- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

People suffer all sorts of indignities, but few things are more difficult to take than being falsely accused of misconduct. It is difficult to defend yourself both because it hard to prove a negative. And if you defend yourself strenuously, you risk appearing guilty for protesting too much.

Do you remember Bill Clinton’s vicious savaging of special prosecutor Ken Starr and how his goon squad twisted every negative revelation against Mr. Clinton into a sin of Mr. Starr’s? They distorted the Starr Report from a meticulously documented record of a president’s perjury and obstruction of justice into a pornographic novel penned by a voyeuristic Ken Starr.

But painting the prudish Mr. Starr as a pervert wasn’t the worst thing they did. While publicly smearing him they also initiated no fewer than seven formal complaints (or appeals) against him in the six weeks following Mr. Clinton’s denial of sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Most of those complaints were based on false charges Mr. Starr had criminally leaked secret grand jury information.

Though Mr. Starr would eventually be exonerated on all counts, he would never fully dispel the taint on his previously stellar reputation. About the best he could do to counter the nonstop Mr. Clinton slander machine was to point out that his accusers had launched an “avalanche of lies” against him.

Surely one of the most difficult experiences Mr. Starr had to endure was to be publicly accused of these leaks — by the very people most likely responsible for them — during the nationally televised impeachment hearings. Though the court had already cleared Mr. Starr of the charges, he was prevented from shouting that out to the world in his own defense because the order clearing him was under seal. Adding insult to injury, his accusers were privy to that order yet persisted with their claims.

Now, fast forward to the present, and put yourself in the shoes of President Bush, who has been falsely accused of infinitely worse sins, the worst being that he lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to lead us into war against Iraq. Just like the Clinton attack dogs, those responsible for leveling the charges against Mr. Bush were the ones who were lying — and for the same basic reason: to divert attention from their own missteps.

All of this brings us to the latest trumped-up outrage against the beleaguered Mr. Bush — that he leaked classified information involving sensitive national security information. But once again, the charge is false. Yes, Mr. Bush apparently authorized the public disclosure of certain information, but he first declassified it — meaning, by definition, it was impossible for him to have illegally leaked it. Plus, he had every justification, and some would argue a duty, to publicize it — because the public should know the truth about these claims, especially since its support for the war is affected by the “Bush lied” ruse.

You know the basics. Mr. Bush was accused by the liberals’ then latest darling, Joe Wilson, of manipulating intelligence to hype the Iraqi WMD threat. Specifically, Mr. Wilson claimed Mr. Bush lied in his State of the Union address in asserting the British had learned Iraq was trying to purchase yellow cake uranium from Africa. This supposedly outraged Mr. Wilson, who had traveled to Niger for the CIA, investigated the charge and reported it was groundless.

But Mr. Wilson — like Mr. Clinton’s lawyers — was the one guilty of the distortions in several particulars. According to the British Butler Report and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Wilson’s findings did not debunk the Saddam-Niger connection, and, if anything, substantiated it. The Senate Intelligence Committee, let’s not forget, also caught Mr. Wilson in the bald-faced lie he had discredited certain forged documents that were not even discovered until eight months after his trip.

Just as the left distorted Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Scooter Libby as proof he intentionally “outed” a covert CIA operative (Valerie Plame), when it was not (Mr. Fitzgerald did not indict Mr. Libby on the “underlying” charge), they are now saying the same thing about Mr. Bush.

But Mr. Fitzgerald himself, according to The Washington Post, which published a refreshing editorial defending Mr. Bush on these leak charges, said Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Mr. Plame’s identity.

Mr. Libby’s motive in identifying Mrs. Plame was to refute another Mr. Wilson tall tale: that Vice President Dick Cheney had arranged for his trip to Niger, when it was Mr. Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, who had recommended him for the mission.

Unlike Ken Starr, Mr. Bush had the authority to declassify secret information that would not just clear him of false charges but help set the record straight concerning matters involving our national security.

The constant “avalanche of lies” against Mr. Bush has damaged the national interest. Mr. Bush was justified in doing what he could to repair that damage.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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