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The view of Washington from Scooter's head: Rosa Parks in the rearview mirror

In the Halloween season that Washington wags dubbed "Nightmare on
Pennsylvania Avenue," Vice President Dick Cheney's top staffer was indicted
for lying, President Bush's pick for the Supreme Court was shot down by
friendly fire and the number of Americans killed in Iraq passed the 2,000

It was a week of hunker-down Fridays, and the White House was on permanent
spin cycle. The Bushies were looking for anything -- even the bird flu that
was winging its way around the world -- to offer some relief from the bad
news that featured administration officials. They didn't find it.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr. was the chief of staff to the vice president and
the president's representative on national security until he was indicted
for obstructing justice and lying to the grand jury about when he told what
to whom about a CIA spy.

In his mind and memory, according to his lawyer, reporters revealed the
identity of covert agent Valerie Plame to him. Independent Prosecutor
Patrick Fitzgerald said it was the other way around: that he told reporters
about her and then lied about it to the grand jurors.

It seems that Libby wanted reporters to know that Plame's husband, former
Ambassador Joseph Wilson -- who was punching holes in the story that Iraq
had weapons of mass destruction material from Niger after his fact-finding
mission for the administration to that country -- had been sent on that
mission by his wife.

Yes, I know it's not very clear what Libby was trying to do, but lack of
clarity about what is happening and why is a common state for those who run
official Washington and those who cover it.

Was Libby trying to show that Wilson was bossed around by his wife? And if
so, so what? Was he trying to get back at Wilson by hurting his wife? Was
it important to him that exposing a secret operative might not be the best
thing for the war effort?

Was he trying to suggest a CIA plot against going to war in Iraq, since the
existence of WMDs was the headline justification for immediate invasion?
Was he trying to get back at the CIA?

Was he trying to get reporters and editors not to rely on anything Wilson
said to them? And why didn't reporters see or report what was going on
until they were facing the grand jury or jail time?

As Fitzgerald announced the charges against Libby, he also declared that he
wasn't finished with the CIA leak investigation, and speculation kicked
into high gear about the possible role of the vice president and the

The most prominent White House figure known to be a target of the probe is
the president's deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove. He told Time magazine's
reporter about Plame and wanted to be a "double-super-secret" source, and
the magazine let him get away with that for a long time.

We'll probably have to wait for the books and movies to piece the story
together at a much later time, when only the jailed and investigated and
scooped will care anymore.

That is the Washington that gives Washington a bad name.

But then came the part about Washington that is fine.

Congress rose to the occasion of the passing of an American hero with a
wise and elegant decision to make Rosa Parks the first woman to lie in
honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

I'm sure there were millions of people who forgot for a moment about those
in Washington who were lying in dishonor and turned their attention to the
black woman, once a seamstress by trade, who trained at the NAACP in
Alabama and at the Highlander Center in Tennessee to stand up for her civil
rights and to engage in nonviolent action to achieve them.

Her training paid off when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a
white man. Her action started the Montgomery bus boycott and led to the end
of many unjust laws.

Parks inspired people of color and women to take their rightful place in
society, and she was deserving of the respect accorded her by official
Washington and the world.

Her sense of irony and humor kept her grounded through her decades as a
symbol of the civil rights movement. I had a chance to witness this
firsthand in 1990. We took the same van from the airport to Highlander
Center for its memorial gathering for its founder, Myles Horton.

As the van arrived, I couldn't resist asking her if she wanted to ride in
back or in front. "Oh, in back," she chuckled. "It's more like a limo."

In 1993, at the 30th anniversary of the March on Washington, we were in a
tent to the right of the Lincoln Memorial. It was August in Washington and
the temperature was over 100 degrees. I asked her how she was taking the
heat. "I've been in hotter places," she said, and I don't think she was
talking about the weather.

There might be a funny comment to be made about the fact that Bush and
Cheney didn't have time to attend Parks' funeral, but I can't think of one.

Even in the scandal vortex, the White House should have found time to pay
respect: and that takes us back to the Washington that gives Washington a
bad name.

As "Scooter" Libby tries to clear his name, he will always know that it
will never be as good as that of Rosa Parks.

Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is the president of the
Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C. and a columnist for Indian
Country Today.