- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

Democrats began running a television ad yesterday saying the Bush administration’s purported leaking of the identity of a CIA officer is another in a series of scandals from this White House.

“It keeps getting worse. Scandals in the Bush White House,” the ad announcer says as the screen flashes news headlines about leaks. “Now they illegally leaked the identity of an American CIA agent, all to hide Bush administration deceptions about the war in Iraq.”

The ad is scheduled to run for about a week in the Scranton-Wilkes Barre market in Pennsylvania, and the Democratic National Committee sent out an e-mail plea to 1.4 million people asking for donations to run the ad more widely.

Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson has charged that Bush administration officials leaked the identity of his wife, a CIA operative. Mr. Wilson and Democrats said the leak was an attempt to discredit Mr. Wilson’s report that Iraq had not tried to buy nuclear material from Niger.

The Justice Department is investigating, and President Bush has said if someone in his administration did leak the information that person should be fired.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have called for an independent investigation, citing Mr. Bush’s own comments as a reason to believe the administration cannot investigate itself.

One Senate aide yesterday said the ads are one way of gauging how much traction the issue will have politically.

“We don’t know. The question is to find out what kind of legs it does have,” the aide said.

Tony Welch, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said polls showed four-fifths of Americans believe the leaks are serious, and two-thirds believe a special counsel should be appointed to investigate them.

Another Democratic aide said the evidence already pointed to it being a potent issue. He said members of Congress get an enthusiastic response from constituents when they mention the leaks in the context of other White House scandals.

Republicans, though, said the ads are a political ploy.

“This proves what they’ve been saying all along, which is the Democrats have one message — it’s protest and pessimism,” said Christine Iverson, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

She said Democrats tried the same thing several months ago when they ran an ad charging that Mr. Bush misled the nation when he said Iraq was trying to obtain nuclear material for weapons of mass destruction. That ad, she said, was accompanied by a similar fund-raising plea, but Democrats never ran the ad extensively.

“It’s obvious these ads aren’t very successful, given the fact this is the second one they’ve had to run in an attempt to raise money,” she said.

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