- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

Historians eventually come to the rescue of truth. Unfortunately they take their own sweet time. They pore over documents. They interview the culprits. By the time they unveil their findings, all the liars are crepes suzettes for the worms, and the aggrieved are passe too.

With the indictment of the vice president’s chief of staff, I. “Scooter” Libby, after a two-year investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, one would think calm might befall this great city as the courts take over and the pols return to finish off a war, defend the homeland from terrorists and perhaps reform the tax code. Au contraire, all hell broke loose, at least among the Democratic leadership. The rest of the country seems unconcerned.

Mr. Fitzgerald’s indictment is confined to one man, Mr. Libby. He allegedly unmasked to the press a covert CIA agent, who in recent years worked in suburban Northern Virginia. Then Mr. Libby allegedly lied about it under oath. The Democratic leadership apparently believes the pretty female agent could have been assassinated, presumably while shopping among foreign agents in nearby cosmopolitan Tysons Corner or right in the produce section at the Safeway, bashed by a coconut-hurling assassin.

OK, OK, so I jest. Yet there is something eminently jestworthy about the Democrats’ wild indignation in the wake of this indictment. Their leading blunderbuss, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, insists the suave President Bush apologize. Said Mr. Reid, “He should apologize, the vice president should apologize. They should come clean with the American people.”

Oh yes, and the president’s chief adviser, Karl Rove, who is apparently innocent of any crime, should resign or be fired, Mr. Reid believes. Perhaps the Democratic leadership would be kind enough to suggest a replacement. How about John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s last chief of staff? Mr. Podesta has had plenty of experience with scandals. Though there is a difference between the scandals of Mr. Clinton and the scandal of Mr. Bush: Mr. Clinton’s involved his willfully perpetrating a wide range of wrongdoing from campaign finance violations to abuse of power, to coitus non-interruptus while in the office. Mr. Bush’s scandal involves the Kultursmog’s criminalization of politics. An anti-Bush adventurer, Joseph Wilson IV, smeared the administration’s war effort with a melange of lies, half-truths and canards, provoking some White House aides to “smear” Mr. Wilson, that is to say, to identify him accurately as a politically motivated antagonist.

The issue, say the Democrats, is this administration’s shockingly low “ethical standards.” Well in light of the Democrats’ complicity in the Clinton administration scandals, cover-ups, and abuses of power, I think they have picked the wrong issue. Historians will sort this all out, but it takes time.

The other night, the historically minded held one of Washington’s most amusing events, the 28th Annual Pumpkin Papers Irregulars dinner. The event focuses on the most recent revelations about one of modern America’s most overwrought and unnecessary controversies, the trial and perjury conviction of Alger Hiss, with special attention to the ongoing debate over one of American liberalism’s great heroes. Hiss fashioned what has become a reliable liberal tactic, to wit, lie, lie despite all the evidence against you, lie brazenly, lie heroically.

Hiss denied he ever was a Russian spy. He insisted he told the truth at his perjury trial. His conviction was a miscarriage of justice. For years, liberals argued on his behalf. At the dinner the other night, Professor G. Edward White, a liberal but susceptible to historians’ revelations, talked of new findings that make it clear Hiss was a liar and a spy.

For one, from the time of Hiss’ conviction not one piece of exculpatory evidence was unearthed. Yet as the years proceeded and Hiss lied so heroically, the majority of the intelligentsia and the media came to agree on Hiss’ innocence. At least that was the common wisdom by the 1970s.

By the 1990s, the Soviet archives had opened. Scholars such as Mr. White and others discovered Hiss was working with the Soviets until he was exposed. Moreover, from what we now call the Venona intercepts, American intelligence knew all about his espionage connections. The longstanding Hiss controversy was utterly unnecessary save that liberals are easily duped and often very good liars.

I believe today’s Democratic leadership includes some very good liars. They know, whatever Mr. Libby’s guilt, the president has nothing to apologize for. Yet they want to create as much scandal as possible. Some say it is payback time for the Clinton scandals. The difference, of course, is Mr. Clinton was caught and even admitted his guilt in an affidavit for the independent counsel. Mr. Bush has had nothing to do with the present scandal, and for now it is unclear anyone committed a crime — unless it is a crime for an administration aide to defend the administration against another of the liberals’ liars, Joe Wilson IV. Historians will get to the truth here, but by the time they do, liberals will not care. They might not even exist.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His latest book is “Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.”

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