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Congress Debates Iraq; Gonzales Takes Heat for U.S. Attorney Firings

A bill mandating Iraq troop withdrawal failed in the Senate, former CIA agent Valerie Plame testified about the leaking of her name, and some called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' resignation over the firing of federal prosecutors. Analysts mull these stories.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Mark, what did you think of Valerie Plame before Congress today, what she said?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, it was fascinating, Jim, because she had never spoken a word in public to my knowledge. I've never heard her voice in a microphone. And I thought she was a compelling, persuasive witness. And I think she dominated the room.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Did she persuade you to what?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, that she — first of all, that, in spite of all the statements to the contrary from everybody else involved in the case on the other side, to put it that way, she said she was a CIA operative, and that she was covert in her actions, and that she was outed by that disclosure made…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    That she was a victim.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    And her career ended, effectively ended by that experience and that outing.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What was your reaction to her story?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Well, just on that subject, there are laws about who is covert and who is not. And once you're covert, you're not always covert, as she claimed. You have to be in the field and such things. I'm not an expert on the law, but that is a matter of dispute.

    And then as we saw, as the Republicans said, did the Republicans intentionally out her? I personally think this story is over and done with, to be honest with you.

    I thought that the story was hot as long as people thought Rove and Cheney might be at the end of the line from the investigation. Once it became clear it was Richard Armitage, interest in the story died down. The prosecution went on. The only trial that is going to be has concluded, so I basically think the story is over.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You don't think she's a victim?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    No, no, she certainly was a victim. No, she certainly was a victim of a campaign to out her. And I thought — you know, I've said on this program before, I thought the whole process was terrible.

    I thought it started with the misleading things her husband said. I think it continued with the vicious campaign by the White House to destroy her and to overreact to the op-ed piece. And then it continued, I thought, with a prosecution that went off in the direction it was not supposed to go on.

    It was supposed to be about outing a CIA officer, not about going after the vice president. And so I thought it was a travesty from beginning to end with no real influence on policy.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you agree, no real influence on policy?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I think it's a reflection, I think it gave us an x-ray view of the White House and how it operates.

    I don't think there's any question the vice president was into it up to his eyebrows to get her, to denounce the findings of her husband, which were not refuted, that, in fact, the statement made by the president in his State of the Union address was inaccurate. That's the first thing.

    The second thing is that the president himself made a solemn pledge that anybody who was involved in revealing her identity would not continue to work at the White House. To this day, we have the vice president in place; we have Karl Rove in place. And we know that Karl Rove was actively involved in that attempt, in that effort, in removing her name to press people.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I feel like I'm getting involved in a dispute about the Dead Sea scrolls. I mean, this is ancient history, but Wilson's report, as a bipartisan commission found, was not disputing what the president said in those 16 words. It was mildly supportive.

    He was dishonest about what it said. I mean, there's a whole series, as I said, of dishonesties building upon dishonesties, which is not to exculpate, whatever that word is.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    That's a great word, whatever it is.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    The vice president — I will never say it on television again. The vice president and the way they reacted, but it was just one, long, tawdry series of events after another.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    It was the Republican Senate Intelligence Committee. It was not a commission that made that finding. And it's the only one, to my knowledge, that was negative on Joe Wilson.