Elliott Abrams: A Convicted Liar Defends a Convicted Liar’s Boss by Lying

Elliott Abrams makes a good point: the “reviews,” thus far, of Cheney’s book have focused on particular incidents rather than on the scope of the narrative. Once I get done with it, I plan to do a full review, which I think would have been better titled, “Portrait of the Evil Bureaucrat as a Young Man.”

Yet the sole defense of the full memoir Abrams offers is an assertion that Cheney’s principles as Vice President remained the same as those that guided him when he protected the illegal acts of the Iran-Contra conspirators.

I first knew Cheney when he was chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the House of Representatives (from 1981 to 1987), and our discussions centered then on the wars in Central America. Neither controversy nor scandal shook his view that preventing communist takeovers in that region was an important goal for the United States. Later, when I served at Bush’s National Security Council, I sometimes worked with Cheney, then vice president. Despite those who claim he changed over time, I did not find that so. The central qualities remained: total devotion to principle and to country, and complete and unswerving commitment to any policy he believed served American interests.

Curiously, Abrams neglects to admit that Cheney’s embrace of illegal means amounted to an embrace of Abrams’ own illegal means. No wonder Abrams is so fawning!

But the rest of Abrams’ piece on Cheney does precisely what he criticizes others for: relitigating individual events, notably Cheney’s policy differences with Condi Rice and Colin Powell.

Which is how he sets up his rather bizarre claim that Cheney never leaked.

Many use leaks to protect their personal interests. Cheney did none of these things. When he differed from a policy he told the president so, privately, and told the press and those outside the White House nothing — a practice that earned him unending attacks in the media from gossip-hungry journalists.

[snip]

As to Powell, the criticism is more personal, for Cheney accuses him of criticizing the president and his policies to people outside the administration and of constant leaking.

Powell himself has admitted that he could not continue after 2004 because his views could not be reconciled with those of Bush. He has not admitted to the leaking, but the leaks by Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, were too widely known in Washington to require any additional proof. And as to Cheney’s indictment of Powell and Armitage for standing by while Scooter Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, was unjustly prosecuted for the leak of Valerie Plame’s name, the facts are in; the complaint is justified.

Just as a reminder, Abrams was, himself, one of those initially listed among the leakers of Valerie Plame’s identity and we never learned Judy Miller’s sources for Plame’s identity besides Scooter Libby, so perhaps here again he is lauding Cheney for protecting him.

But even aside from Abrams’ factually incorrect statement of the facts revealed at the Libby trial–notably, that Libby lied to hide the fact that Cheney had ordered him to leak information, possibly including Plame’s identity, to Judy Miller–he ignores the leak Cheney’s office used as cover for their conversations with Bob Novak on July 7, the day before Novak asked Armitage questions that elicited Plame’s identity. On July 7, Cheney’s office spoke to Novak, purportedly in an attempt to scotch Frances Fragos Townsend’s appointment as Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor (precisely the kind of leak, Abrams says, Cheney didn’t do). And just as a reminder, Cheney was the only person known to have refused to release journalists he spoke to about Joe Wilson and Plame from their confidentiality agreements.

Elliott Abrams’ post amounts to a celebration that Dick Cheney would use any means–even illegal means–to achieve the ends he believed important, something Abrams himself has done too. And in support of that celebration, this convicted liar lies about Cheney and leaks; he lies about the substance of another convicted liar’s lies.

So I guess Abrams did pay tribute to Cheney’s entire life memoir after all.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. DWBartoo says:

    EW, I am much anticipating your in-depth analysis of Cheney: book, author, and context.

    Elliot Abrams clearly personifies the wise truism that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – and of “safety”, especially when intended …

    DW

  2. rugger9 says:

    There is a rot in the GOP traceable to the McCarthyite sector of the GOP. It not only brought us Nixon [who Darth considered to be weak when he resigned] and his merry band of thugs, it also brought in PNAC whose most notorious face is Darth [as of now]. Waiting for apologies from any of this group is a waste of time, you will never get them because they are true believers.

    They need to be extirpated in the political discourse, which will not happen as long as Faux and the Kochs and Scaife bankroll them.

