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October 28, 2005

The Scandal Standard

I note that various right-wingers are already trying to minimize the fact that Scooter Libby just got indicted on five charges related to the Valerie Plame case, but fortunately for everyone involved I have a solid acid test to let you know just how serious a political scandal is. It's a very simple standard:

For any political scandal involving the Bush administration, would the same scandal cause right-wingers to wet themselves with glee if it happened to the Clinton administration?

If the answer is yes, the scandal's a bad one.

So, let's apply it here: A senior Clinton White House staffer indicted on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements. Anyone want to suggest how right-wingers might respond to such news? Oh, come on, guess just a little. You'd hear little popping sounds out of Washington as heads exploded with joy from Capitol Hill to K Street. So there you have it.

News flash for everyone: Any senior White House staff member in any administration getting indicted on five counts of anything is bad, bad news. It's even worse news when the President is hovering around a 40% approval rating. Let's try not to polish this turd too vigorously, now, shall we.   

Also, anyone want to lay odds that, if it comes to that, on January 20, 2009, Libby's getting a pardon? How about Rove? You know, if it comes to that, too.

Posted by john at October 28, 2005 02:07 PM

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Comments

Leslie | October 28, 2005 02:39 PM

No bet on the pardons. Just evilly enjoying the fact that we get indictments AND a continuing investigation. heh

Andy | October 28, 2005 03:16 PM

Bush's reaction: leaving town for the weekend. A little r&r always helps one recover from a serious indictment. And a war. And those damn hurricanes.

SAP | October 28, 2005 03:19 PM

Bush is leaving town? You know what that means: every liquor store in a five mile radius had better re-order supplies.

I have another test that I like to use on my wingnut pals: Substitute the name "Valerie Plame" with "Jack Ryan". Now tell me that it's no big deal.

Jas | October 28, 2005 03:27 PM

You can know exacly how pundits on the right would be reacting. Compare Kay Bailey Hutchinson, circa Clinton versus now. Back then, lies to a grand jury were tantamount to murder or treason. Now? They're minor issues, hardly worth worrying about.

Jim Winter | October 28, 2005 03:38 PM

Makes me miss those "Nixon: He's tanned, rested, and ready!" T shirts.

David Blumgart | October 28, 2005 04:25 PM

I'm no fan of this President - I voted for his opponent last year - but the fact remains that this is huge disappointment for a certain kind of Democrat. All the Democratic Underground leftoids had their panties sopping in anticipation of Karl Rove being Frog-marched out of his office in handcuffs on "Fitzmas Day," and it didn't happen. Instead some guy that 999 of 1,000 Americans didn't know existed got indicted. BFD.

And I'll take that bet. $100 straight up says that should Mr. Libby need one he will not get a pardon from President Bush. Ready to back your words with cash?

Brian Greenberg | October 28, 2005 04:39 PM

Since I wind up playing the Bush-defender so often in the Whatever comments, allow me a few comments here:

1) I thought perjury by a high-ranking government official was bad then, and I think it's bad now.

2) I think what Kay Bailey Hutchinson said about perjury is the stupidest thing I've heard in years.

3) I'll go one farther than John - I think the Democrats are going to find a way to link this to the President and impeach him before his term runs out. They've been dying to turn his war policies into actual criminal acts for years, and haven't been able to. The press is doing a wonderful job of linking this to the war, even though the link is tenuous at best.

4) Before anyone breaks their arms patting themselves on the back - it's amazing to me how pissed off everyone was about the way Whitewater/Lewinsky-gate brought the country to a standstill & wasted our time, energy and attention, and how *gleeful* everyone is when the same thing happens again to someone in the other party.

Finally, since I went through the trouble of writing about this at length on my own blog, a little shamless self-promotion:

The Shame of the Plame Game

John Scalzi | October 28, 2005 04:44 PM

David Blumgart:

"the fact remains that this is huge disappointment for a certain kind of Democrat."

Well, a certain kind of Democrat wouldn't be happy unless Bush were impeached, convicted, and shot for treason, so I'm not entirely sure what your point here is.

