Scooter Libby and Plamegate: My thoughts

First, sorry I’ve not posted sooner this evening. My intent was to do so, but not long after I sat down at my desk I got caught up in some phone calls and a couple of other things and then ‘made a run for the border’ (to Taco Bell) for a quick dinner.

Ok, now that I’ve had time to assess the indictments against Scooter Libby, my thoughts fall in line pretty much with Stephen Spruiell’s at NRO’s Media Blog. He wrote:

I just can’t understand it. I just finished reading the indictment, and I watched the entire press conference, and I gotta say it looks bad. I’m not one of those who thinks Libby did anything wrong in discussing Wilson’s wife with reporters. Her relationship with the CIA was well-known around Washington according to numerous accounts, and the public deserved to know that Wilson’s wife arranged the trip. Apparently leaking Plame’s name was not a crime. No one has been charged with any violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act. So why would Libby concoct such an easily disprovable story?

Of course, he’s innocent until proven guilty. An of course, it remains important to tell the truth about Joseph Wilson and not let the press turn this into a vindication of Wilson’s lies. But I’m angry at what appears to be an incredibly stupid move, and left wondering why.

That’s the question I’m asking. The indictments against Libby are pretty damning – I don’t think that it is really deniable. He’s going to have his day in court, but my layman’s assessment of the indictments is that he’s going to be convicted of all of them (perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of justice). It was the right thing to do for him to step down today, but the lingering question obviously on the minds of the Rove-haters today was/is “What about Rove?” No doubt disappointment filled the air in leftieland over the fact that no indictments were handed down against El Roviator himself (though they are quick to point out that “this investigation isn’t over!!!!” – emphasis theirs). I mean, to them, getting Libby was ok – but the real prize was and continues to remain Karl Rove. As I noted at Blogs For Bush yesterday, Joe ‘I’m a private person except when I’m doing book tours and Vanity Fair interviews’ Wilson, in a rare moment of honesty, confirmed this Wednesday (emphasis added):

Wilson said he doesn’t regret telling a Shoreline audience in August 2003 that Rove ought to be “frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs” — though, he said in his interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “I didn’t realize it would be picked up by every right-wing blog.”

He said the more important thing is that Rove leave the White House, whether or not he’s wearing handcuffs.

Exactly. From day one this has not been about any worry on behalf of most of the pushers of the investigation (aka Dems) as it related to national security, or worry that someone’s family was in danger: this was again from day one about getting Karl Rove whether it be on criminal charges or to have him resign just on the perception that he violated the law. Fitzgerald is (obviously) on a fact finding mission to determine what laws were broken and he also stresses the national security angle, the latter of which the partisans in DC (there are always excpetions to the rule, of course) pushing for Rove’s indictment for the most part do not care about one way or the other. No Republican rejoiced Libby’s indictments today, but a measure of satisfaction was gained due to the fact that Rove 1) it would be a double whammy for two admin officials that high in the chain of command to be indicted, and 2) because they knew how disappointed liberals would be once they heard about it.

Regarding Plame’s classified status, it doesn’t appear that Scooter Libby is going to be charged with any deliberate outing of a covert agent – it’s still not clear if that’s what she was, and even if it were crystal clear Fitzgerald clearly did not see the proof that would be enough for an indictment on the charge of deliberately endangering an undercover agent. When asked about that today, Fitzgerald stated:

” I will confirm that her association with the CIA was classified at that time through July 2003. And all I’ll say is that, look, we have not made any allegation that Mr. Libby knowingly, intentionally outed a covert agent.”

So the crimes that are alleged to have happened here were over an issue that doesn’t appear was a crime to begin with. Fitzgerald has also said that the investigation is almost over so I don’t think this is going to go on much longer – my prediction is the investigation will be done before Thanksgiving and hopefully we’ll know more about what will happen with Rove by then.

I note that the media was true to form today, with one headline (now changed) from the AP that read “Rove Not Indicted Yet“. It was almost like the person who wrote the story (and/or headline) sat down at his computer and typed out what he was feeling in frustration. The media coverage of this today also provided those of us media-watcher types with more fuel for the (correct) assertion that the media is liberally biased. I noted a few days ago the differences in how Fitzgerald has been portrayed in the media versus how Ken Starr was portrayed during the investigations into Clinton’s – uh – misdeeds. In part (to recap), I wrote:

Fitzgerald sounds like an above-the-board guy – I’ve seen good things written about him at conservative sites like National Review. My beef isn’t with Fitzgerald, but with the MSM, who are making sure that – before the indictments (if any) are handed down in the Plamegate case – we know what a fair and honest guy Fitzgerald is so once (if) any indictments are handed down, we’ll know that they were done by a guy who’s credentials are impeccable. They are doing similar things with regard to Ronnie Earle, especially considering the articles that were written about Earle that included the fact that he had prosecuted more Dems than Republicans – as if that’s supposed to mean he doesn’t have a partisan ax to grind with Tom DeLay.

But remember how the press portrayed Ken Starr during his investigations into Clinton’s, uh, misdeeds? The prevailing sentiment in the press was that Starr was just yet another member of the VRWC out to get Clinton – thereby his credibility could be questioned in the event that he ever got the goods on Clinton (which he eventually did). Yet years earlier, when he was handpicked by Democrats to investigate disgraced Republican Senator Bob Packwood’s sexual misconduct, Ken Starr was the cat’s meow (Jonah Goldberg noted this reversal in opinion on Ken Starr in a March 2002 piece at NRO).

Well not only is the press continuing to fawn all over Patrick Fitzgerald in stark contrast to how they treated Ken Starr, but the coverage today of the issuing of indictments and the press conference was starkly different back in le era de la Clinton admin indictments. Newsbusters noted this today:

In September 1997, we reported in Media Watch that when former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was indicted on 39 counts, the networks aired a single evening news story. Three of the four networks — ABC, CNN, and NBC — underlined that the Smaltz inquiry had so far cost $9 million. None of them noted civil penalties originating from targets of Smaltz’s inquiry amounted to more than $3.5 million. The next morning, CBS’s morning show, called CBS This Morning, didn’t even mention Espy’s indictment. Months later, I noted in a Media Reality Check that on December 11, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was indicted on 18 counts for misleading the FBI about payoffs to a mistress, Linda Medlar. NBC Nightly News filed one story; ABC’s World News Tonight gave it 18 seconds. CBS Evening News didn’t arrive on the story until the next night, and gave it nine seconds, a fraction of the two minutes Dan Rather gave the nightly El Nino update, about the weather “giving a gentle lift to the monarch butterfly.” The morning shows were worse: NBC’s Today passed on two anchor briefs, and ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS This Morning ignored it.

How about that? So Scooter Libby has been indicted in what appears to be at an attempt by him to cover up a non-crime, and our media doesn’t even pretend to be fair about how it chooses to cover 5 indictments with interruptions of afternoon programs to report this ‘breaking news’, special report coverage all afternoon and evening, etc – versus 2 separate sets of indictments totalling a count of 57 in the course of the year (1997) that barely registered on the ‘worthy news’ radar.

I’m disappointed in Scooter Libby and based on what I’ve seen so far, he may be in deep trouble over all of this. We won’t know for sure of course until later – and I’m pis-ed as heck at the media too for their ridiculously and overtly biased news coverage of the indictments. I’m not surprised because this is what the media does best, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get incredibly frustrated by things like this when I see them.

(Cross-posted at Blogs For Bush)

MORE: Jeff Goldstein has lots of thoughts on this as well as a link roundup.

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