  3. Bob Schacht says:

    I think Abrams is preening himself to be Cheney’s successor as War-Monger in Chief of PNAC. He will face competition from other Cheney-bots, like David Addington. I recall that Abrams is a convicted felon.

    I am particularly interested in this sentence of Abrams:
    “The central qualities remained: total devotion to principle and to country, and complete and unswerving commitment to any policy he believed served American interests.”

    Is there any statement of exactly what those “principles” might be? I’d like to see them made explicit. Notice also the lack of any commitment to the Constitution of the U.S., which he has been sworn on numerous occasions to support and defend.

    Ben Franklin’s admonition comes to mind: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    (accuracy of quote attested at http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/1381.html)

    Bob in AZ

  4. Bob Schacht says:

    Unfortunately, it is not quite accurate to say that Elliot Abrams is a convicted felon. Per the Wikipedia:
    “During investigation of the Iran-Contra Affair, Lawrence Walsh, the Independent Counsel tasked with investigating the case, prepared multiple felony counts against Abrams but never indicted him.[20] Instead, Abrams entered into a plea agreement with Walsh. Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanors of withholding information from Congress.[21] He was sentenced to a $50 fine, probation for two years, and 100 hours of community service. However, Abrams was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush, in December 1992 (as he was leaving office following his loss in that year in the U.S. presidential election). On February 5, 1997, the D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censured Abrams for giving false testimony on three occasions before congressional committees. Although a majority of the court voted to impose a public censure, three judges in the majority would have imposed a suspension of six months, and a fourth judge would have followed the recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility that Abrams be suspended for a year.”

    He got off with a slap on the wrist. In the quotes provided by EW, he is up to his old trick of withholding significant information.

    Bob in AZ

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Abrams is just delirious that he remains out of prison and needn’t fear a gelded DoJ, which would never dream of putting him in one. Protesters demonstrating against an admittedly failed government policy, such as discrimination against sexual orientation in the armed forces? That deserves to face the brunt of the full weight and malice of the United States government, because its premise, that the citizen has a right to oppose publicly wrong policies and those who advocate them, is a threat to the PTB, who know their laundry list of wrongs would not fit on the average thumb drive.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    John Dean wrote the book about Cheney, Abrams, et al. “Conservatives Without Conscience.”

    What Cheney writes is simply more evidence of his delusion, and probably continuing his fantasies that daughter Liz will remain a political player.

    Bushes, Scowcroft, Hagel, Tom Ridge, Comey, Ashcroft… all are strangely silent. Heh…

  7. rugger9 says:

    Although Condi weighed in today, saying she didn’t like “attacks on her integrity” in an interview with Reuters concerning her negotiations with the DPRK on weapons, Cheney said she was “naive”. Temper, temper, Condi…. You have to have integrity for it to be attacked.

    Huffington Post has a handy slide show on the key players.

    Funny how Darth apparently failed to talk about the Wilson leak. Hmmmmm……

  8. rkilowatt says:

    …total devotion to principle and to country, and complete and unswerving commitment to any policy he believed served American interests.”

    Principle? Country? …he believed?

    What of the Constitution? Laws?

  9. Mike G says:

    “…total devotion to principle and to country, and complete and unswerving commitment to any policy he believed served [his country’s] interests.”

    This could describe any of history’s most monstrous dictators.

    The BushCo/neocon mental illness includes thinking that ‘resolve’ and ‘commitment’ are vitues in themselves, while any examination of what ‘principles’ they are dedicated to is treason.
    And by some wild coincidence, their sacred principles turn out to be extremely lucrative for themselves and their cronies.

  10. matthew carmody says:

    @Bob Schacht: Although Walsh had felony charges against Abrams drawn up, he never indicted him. He did, however, allow Abrams, as part of a plea deal, to plead guilty to a couple of misdemeanors for lying to congress. He paid some ridiculously low fine and was pardoned by Poppy Bush, along with Weinberger just before Bush left office in 1992.

    Part of the cancer that has gripped our system is the malignancy of those who served Reagan/Bush and their longevity. Since Barry saw fit to not prosecute any of the previous administration’s criminals, we could see them come back in positions of greater power when the next Republican scammer becomes president. Ready for Abrams as Secretary of Defense? Or Addington, Yoo, or Bybee as Attorney General?

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