Scooter Scooted Away (Sans Literal Cuffs)
Well, despite all the hype on both sides of the political aisle ("nobody committed a crime, you partisan ()$*)@*$!" vs. "22 indictments! Rove! Cheney! OMG!") the indictment of Scooter Libby for perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice today was not all that earth-shattering. Anyone who paid close attention to the Judith Miller fiasco should have known that her belated "finding" of "forgotten" June 23 notes about a conversion with Libby was the nail in his (not her) coffin.
The indictment reads like a well-crafted story. There is quite a bit in it that is, technically, superfluous to the ultimate charges - but by in large it skirts just on the right side of the "motion to strike" line, i.e. there is nothing superfluous in it.
Libby's (under) statement: "Obviously, today is a sad day for me and my family."
It sure is. Indictment and knowing that the State Bar's going to be coming after your ass so that you can't even keep your career even if you're acquitted would make anybody sad. But hey, I don't feel sorry for him - a licensed lawyer knows not to screw around playing cute games fast and loose with the literal truth. So I do hope Scooter thought his license was worth it. The rumor mill says he took a fall for Dick Cheney, who if you read the indictment was indeed one of the persons who told Scooter about Valerie Plame (except that he told Libby based on information Cheney got from a mysterious "Official A", an "under secretary of State"). Sorry but Dick Cheney shouldn't be worth anybody's livelihood and freedom.
But who knows? Apparently they are thicker than thieves. Thicker than Rove and Dubbya, even.
Libby's lawyer's insists that Patrick Fitzgerald has already concluded that Libby did not violate the laws against leaking the identity of a covert agent. This may or may not be true - after all, as Libby's lawyer (ooh how alliterative!) knows, an indictment does not require that all charges be set forth at once, and it can be amended as things progress. This may well be the case, but somehow I doubt it. While Patrick Fitzgerald clearly is not a media hog (he seemed really nervous today) he strikes me as very very good at his job. And, knowing the situation in which he finds himself, if he had the goods to charge, he would have.
What really matters, in the end, is not whether Lewis Libby will get 30 years and end up spending his last years fleeing large burly felons in federal prison. What really matters is how akimbo the United States' government's moral compass has become and how damaged our standing in the world is as a result. Fitzmas, the gleeful celebration of comeuppance that most on the left have been praying for, merely left me depressed most of the time. Sure, there have been high level officials indicted before. Clinton's impeachment over lying about a blow-job is still fresh in many people's memory. But I don't have any memories of someone committing treason (outing a covert agent working on WMD, our national security) merely as vengeful tit-for-tat. And if nothing else, the indictment as written makes clear that there is indeed a relationship between Joseph Wilson's column proving that the "sixteen words" that Bush used to take our country to war were false and the destruction of Valerie Wilson Plame's career as a covert operative.
Finally, I admit that I sort of feel sorry for those many folks who went through a week of paroxyms of joy over "Fitzmas", only to now be feeling a bit like Charlie Brown looking into his Halloween bag:
"I got a rock".
Now, we get to watch both the brutal disappointment and the spin, from the reality based community. When, of course, if folks had stepped back emotionally from the need for revenge (a need I certainly understand emotionally) they'd have realized that the likely outcome was going to underwhelm them, and that despite all hopes this might not still be "The Moment" when the entire country realized that the *entire* Bush Administration - starting with Bush himself - is morally bankrupt, criminal, rotten to the core.
What we got instead was a moment in which a staff person is "frogmarched" (whatever the hell that means; I've never known) off but all the real folks in charge remain unscathed. Hell, they couldn't even nail Karl Rove (although it remains to be seen if an indictment for him is still coming). Given this, I predict that after a few days of media frenzy, the wingnuts and moderates-in-denial who needed to understand clearly what those on the left already know abotu the Bush Administration simply won't care anymore.
After all, we're talking Libby. Scooter Libby means almost nothing to anyone who doesn't follow politics as a hobby. He's not Bush's chief of staff; he's Dick Cheney's. In other words, so far off the larger public's radar in terms of importance that it won't take long for folks to go "yeah, but....it wasn't anyone who really *mattered*. Now, of course, he matters - big time. But this indictment does not validate the *reasons* that Libby matters -- that he, along with his boss and others in the White House Iraq Group, are responsible for squandering all the goodwill that the United States had in the world post 9-11, and have left us shamed, and hated, throughout the world, because of our illegal war of aggression against Iraq.
Frankly the best thing to come out of today was the sight of Dubbya reading a 15-second "Libby you're doing great" speech and practically *running* to his helicoper to flee to Camp David.