As for the 99 out of 100 people not knowing who Libby is, again, do you think it would matter if the positions were reversed? Rush, Drudge and the rest of them would be going out of their way to fill America in on all the juicy details. In any event, someone who works in the White House just got indicted. If we insist on the model where the vast majority of American hear like dogs hear, the what's going to get heard is "Blah blah blah blah WHITE HOUSE blah blah blah blah INDICTED blah blah blah," which is no good for the White House.

I think you are correct in not wanting to blow this out of proportion, but the proportions are pretty damn big no matter how you slice it.

Brian Greenberg:

"1) I thought perjury by a high-ranking government official was bad then, and I think it's bad now."

Exactly.

Paul | October 28, 2005 05:33 PM

John, I think the comparason of Bush and Clinton is a good one, but I don't think it proves the point you are trying to make.

The fact is there were several Clinton Appointees who were indicted, specifically Mike Espy (Sec of Ag) and Henry Cisneros (Sec of HUD).

No one seems to remember, which would imply that it shouldn't be this big a scandal. It certainly didn't get the news cycles then, that this indictment has already gotten.

And to those who are talking pardons, look no further then Cisneros.

Perjury is a serious crime, and Libby may be guilty. And if he is, I personally feel he should serve time.

But the fact is he won't. And the comparasion to Clinton's White House will end up being too apt. Don't be shocked or surprised whem Bush follows Clinton's lead and hands out pardons all around.

Sadly there is plenty of dishonor to go around on both sides of American politics. We always beleive the other side is dirtier then we are, but we are all deep in the mud.

darren | October 28, 2005 05:39 PM

"All the Democratic Underground leftoids had their panties sopping in anticipation of Karl Rove being Frog-marched out of his office in handcuffs on "Fitzmas Day," and it didn't happen. Instead some guy that 999 of 1,000 Americans didn't know existed got indicted. BFD."

a) Its not over yet

b) Its always some guy that noone's heard of. They're called "Fall Guys". Scooter is most likely taking one for the team. Secure in the knowledge that he will be pardoned and set up for life with a big chunk of shut the f@$k up money. He'll probably get his own talk show that follows Ollie North.

JC | October 28, 2005 05:44 PM

Seeing as the Democrats hold a minority of House, I don't see how impeaching Bush could be considered a Democratic party partisan act.

As for the link to the war, the link would be lying under oath in the course of an investigation intent to find out about the outing of a secret agent the putative reason for which was revenge for showing the war was not justified. Yes, there are lots of steps between indictment and the war. But complicated and tenuous are not the same thing. (OTOH, yes, there is no direct connection to the war. The direct connection is to the cover up.)

Finally, speaking as someone who is not even remotely gleeful at the indictment and resignation of a senior White House official and someone who is angry that we're about to go through yet another period where our government is yet again paralyzed by scandal, I refuse to accept your implicit equivalents between Clinton's sex acts and the outing of CIA secret agent. As near as I can tell, the former did not have national security implications.

I dislike the effects regardless which party takes the political damage, but the cause in this case is substantively different than from the previous case.

I'm glad to know that when the Clinton administrations was being investigated, you were as shocked and as appalled by the waste of time, effort ane energy as you are now. (OTOH, the Clinton investigations did not lead to a single indictment, IIRC. The Congress, of course, did choose to impeach the President.)

Josh | October 28, 2005 07:05 PM

"4) Before anyone breaks their arms patting themselves on the back - it's amazing to me how pissed off everyone was about the way Whitewater/Lewinsky-gate brought the country to a standstill & wasted our time, energy and attention, and how *gleeful* everyone is when the same thing happens again to someone in the other party."

Its also amazing how republicans ask for everyone to be the better man rather than accept a big spoonful of their own medicine. Though personally I would like for the administration to be brought to a standstill rather than continue to be capable of exercising its ignorance.

Also, I sort of think its a bit more justifiable to hold a president accountable for LYING ABOUT WHY WE WENT TO WAR than for lying about sex. Of course quite a bit of the right considers sex a far greater sin than war so I guess it is a matter of perspective.

Also, I have a question for any folks who identify themselves as republicans. At what point did you decide to stop being conservatives?

