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Former Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti once again peddled Republican spin while ostensibly representing the Democratic viewpoint on the "Strategy Session" segment of CNN's Inside Politics. Paired opposite Republican strategist Terry Holt on the July 18 edition of Inside Politics, Valenti argued that the controversy over the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame is "all about politics," suggested that Democrats are looking for "payback," and claimed that the public doesn't care about the matter. Valenti is now a perfect six-for-six in "Strategy Session" appearances: He's been on six times, and in each appearance he repeated GOP spin, praised Republicans, criticized Democrats, or some combination of the three.
After being introduced as "former aide to President Lyndon Johnson" and asked by host Dana Bash whether President Bush has a political problem due to his promise to fire those responsible for the leak, Valenti opted not to take the obvious Democratic position ("Yes"), instead dismissing the whole matter as "all about politics" and an instance of Democrats "tasting the sweet juices of payback time":
BASH: Not clear if the law was broken, but this isn't just about the law, Jack Valenti, this is about politics and the president having a certain standard that he set for himself, right?
VALENTI: This is all about politics. I think that Karl Rove wielded the sharpest broadsword in the election, slashing about, and left a lot of wounded Democrats on the election battlefield. And now the Democrats, tasting the sweet juices of payback time. And so this thing is going to go on.
Later, Bash asked Valenti if Democrats were making a "mistake" by "pouncing" on "every bit of new information ... even though we know it is not anywhere near all the information about where this investigation is going." (Bash did not ask Holt if Republicans were making a similar mistake by claiming that each additional piece of information absolves Rove and the White House of any wrongdoing.) In response, Valenti again said that "what's happening here" is Democrats taking advantage of political vulnerability:
BASH: I want to go back to something you said earlier, which is that maybe we just should wait for the investigation to be finished. Democrats, as you know, are not doing that, and they are sort of pouncing on every detail, every new bit of information that we get, even though we know it is not anywhere near all of the information about where this investigation is going. Is it a mistake for Democrats to be so aggressively going after this, knowing so little?
VALENTI: No, of course not. This is the political blood sport that we're playing right now. And, if it were the other way around, the Republicans would be after whomever seemingly would have blood in the water on the other side. So the Democrats are doing what you do in politics: You find some taste of blood on the other side, some rippage, some vulnerability, and you go after it like a trout going after a fly, and that's exactly what's happening here.
Finally, Valenti claimed that the Plame scandal is "an inside-baseball thing" that appeals to activist groups such as MoveOn.org, rather than something that "the public" cares about:
VALENTI: The public doesn't know who MoveOn is, and they don't read about [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean that much. I don't know how the public is being stirred by this. This is an inside-baseball thing. But I think the Democrats are reacting just as the Republicans would if the shoe was on the other foot.
Valenti apparently missed the results of an ABC News poll -- reported on CNN earlier in the day -- indicating that the public takes the Plame matter very seriously:
Just a quarter of Americans think the White House is fully cooperating in the federal investigation of the leak of a CIA operative's identity, a number that's declined sharply since the investigation began. And three-quarters say that if presidential adviser Karl Rove was responsible for leaking classified information, it should cost him his job.
75 percent say Rove should lose his job if the investigation finds he leaked classified information. That includes sizable majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats alike -- 71, 74 and 83 percent, respectively.
The leak investigation is seen as a meaningful issue: About three-quarters call it a serious matter, and just over four in 10 see it as "very" serious. These are down slightly, however, by five and six points respectively, from their level in September 2003.
Fifty-three percent are following the issue closely -- a fairly broad level of attention. Those paying close attention (who include about as many Republicans as Democrats) are more likely than others to call it very serious, to say the White House is not cooperating, to say Rove should be fired if he leaked, and to say Miller is doing the right thing.
In every one of Valenti's "Strategy Session" appearances to date, he has repeated GOP talking points, praised Republicans, criticized Democrats, or some combination of the three.
- On July 11, Valenti wondered what the "big deal" about the outing of a covert CIA operative is, dismissed the matter by saying "all administrations leak," and criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).
- On July 1, Valenti endorsed far-right Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for the chief justice position, should current Chief Justice William Rehnquist resign.
- On June 23, in response to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's statement that Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) should not be reading aloud the names of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan on the floor of the House of Representatives, Valenti allowed that he, too, was a "little bit puzzled about it," though he ended up conceding, "But if he wants to do it, why not?"
- On June 17, Valenti called Sen. John Warner (R-VA) "one of the great giants in the United States Senate. He's fair-minded." Valenti added that Warner's remarks rebuking Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) "made a great impress [sic] on me," and that "[i]t may be that Senator Durbin might have gone just a tad too far" in denouncing U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
- Also on June 17, again appearing opposite Novak, Valenti repeated a GOP mantra about Sen. Clinton: "I think by the time the [2008 presidential] campaign starts, she will have devised a whole new persona that might appeal to a lot of people." After Novak said "the problem with Senator Clinton is that, unlike her husband, she's not very likable. She is smart, she is tough. She thinks she'll be a better president than her husband was. But she's not a likable person," Valenti replied, "I think Bob may be right, but people see a candidate only on television."
- On June 7, Valenti criticized Dean for "hurling curses" against Republicans.