Ashcroft on the Case

It's not every investigation that lays its cards on the table at the outset, but the modus operandi of John Ashcroft, public eye, became apparent at the very moment the Justice Department got on the Joseph Wilson retaliatory leak case. As all signs pointed to a White House leaker, Justice announced that it would widen its net to look for suspects at the Defense and State departments.

Now, in theory, it's conceivable that some neocon at Defense decided to out Wilson's wife. But State? Why stop there? Why not Agriculture? How about the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

Not that Ashcroft's approach to the case is without precedent. We think, particularly, of the climactic moment in Casablanca, when Humphrey Bogart's Rick, the smoking weapon still in his hand, stands over the fresh corpse of Conrad Veidt's Maj. Strasser, while Claude Rains' Louis, the prefect of police, utters the immortal words, "Round up the usual suspects." A few moments later, in the film's final shot, Bogart and Rains walk off together, Bogart telling Rains, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," as "La Marseillaise" swells in the background. Imagine Karl Rove as Bogart (profuse apologies to Bogie here), Ashcroft as Rains and substitute "Deep in the Heart of Texas" (or maybe "Stand By Your Man"), and you have, we fear, the final shot of the Bush administration's investigation of itself.

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