June 19, 2012

BYRON YORK: Will GOP demand Plame-style leak investigation?

A lot of lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, are angry about the damaging national security leaks that have come out of the Obama administration. But Republicans are probably angrier, and their feelings can be explained in two words: Valerie Plame.

The Plame affair was a complicated, tortured episode in which the George W. Bush White House was accused of having deliberately leaked classified information — the identity of an undercover CIA agent — to score political points during a particularly intense time in the Iraq war. Now, many Republicans believe the Barack Obama White House has deliberately leaked classified information — among other things, details of the U.S. cyberwar against Iran — to score political points during a particularly intense time in the presidential campaign.

As Republicans demand an independent investigation into the Obama leaks — many are not satisfied with the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder, a friend of the president, to appoint a pair of U.S. attorneys to look into the matter — it’s worth looking back to see what can happen when a special prosecutor investigation spirals out of control in a politically-charged atmosphere.

Read the whole thing. I’d forgotten how badly Patrick Fitzgerald turned out to have acquitted himself here, and it’s worth reminding people.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

For years, Democrats have had an Alinsky-driven “anything goes” mindset. The Activist Left stages violent protests, demonstrations at private homes, vandalism, voter intimidation, and now SWATing… and the Institutional Left runs interference. This is how Brett Kimberlin is out of jail, why Bill Ayers has tenure, and how the New Black Panther Party got their charges dropped.

Republicans, at least the Old Guard, responded by saying that “we’re better than that”. And you know what? Being better than that has not only helped the Left immensely over the years, it’s legitimized those tactics. Part of what makes these ethical lines work is a kind of Mutually Assured Destruction. Hitting below the belt doesn’t help if the other immediately responds in kind. It’s a zero-sum escalation, so you just don’t go there. It’s only when you know you can cross the line with impunity that you get tempted.

What we see with the new generation is a willingness to imitate the most effective tactics of the Left. Many of us are former lefties who learned from the pros and then switched sides. The rest of use are young and don’t see the point of playing Charlie Brown and the football. What made Andrew Breitbart so terrifying to the Left isn’t that he did anything new, it’s that they’d never been on the receiving end of it before. On one hand, it’s horrible that our politics includes tactics like these at all. On the other hand, if they’re going to be used anyway by the lefties, we might as well fight fire with fire. The gripping hand is that responding in kind robs these tactics of long-term effectiveness and in the long run helps to re-establish ethical norms.

Re-establishing ethical norms is good.