Saturday, October 29, 2005

Santorum Hiding on Face of Libby Indictment - Rick has ties to Republican Corruption

Democrats pound GOP for a culture of corruption: "Democrats pound GOP for a culture of corruption
Saturday, October 29, 2005

By Maeve Reston, Post-Gazette National Bureau
WASHINGTON -- As Republicans urged Americans to withhold judgment on the indictment yesterday of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis Libby, Democratic leaders used the five-count indictment to make the broader case that the Republican Party is mired in a culture of corruption and that the Bush administration has not been truthful with the American people.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., Congressional Democrats and Howard Dean, chairman of Democratic National Committee, immediately sought to draw out the links between Mr. Libby's alleged crimes and what they view as the faulty intelligence the Bush administration used to justify its invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Libby's indictment on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements were all in the context of his attempts to find out information about a critic of the Bush administration's rationale for the war, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Mr. Libby disclosed to reporters that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA, according to the indictment.

Mr. Kerry said the indictment and the continuing investigation of White House senior adviser Karl Rove are evidence of "corruption at the very highest levels, far from the 'honor and dignity' the president pledged to restore to Washington just five years ago."

As an architect of the Iraq war, Mr. Kerry said Mr. Libby "used access to national security information not as weapons against our nation's enemies, but as weapons against someone who dared to ask tough questions of a dishonest policy."

"Not only was America misled into war, but a Nixonian effort to silence dissent has now left Americans wondering whether they can trust anything this administration has to say," Mr. Kerry said.

Mr. Dean said the indictment showed "an abuse of public trust" and illustrated that Americans need to hold their leaders "to a higher standard."

"We can't ignore the glaring questions this case has raised about the rationale the Bush administration used to send us to war in Iraq," said Mr. Dean, noting that more than 2,000 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq as of this week.

The Libby indictment comes at a difficult time for a White House struggling with sinking poll numbers for its handling of the war -- but it also is just the latest in a string of legal troubles for top Republican officials.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been accused of money laundering and conspiracy in relation to a campaign finance case in Texas. Officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission, along with federal attorneys in New York, are investigating whether Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had any insider information when he ordered the sale of his stock holdings in the company his family founded, HCA Inc., just before their value fell earlier this year. Both Mr. DeLay and Mr. Frist have said they are innocent.

Many Republican senators and congressmen were largely silent yesterday; those who released statements noted the seriousness of the charges but urged a presumption of innocence for Mr. Libby. But others including Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., appeared to be keeping their distance from a weakened White House yesterday.

Mr. Fitzgerald did not announce the indictments yesterday until after many lawmakers had left town for the weekend -- meaning they were safely out of reach of reporters. Aides to Frist, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt -- the Missouri Republican who became interim House Majority Leader after Mr. DeLay was indicted in late September -- all said the leaders would have no comment.

In fact, the top House Republican to release a statement appeared to be Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who is vice-chairman of the House Republican conference and was aboard Air Force II with Mr. Cheney.

Mr. Kingston, along with other Republicans including U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Bradford Woods, said Mr. Libby's resignation was the right thing to do. Mr. Kingston said "the vice president and the White House can now move forward."

A spokesman for Mr. Santorum, who is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said the senator was unavailable for questions because he was traveling.

Mr. Santorum, who is facing a difficult re-election campaign that could be compounded by the problems of the Bush administration, released a decidedly neutral statement saying any indictment was "a serious matter" and that he had confidence the legal system would provide a "thorough review of the facts and evidence and render a fair and deliberative decision in this case."

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., also would not agree to be interviewed. He said in a statement that Americans "should not forget that a person is still presumed to be innocent even after being indicted."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman issued a statement criticizing the Democrats: "While some Democrats have acted irresponsibly in regards to this matter from the beginning, the president and Republicans in Congress have and will continue to focus on the American people's priorities: strengthening the economy, winning the War on Terror, lowering energy costs and improving our schools."

But that was not the view of Democrats like U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Swissvale, who said the confluence of troubles had "stripped [Republicans] of the ability to govern" and provided Democrats with an opportunity.

"We have a vacuum in leadership right now in this country," he said. "And it's incumbent on the Democratic Party is to move forward and give Americans a clear picture of what this will look like under new leadership."


(Maeve Reston can be reached at 202-488-3479 or mreston@nationalpress.com)"

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