Saturday, July 23, 2005
The absurdity of "No comment, it's an ongoing investigation."
(Written in real-time, stream-of-consciousness -- deal with it.)
Whenever you have a dispute of some kind, there are typically two parties. The party of the first part we can call, say, the "injured" or "aggrieved" party. This is the party who feels it has been wronged and, in some way, wants compensation or justice.
On the other side, we have the party of the second part that we can call the "culprits" who are allegedly responsible for the injustice. With me so far? Good.
Now, in the simplest case, the injured party might just directly confront the "culprits" and ask them if they're responsible. If the culprits 'fess up, well, it's pretty much over. We know who's guilty, they've taken responsibility for it and all that's left is to administer some justice.
On the other hand, if the accused party pleads innocence, this is where one would normally demand an investigation of some kind. In cases like this, the behaviour of the two parties can be drastically different.
It's not unusual for the wronged party to go fairly public with their accusations, perhaps to make sure their story gets out and to gain public sympathy. That's not always the case, but it's common enough. They might be adamant that a wrong has been done, and they're absolutely determined to get to the bottom of it.
The accused party, on the other hand, could just as publicly deny any wrongdoing or, if they're more careful, on the advice of counsel, decide to just say "No comment." In cases like that, they might defend their refusal to comment by saying that it would be inappropriate to comment in the midst of an ongoing investigation but they want to assure everyone that they're co-operating fully with investigators.
You see where this is going, don't you?
The absurdity of the current "Rovegate" controversy is that the parties of the first part and the second part are, in fact, exactly the same party. On the one hand, we have the Bush administration, the alleged victim of having one of their covert operatives "outed," assuring everyone that no one wants to get to the bottom of this more than Commander Chimpy, while simultaneously circling the wagons, refusing to comment yet assuring everyone that they're co-operating fully. Can it possibly get more ridiculous than this?
The absurdity, of course, is that when White House Press Weasel Scott McClellan takes to the podium, he is, in fact, representing both parties at the same time. He will, as the victim, be adamant that George Bush wants to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible while, in the next sentence, switch hats to represent the defendants and tell everyone that it wouldn't be appropriate to comment (which, of course, he has already done and continues to do, on behalf of the injured party, but not the defendants).
The WH Press Corpse are being driven totally bugfuck simply because they haven't figured this out yet. In a very real sense, McClellan is smack in the middle of one of the most bizarre conflicts of interest imaginable. It's as if he's acting as the spokesman for both the plaintiff and the defendant in one of the most sensational criminal trials ever held. How weird is that?
Even weirder, the WH Press Corpse continues to let him get away with it. But wouldn't it be delightful if someone, anyone (hello, Helen Thomas?) were to ask something like, "Scott, when you say you aren't going to comment on this investigation, are you speaking on behalf of the president who claims he wants to get to the bottom of this, or on behalf of the accused White House staffers who are currently under investigation for that crime?"
Even better, perhaps someone should suggest that it's simply time for McClellan (or any other WH staffer) to recuse himself or herself due to a grotesque conflict of interest.
Is any of this making sense?
P.S. I reserve the right to go back and make aesthetic fixes to this article when I'm feeling more coherent.