The resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card conjures up all sorts of fascinating scenarios which will probably go unrealized. What if he decides to talk?
He probably won't, of course. But we can still speculate: What if he spilled the beans on just two issues -- Plamegate and the World Trade Center attacks?WHIG
. Because Card has always kept such a low profile, few understand that he played a key role in the war conspiracy
The White House Iraq Group (WHIG) was formed in August 2002 by Andrew Card, President Bush's chief of staff, to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. WHIG operated out of the Vice President's office.
The group's members included Rove, Bush advisor Karen Hughes, Senior Advisor to the Vice President Mary Matalin, Deputy Director of Communications James Wilkinson, Assistant to the President and Legislative Liaison Nicholas Calio, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The purpose of this group was to create public support for a war which (as we now know from the Downing Street memos and other sources) was pre-determined. In other words, this group focused on pushing propaganda -- the Niger forgeries, the aluminum tubes hoax, Atta in Prague and so forth. They also felt threatened by Joe Wilson.
Oddly, although journalists and pundits have offered much speculation about which WHIG member did what, few of those speculations concern Card, the organizer of the group.
We know, though, that when the Justice Department launched a criminal probe into the outing of Plame, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave Andrew Card a twelve-hour "heads up,"
which provided plenty of time to clear damning information from the White House computers.
...when Gonzales was notified about the investigation on the evening of Monday, Sept. 29, 2003, he waited 12 hours before telling the White House staff about the inquiry. Official notification to staff is meant to quickly alert anyone who may have pertinent records to make sure they are preserved and safeguarded.
Just what did Card do during that twelve hours -- and in subsequent days?
Recently, we learned about the 250 pages of "Now you see 'em, now you don't" emails which Rove recently "discovered" and supplied to Patrick Fitzgerald. These very same emails
went missing during the original Justice Department inquiry, perhaps during those key twelve hours. (The deadline to turn over all materials was October 10.) Andrew Card could probably tell us some very interesting details about this strange matter.
One possible explanation for the disappearance and re-emergence of the emails concerns the idea of blackmail, or insurance. During the window of opportunity, someone might easily have made personal copies of those messages as a matter of self-protection. Later, someone else in the White House (call him Karl) arranged for the same emails to vanish. Once Karl learned that incriminating copies of these missives still existed, he would have been forced to "find" the emails again, in order to avoid accusations of participating in a cover-up.
(This scenario is very speculative, of course -- but there is
historical precedent for this sort of thing. Nixon could not erase the Watergate tapes because the CIA had its own copies.)
And who might the original "someone" have been? Andrew Card would be my primary suspect, since he was the one who received advance warning from Gonzales. For a brief time, only he -- and those he chose to inform (if anyone) -- knew about the probe. The President himself did not learn about the investigation until the next morning, according to one published report.
The alternative theory, of course, reverses the roles: Perhaps Card was the one who tried to make the emails vanish, while Rove cleverly made them re-appear when the time was right. Although this is the more popular scenario, I tend to discount the idea, if only because I think Rove has more to hide.
Many believe that Card has had an adversarial relationship with Karl Rove. They disagreed over the Harriet Miers nomination: Card pushed for Miers
, while Rove probably aided the conservative groups who called for her to withdraw. Some observers aver that Card quickly lost enthusiasm for the Iraq war itself.
Given this uneasy relationship with Rove, it's possible that the Plame leak was the proverbial last straw for Card, and when he learned that there would be a full Justice Dept. investigation, he decided to make it clear that he wouldn't be going down with Rove's ship.
Card could well be the senior White House official who told the Washington Post that at least six reporters received the Plame leak before Novak published the information. As you will recall, the earliest "Plamegate" reports fingered Rove as the likeliest source for Novak. Whoever circulated those stories had it out for "Bush's Brain."
All of which suggests that conspiracy-minded folks
might want to check up on an overlooked AP story from November 27 of last year:
A small, twin-engine plane carrying White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card made an emergency landing in Nashville Saturday after smoke began pouring into the cockpit, officials said...
The plane left Texas, where Card has been meeting with President Bush...at his ranch in Crawford, White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.
Pure coincidence, of course. Even so, Card did
once say that "Karl is a formidable adversary."The Day of the Goat.
Another set of mysteries involving Card concerns the events of September 11, 2001.
I've always felt that Bush's undignified, incompetent reactions on that day indicate that he did not have foreknowledge of the attacks, or at least of their extent. At the end of the original version of The Manchurian Candidate
, Senator Iselin is given a dramatic, moving "impromptu" speech to declaim on national television in the aftermath of an assassination; surely W could have made similar arrangements? At the very least, he would have made a mental note: "Attack planned for today. Try not to look like idiot in front of cameras."
Unforgivably, Bush entered the classroom and listened to the goat story (the Greek for goat
provides the root of tragedy
) even though he had already been informed of the first strike. We don't know when he was told or who told him. Was it Card or Rove?
On more than one occasion, Bush made a statement which many took as a claim that he had seen the impossible:
And my Chief of Staff, Andy Card -- actually, I was in a classroom talking about a reading program that works. I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly, myself, and I said, well, there's one terrible pilot.
Of course, there was no footage of the first impact available at that time. Perhaps we should blame W's infamous difficulties with the English language. If you presume that he meant "I saw that an airplane had
hit the tower," the statement makes more sense, even if his actions do not.
Bob Fertik summarizes
one version of the tale:
According to ABC's John Cochran, Bush discussed the first crash with his Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, before he left his hotel. As Bush approached his car, a reporter asked, "Do you know what's going on in New York," and Bush said he did - and would say something later.
He had no business going to that school, of course. Everyone suspected terrorism from the moment the first jet hit; the President endangered those children by placing himself in their presence at such a time.
Bush stayed in that school some 25 minutes after being informed of the second strike. Even if he
didn't have the presence of mind to leave, why didn't Andrew Card think of the obvious course of action?
The first reporter to interview the retired Card should ask that question.