Saturday, July 07, 2007

defeaning silence of outrage

There is a deafening silence of outrage over Libby's sentence commutation from some of the same voices that screamed (with some justification) over the pardon Clinton gave convicted financier Marc Richard in 2000. And I expect that many of the people outraged with the charge and conviction of perjury against Libby are some of the same people who defended the perjury charge and impeachment proceedings against Clinton during Zippergate -- and vice-versa.

John Farmer, a former New Jersey state attorney general and now a political columnist for the Star-Ledger, has a fairly good analysis of the Libby situation, I think. (And he does it without resorting to demeaning polemic or character assassination, no less.)

First he notes that the other aspects of Libby's sentence stand, including a quarter-million dollar fine, which he already has paid and no doubt will be reimbursed for by one fund-raiser or another, a book deal, or something else.

At the conclusion of the trial, Fitzgerald noted that Libby met with NY Times reporter Judith Miller at the behest of Dick Cheney. Cheney's involvement in the incident was obscured by Libby's perjury. So what did Fitzgerald do? He did what any sensible prosecutor would do -- and as Bush himself reportedly said, Fitzgerald is a first-rate prosecutor -- he went after the small fry, so that the small fry would in turn provide the evidence for an investigation of the bigger fish, Cheney.

Cheney's invovlement in the effort remains speculation in part, of course, although Libby indicated that he his meeting with reporters to out Valerie Plame may have received the personal sanction of Cheney. And Cheney had some reason to out Plame, since her husband had written an op-ed piece in the NYT that discredited the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy yellowcake from Nigeria, a claim that the administration had been using to justify the war in Iraq, a war that Cheney had been pushing from the get-go.

So it makes sense, if Fitzgerald has reason to suspect Cheney is behind the outting, to get Libby on a smaller charge, in order to get information on Cheney. And it makes sense in turn for Bush to commute Libby's sentence (if not ultimately to pardon it) in exchange for Libby's continued silence.

Even if no law technically was broken in outting Plame as a formerly undercover intelligence agent, as opposed to an active one, it was still a stupid thing to do. First, it ends her effectiveness for any future operations; secondly, it exposes other agents she worked with, the place she worked, and the techniques used to greater scrutiny, and limits their effectiveness; and thirdly, it's just plain petty and should be beneath the office of the vice president.

For balance' sake, a friend of mine refers me to the American Spectator, which has a mouthful to say on the subject, from a conservative viewpoint. For my part, I always taught my students that if they couldn't make an argument without personal attacks and juvenile behavior, then they didn't have one. I think that's a standard we need to enforce more vigorously in the public sphere as well.

Given the ad hominen attacks -- like "publicity-mad demoness Valerie Plame" and "full on publicity hound Mr. Fitzgerald" -- this article has no bearing on intelligent and reasoned discussion. Comments from "The American Spectator" are hereby stricken from the record.


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