Friday, February 06, 2004


When George Bush announced that he was acceding to demands he have an independent investigation of the "intelligence failures" that led to the decision by his administration to invade Iraq on the basis of its possession of weapons of mass destruction, a friend of mine wondered why he was giving in.

"So he can appoint Henry Kissinger to head the commission, of course," I joked.

Little did I suspect Bush would actually top that by doing this:
The panel will be co-chaired by a Democrat and a Republican: Former Sen. and former Gov. Chuck Robb of Virginia, and former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman, a conservative who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

This description beggars the reality about Silberman. He's not merely a conservative. He's a jurist who has a proven track record of making decisions, and enforcing policy, based not on the law, reason or basic principles of fair play, but purely on how they will benefit or harm the Republican party. "Rabidly partisan" is an understated description.

On his track record:
-- Playing a central role in the "October Surprise" scandal by serving as the Reagan team's main contact with the Khomeini faction in Iran.

-- Overturning the Iran-Contra conviction of Oliver North on specious grounds.

-- Threatening colleague Abner Mikva: "If you were 10 years younger, I'd be tempted to punch you in the nose."

-- Trying to overturn the independent counsel statute on behalf of a Federalist Society colleague, Ted Olson (currently the Solicitor General), in a ruling shortly overturned by the Supreme Court on an 8-1 vote.

-- Conspiring with another Federalist Society colleague, David Sentelle, to have Robert Fiske replaced as the Whitewater special counsel with Kenneth Starr.

-- Blocking the Clinton legal team's attempts to track down the leaks emanating from Starr's office and blocking any attempts at discovery in the matter.

-- Accusing Clinton of "declaring war on the United States" by trying to shield Secret Service agents from being forced to testify against Clinton.

From the Salon piece above:
Silberman also has attacked as too liberal a number of respected journalists who cover the federal courts, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times and National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg, whom Silberman once alluded to in speech as "the wicked witch of the airwaves." He has publicly assailed the reporting of the Times' Neil Lewis as "obviously distorted and tendentious," failing to mention that Lewis had written about Silberman's threat to assault Judge Mikva.

Of all the people likely to produce a fair and thorough investigation of the WMD matter, Silberman should be last on anyone's list. That he is now heading up this supposed probe tells us all we need to know in advance about its quality.

This will not be a real investigation. It will be a whitewash. And no amount of spinning should convince anyone otherwise.

There's a great deal about Silberman in David Brock's Blinded by the Right, incidentally, as well as in Gary Sick's October Surprise text. I'll post excerpts from both this weekend.

UPDATE: Dan Conley has put together a thorough post on Charles Robb, Silberman's co-chair on the panel -- and someone clearly beholden to Team Bush.

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