John H | October 28, 2005 07:07 PM

One other distinguishing point between today's indictment and the charges of perjury against Bill Clinton - the indictment today directly correlates to the matter being investigated, whereas the Monica Lewinsky scandal was the product of a partisan witch hunt when the actual matter being investigated (Whitewater) turned out to be a dead end. Everyone knew that's what it was, but it didn't stop the congress from pushing ahead anyway. At least the senate had enough sense to let it go...

dave | October 28, 2005 09:11 PM


If the indictments actually "directly correlated", they presumably would have had something to do with crimes being investigated, rather than crimes during the investigation. They didn't, because in the end the prosecutor couldn't come up with anything he could make stick that actually had anything to do with his charter. Fitzgerald was sent to investigate a national security breach, and evidently found that there wasn't any national security breach worth investigating. Not much different than Kenneth Starr on that count.

One other salient difference, of course, is that Libby immediately resigned, whereas Clinton stood his ground, to the detriment of his party and his country.

For that matter, I think you'll be seeing a lot more on the right saying that Libby be convicted than you saw on the left suggesting that Clinton should be impeached or resign. Indeed, the preponderance of commentary on the right that I've read so far is that Libby, if guilty, should do time.

Congratulations to Fitzgerald, though: he managed to bring down a minor White House staffer during the second term of an unpopular administration, on a Martha Stewart violation. In Star Trek parlance, the guy might has well have been wearing a red shirt. Admittedly, Fitzgerald sounded _really_ good while he did it.

John Scalzi | October 28, 2005 09:14 PM

Dave:

"In Star Trek parlance, the guy might has well have been wearing a red shirt."

Dave, no offense, but if you think the Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney qualifies as a "Red Shirt," you're an idiot.

Pat | October 28, 2005 09:15 PM

Any government with one less guy named "Scooter" is surely diminished.
But on a serious note, signing in to TypeKey doesn't seem to be working -- is this a problem on your end or TypeKey's? (perhaps them, they were down for several hours last night)

mythago | October 28, 2005 09:38 PM

Fitzgerald was sent to investigate a national security breach, and evidently found that there wasn't any national security breach worth investigating.

Applying John's test, what do you think Clinton's enemies would have said if, during his administration, White House staffers linked the name of a CIA agent because her husband was a Republican who denounced Clinton?

Bruce | October 28, 2005 09:38 PM

Dave said: Congratulations to Fitzgerald, though: he managed to bring down a minor White House staffer during the second term of an unpopular administration, on a Martha Stewart violation.

Wow. I never knew it was possible to go so wrong so many ways in one sentence.

1. Scooter Libby was the Chief of Staff for the Vice President of the US. To get much higher, you need to get into the President's staff -- at a similar level -- or the Cabinet.

2. The Administration hasn't actually been unpopular with half of the country during most of its existence. Which, in my opinion, is a shame, because there are lots and lots of reasons for it. However, you're correct if you're basing this fact in the current polls. May they continue in the same direction as people realize just how badly the crooks in office have jobbed the country.

3. I seem to keep needing to point this out to people. Martha Stewart, at the time of her insider trading, was a director of the New York Stock Exchange (on which the stock in question was traded). Not only should she have known better, but -- like Scooter and his buddies Karl and George's Boss Dick -- she was in a position where even the appearance of impropriety was unacceptable. The fact that she committed her crime while in that office, just as Scooter (and, IMO, et al.) did theirs, magnifies rather than alleviates the offense.

Or are you taking Kay Bailey Hutchinson's approach, that perjury is only important when it applies to a Democrat, or something involving sex, or both?

dave | October 28, 2005 10:22 PM


Chief of Staff to the V.P. is historically slightly less important than protocol secretary at the White House. Admittedly this administration is different, but you would have to be a seriously anal presidential historian to name even _one_ previous person with Libby's position. If the guy expected to get through a second term without taking a fall for someone, I would be very surprised. Presumably he negotiated for it.

On perjury, my approach is simple. Perjury is important, and Libby should probably do time (and Clinton should have resigned, which was my opinion at the time, even when I liked him). However, perjury is _also_ what the prosecutor charges you with when he's blown millions of dollars of taxpayer's money out his butt, and doesn't want to look like an idiot. Those statements actually aren't inconsistent.

dave | October 28, 2005 10:26 PM

Applying John's test, what do you think Clinton's enemies would have said if, during his administration, White House staffers linked the name of a CIA agent because her husband was a Republican who denounced Clinton?

