Fineman: White House Spin Spins Out Of Control

George W. Bush rose to power on the strength of a disciplined, aggressive, tightly-focused, leak-proof spin-machine — one that took issue positions and stuck to them, divided the world (including the media) into friends and enemies, and steamrollered the opposition with ruthless skill while the candidate remained smilingly above the fray. Sure of his social skills but not of his speaking ability (let alone his ability to speak extemporaneously), Bush (and Karl Rove) learned to stick to their bullet-item talking points, to operate through surrogates, all the while steering the initial course they had set for themselves.

But the machine they built may have run amok — at least that seems to be what Fitzgerald is examining, as he looks at the leaking of Plame’s identity and of other classified information.

In essence, the Bush-Rove campaign machine was redeployed in the service of selling of the Iraq war and, later, in defense of that sale. Did they go over the line in doing so? We’re about to find out.

In the meantime (and in another twist on the poetic justice them), the very discipline of the machine itself — its short internal supply lines, the consistently-followed talking points, the focus on feeding friends and obliterating enemies — could be helping Fitzgerald. Tightly-knit groups rise together, but they fall together. If the inner circle is small, it takes only one insider “flip” to endanger the rest.

The campaign sales structure for the political run up to the war was clear from the start. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card talked openly about new-car style “rollouts” in the fall of 2002; it soon became well-known that, among those in the so called “White House Iraq Group” — WHIG for short — were campaign honchos such as Rove, Karen Hughes, Ari Fleischer and Mary Matalin.

People have long since gotten used to the idea of Rove in the White House. But, the fact is, in 2001, his presence was something novel. He was the first modern-era consultant with an office in the West Wing.

And there he was in the WHIG, along with several of the heaviest hitters of substantive foreign policy, including Vice Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, then-National Security Advisor Condi Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley.

What, if any, classified information was floating around at WHIG meetings? What, if any, of it was “put out,” as they say, or used in other ways? What, if any, info might some of the more enthusiastic WHIG members have tried to cadge on the side, perhaps for their own somewhat freelance use? Who leaked what to whom among the Judy Miller types in the national media?

Another take on things from Chris Matthews, of all people, who seems to get alot more of this than he normally does.

“Valerie Plame Fallout Will Rock D.C.”

That’s the heat about this. What did the vice president and his people do, faced with the hot seat that they were sitting on, that they had somehow gotten accused of taking us into war under false pretenses.

That’s the environment in which this whole thing may have been hatched. If there was law-breaking, it came out of the vice president and his people’s determination to protect themselves against the charge that they led us into a corrupt war, a war based on false pretenses.

That’s how hot this thing is.

If there are indictments, they’re going to be probably in the vice president’s office, they’re probably going to come next week and they are going to blow this White House apart.

It’s going to be unbelievable.

I think the people watching right now who are voters better start paying attention to this issue. It’s not just about whether somebody’s name was leaked, it’s about whether we went to war under false pretenses or not, whether people knew about that or not, and what they did when they were charged against that kind of offense against the United States.

It’s serious business.

We have to look at all of that to try and find out what would have been a motive for why the vice president’s people were so fervent in their desire to destroy the case made by Joe Wilson by destroying his credibility.

Now Matthew’s theory is that it’s all the VP and his office getting Bush to go along with a war and now getting into trouble with him because the intel looks to have been weak or even cooked. Bush is mad at Cheney, in this scenario. However, we’ve got plenty of anecdotes about how motivated Bush was to get into a war with Iraq even before 9/11 and certainly immediately thereafter.

He also doesn’t do a very good job describing what motivated Cheney’s office. Was it simply to please Bush by bringing him what he wanted? Was it simply Cheney’s psychology that had him inclined to assume the worst about everything and act on those assumptions regardless of evidence to the contrary?

Or do we look at the history of Dick Cheney and the folks in his office, their ties to neoconservatives and neocons in The Pentagon’s OSP, what these very people have been saying for decades about the Middle East and how they handled their intelligence analysis duties in the past, say during the end of the Cold War?

And do we look at how well, or if, Bush and Rove really understood what they were getting into with this crew? The key to that might be in the WHIG, which Fineman does a pretty good job painting a picture of.

What does Tenet know about the inner workings of the White House’s internal intelligence? He was awful cagey during a speech he gave at Georgetown during the Q&A when the OSP came up. And what does Sen. Pat Roberts know? He mentioned, aloud and without prompting, on Meet The Press several months ago that his intelligence committee has alot more questions for Doug Feith, who ran the OSP, but that that gang had “lawyered up”.

I don’t know how far Fitzgerald is going here but whatever he turns up is going to reveal alot more than most people had a clue about.

I wonder how much is this really based on what Fitzgerald is doing and how much is it just Matthews speculating and constructing a narrative that he think will appeal to his audience?

I tend to believe that Chris says what he believes but what he believes changes as often as his tie. He’ll take some pretty aggressive stands and then be all chummy with bullshitters who end up on his show in an attempt to be fair. He’s kind of a basketcase that way. I remember some columnist or analyst who was on before the war yelling about how the government had been taken over by a Jacobin rebellion - referring to the neocons in the Pentagon, VP’s office and at some levels in State. Matthews laughed him off like he was a lunatic but kept bringing him on. Now? He sounds alot like that guy.