruction - an issue that Plame was working on! Of course, as Joe Wilson also pointed out, if the commutation was the result of a quid pro quo, then Libby will continue to have no motivation to tell the truth to prosecutors.
Patrick Fitzgerald famously said that Scooter Libby’s lies were like throwing sand into the umpire’s eyes. The conviction of Libby was only the first step toward a remedy. We need to clear away that sand, to restore the rule of law, our national security, and the integrity of our intelligence operations. While we’re at it, maybe we can also clear the haze from those giddy, flirtatious Republican spokespersons.