They would have said that the staffer should have resigned and faced charges. They'd have been right. I think you'll find that that's what the majority of the people on the right actually are saying, John's assumptions to the contrary. There's a large difference between administration partisans and conservative ideologues. Ask Harriet Miers.

dave | October 28, 2005 10:42 PM

Dave, no offense, but if you think the Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney qualifies as a "Red Shirt," you're an idiot.

John, I'm a news junkie, and work at one of the largest news organizations in the world, and I couldn't tell you one thing that Scooter Libby had actually done before this. I seriously doubt that you could either. He's a bland white guy with an ivy league name, and outside of the administration, no one much cares what happens to him. If you had written someone like him to be a fall guy, your editor would tell you to stop using cliches. Presumably he'll do a couple years in Club Fed and then get a 2008 pardon and a book deal. There will be some grumbling that Bush pardoned his cronies, but the he-said/she-said of the modern news cycle will mean that's just another reason to remind people that Clinton more-or-less sold pardons as he was on the way out of office.

Yes, he doesn't get eaten by the slime monster before the first commercial. Otherwise, it was pretty clear he was made to take the fall.

John Scalzi | October 28, 2005 10:43 PM

Dave writes:

"Admittedly this administration is different, but you would have to be a seriously anal presidential historian to name even _one_ previous person with Libby's position."

Possibly because none has ever been indicted before. Indeed, CNN informs us, this is "the first time in 130 years that a sitting White House official has been indicted." So there's a reasonably good chance people will remember Libby, just as most people do not know the name of most administrations' White House Counsel, but remember the name of John Dean.

More to the point, simply because one cannot name the Vice Presidential chief of staff for Walter Mondale does not mean that Libby and his actions are not important. The ignorance and/or apathy of the average American regarding presidential history should not therefore lead to the conclusion that the actions of people in an adminstration are not without significance. It's a poor argument.

"John, I'm a news junkie, and work at one of the largest news organizations in the world, and I couldn't tell you one thing that Scooter Libby had actually done before this. I seriously doubt that you could either. "

You'd be wrong, Dave. The difference between you and me, apparently, is that I don't assume my ignorance on a subject means other people are also ignorant about it -- or that it doesn't have significance just because I haven't heard about it before.

JC | October 28, 2005 11:09 PM

I would have expected a news junkie who works at one of the largest news organizations in the world to know that Fitzgerald's investigation is still ongoing. So any comparison to Ken Starr's accusations (not charges since Ken Starr did not indict Clinton or any White House staff member if I remember correctly) is, at best, premature, at worst, baseless.

Also, Ken Starr and his investigation behaved quite differently from Patrick Fitzgerald and his investigation. The former leaked like a sieve. The latter had reporters openly complaining about the lack of leaks.

But what do I know? I only read the news.

It's also worth noting that GHW Bush pardoned some rather heavy hitters on the way out of office. So clearly, questionable pardons are not partisan issues in and of themselves. It's only left to ask whether it was worse to pardon an international fugitive so perhaps (although not conclusively established) paid for the privilege or worse to pardon the cast and crew of that attempt to subvert the Constitution otherwise known as Iran-Contra.

mythago | October 28, 2005 11:19 PM

However, perjury is _also_ what the prosecutor charges you with when he's blown millions of dollars of taxpayer's money out his butt, and doesn't want to look like an idiot

No, perjury is what the prosecutor charges you with when you were dumb enough to lie under oath and get caught. I am puzzled that you think perjury and obstruction of justice are so unimportant that it is "blowing money" when a White House official is charged with that conduct.

I get the impression that people ignorant of the law think perjury is like campaign promises or a big white lie. It's not.

John Scalzi | October 28, 2005 11:21 PM

Here's your "red shirt," Dave:

"In the White House constellation of advisers, Mr. Libby, 55, was not just any aide. Known by the nickname Scooter, he had the exalted position of being a full member of President Bush's inner circle. In fact, he exercised more influence than senior vice-presidential aides in previous administrations, holding three pivotal jobs at once: assistant to the president, chief of staff to the vice president and Mr. Cheney's national security adviser.

