The vicious release to news organizations of the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer could serve as a case study of the character of this administration. The Bush II crowd is arrogant, venal, mean-spirited and contemptuous of law and custom.
The problem it faces now is not just the criminal investigation into who outed Valerie Plame, but also the fact that the public understands this story only too well. Deliberately blowing the cover of an intelligence or law enforcement official for no good reason is considered by nearly all Americans, regardless of their political affiliations, to be a despicable act.
According to an ABC-Washington Post poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans believe a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the leak.
Now that so much has gone haywire — Iraq, the economy, America's standing in the world — the tough questions are finally being asked about President Bush and his administration.
Perhaps foreign policy was not Mr. Bush's strength, after all. And even diehard Republicans have been forced to acknowledge that the president was surely wrong when he insisted that his mammoth tax cuts would be the engine of job creation. And nothing has ever come of Mr. Bush's promise to be the education president, or to change the tone of the discourse in Washington, or to deal humbly and respectfully with the rest of the world.
Americans are increasingly asking what went wrong. How could so much have gone sour in such a short period of time? Was it incompetence? Bad faith?
Loud warnings were ignored for the longest time. Now, finally, the truth is becoming more and more difficult to avoid.
Meanwhile Wesley Clark's new book claims the Bush administration was planning a series of post-911 conquests beyond Iraq, and the word on the street is that the "real" motivation for taking Iraq was to help manage an expected collapse of Saudi Arabia. And, on another channel, the CIA is striking against the Bush administration on multiple fronts, leading to lurid speculation about what the CIA knows about Bush II plans.
I really wonder what Bush I is thinking about all of this. If nothing else, Bush II has proven the wisdom of not trying to conquer Iraq (not that I think the sanctions were a great alternative, but that's a longer story). I wonder if GB I is wishing yet again that Jeb had been the nominee.