"'Scooter is Dick Cheney's Dick Cheney, said Cesar V. Conda, Mr. Cheney's former top economic policy aide. "

Bruce | October 28, 2005 11:29 PM

From The AP (at Yahoo): Libby is considered Cheney's alter ego, a chief architect of the war with Iraq.

So either Dick Cheney is unimportant, or else we have radically differing views of what "minor" means. Moreover, just because the majority of the public doesn't know who the man is doesn't imply that he's unimportant. It means he's not in the spotlight, which is a kettle of fish of a very 'nother color.

John Scalzi | October 29, 2005 12:09 AM

"However, perjury is _also_ what the prosecutor charges you with when he's blown millions of dollars of taxpayer's money out his butt, and doesn't want to look like an idiot."

We might also note that this investigation has cost less than a million dollars so far. That's value for the money!

darren | October 29, 2005 01:37 AM

I think you had better quit while you're behind Dave. You're getting your perverbial ass kicked. LOL

Anonymous | October 29, 2005 06:16 AM

I not saying perjury is unimportant. Indeed, I've explicitly said that perjury is important, twice, and that if guilty Libby should do time for it. I'm saying that perjury is not what Fitzgerald went looking for. If the prosecutor had found anything related to his original charter, he'd almost certainly have brought those charges. If the prosecutor had caught anyone whose name was know by more than single digit percentages of the American public, he'd have almost certainly brought those charges as well, without needing to keep the investigation open. He didn't, which would lead reasonable people to believe that he simply didn't find any of the malfeasance by high players that he was sent in search of. Yes, the investigation is ongoing, and yes, we don't have all the facts. But out here in the cheap seats, this is pretty much exactly what it looks like when a prosecutor is looking to salvage something from a busted case.

This is not the victory the Dems were looking for, and I'm really not sure why anyone is trying to spin it as though it was. I was expecting to see a lot more disappointment from the left of the aisle. What I wasn't expecting was preemptive accusations of hypocrisy, when most of what I read on the right is some variation of "perjury is important, if guilty he should do time".

JC | October 29, 2005 07:59 AM

I'm not aware that anyone was spinning this as a victory for anything except for the notion of serving justice. Specific references to Democratic officials spinning this as a victory for their party would be helpful.

I agree that there isn't enough disappointment but from both sides of the aisle that an important senior White House official may have lied under oath and obstructed justice in a criminal case with national security implications.

However, the charges of hypocrisy are not pre-emptive. Even before the grand jury issued indictments, Kay Bailey Hutchison had already sought to portray perjury and obstruction of justice as being trivial, perhaps vindictive charges. Then a certain "dave" did effectively the same thing here by calling it a "Martha Stewart charge" taking advantage of the popular belief that the issue which caused her legal troubles were not serious. Pre-emptive would require the charges of hypocrisy come before the acts of hypocrisy, not after.

In any case, the first accusation of hypocrisy in this comment section was from a self-described Bush defender.

Primate | October 29, 2005 08:28 AM

The right isn't going to be able to say "yes, prejury is bad" loud enough to keep the left from doing a happy dance and while the middle gets cranky with the White House. This adminstration was supposed to be good guys who would behave honorably while in office. They weren't supposed to be vunerable to any criminal investigations. The hypocrisy is coming directly from the White House having commited a national security crime, and it's tainting the rest of the right by assotiation. Having the some of the right agree that it's a serious crime does nothing to alleviate the pressure built up against the Republican party right now.

And right now, the Democrats have such a slim grip on national power that anything that can't be traced back to them and keeps this adminstration from moving forward any of a half-dozen bad ideas from the right is cause for celebration. Quiet celebration. It doesn't do to call too much attention to yourself while your oppenents commit political suicide.

Dean | October 29, 2005 08:32 AM

I'm saying that perjury is not what Fitzgerald went looking for. If the prosecutor had found anything related to his original charter, he'd almost certainly have brought those charges.

I don't know why righties insist that Libby's lying is unrelated to the case, as if Fitzgerald nailed him for turning in a movie receipt on his expense account or something. Libby lied, under oath, about who told him the name. He did it repeatedly, and he did it before a grand jury.

He has been charged because he tried to cover up the crime. Yes, I know that's another Republican talking point, that there was no crime so how could there have been a coverup, but frankly I think that Fitzgerald is in a better position to say whether or not the revealing of Plame's name was a crime.

Here's an interesting point, however: counter to the Republican spin, both Libby and Rove thought that revealing Plame's name was a crime. They tried to cover up their own roles in it, after all. And that is what Libby has been charged with.

This whole thing should not be partisanized. If the crime that was alleged was actually committed, it makes Watergate look like a petty office burglary. If it occurred, it is a serious abuse of power.

dave | October 29, 2005 08:35 AM

Just because I seem to need to clarify, by "Martha Stewart charge", I mean a charge unrelated to the original purported wrong-doing, specifically one brought by a prosecutor when no charges related to the original purported wrong-doing are filed. I could have just as easily called it a "Kenneth Starr" charge or even an "Al Capone" charge. While sometimes socially valuable (i.e. Capone), such charges usually occur when a prosecutor in a high-profile case comes up empty, and wants to avoid political embarassment. Give a prosecutor enough time and money, and he'll be able to find pretty much anyone guilty of something, so an unrelated charge is usually easy to find. Perjury, obstruction, and false statements are common "Martha Stewart" charges, not least because they are fairly easy for prosecutors with a busted case to induce during the course of their investigation.

(Evidently repeatedly necessary disclaimer: Yes, these are serious charges, worthy of jail time.)

(Probably necessary disclaimer: No, I have no reason to believe the prosecutor or investigators induced false statements in this case, although that did arguably occur to Martha Stewart.)

In short, charges like these are usually a sign the prosecution shouldn't have been undertaken in the first place, and represent a failure for the prosecution, even if convictions are achieved. If more charges are brought, I reserve the right to change my opinion.

I agree that there isn't enough disappointment but from both sides of the aisle that an important senior White House official may have lied under oath and obstructed justice in a criminal case with national security implications.

True, but with the important caveat that so far there doesn't seem to have been a criminal case, bar crimes that occured during the investigation.
There also don't seem to have been any national security implications. I'm of the curious belief that that sort of thing actually matters.

Dave Klecha | October 29, 2005 10:55 AM

I can't honestly believe that anyone can, with a straight face, argue that blowing a covert agent's cover does not have national security implications.

John Scalzi | October 29, 2005 11:08 AM

Particularly when that person is the member of the White House Staff, and especially when one of that person's job titles is "National Security Advisor to the Vice-President of the United States," and specifically the National Security advisior to this Vice-President, who has been exceptionally engaged in issues of national security.

darren | October 29, 2005 11:23 AM

Dave c'mon. I can't see anyone here that is buying the spin that Fox and Rush told you to say. I don't think the point could be more clear. Just because the prosecuter indicted Scoots for lying, doesn't mean the Libber wasn't lying about outing a covert CIA agent trying to avoid the treason charge these guys so richly deserve. I truly don't understand the Coulterite's definition of treason, slander, or high crimes and misdemeanors.

John Scalzi | October 29, 2005 11:42 AM

Well, I don't know that I'd want to go about bandying the word "treason," actually. That's a very specific and extremely serious charge. There are enough other thngs to think about before unpacking that one, and I would doubt rather seriously it would apply here.

Andrew Wade | October 29, 2005 11:53 AM

Sadly there is plenty of dishonor to go around on both sides of American politics. We always beleive the other side is dirtier then we are, but we are all deep in the mud.

Perhaps so, perhaps so. But despite that it may be that the other side is, in fact, dirtier. Be that as it may, it was not some Republic hivemind that outed Plame, it was a specific individual or specific individuals. As it happens it appears that the outing was not only a dispicable, treasonous act, but a criminal one as well. (The fact that noone has (yet) been charged with it is not very strong evidence otherwise; prosecutors may decline to bring changes for many reasons having nothing to do with innocence). I want to see the individuals who did this identified, charged, and convicted. And if it turns out that Karl Rove is innocent, well so be it. I'm with Brian Greenberg on this one; we should punish people for what we can prove they're guilty of, not what we merely suspect. The court of public opinion has different standards than a court of law (appropriately), but ever there we should be cautious of assigning guilt.

As for Scooter Libby, well, regardless of whether he is guilty of the original crime or not, obstructing justice is a serious crime in and of itself.

Give a prosecutor enough time and money, and he'll be able to find pretty much anyone guilty of something, so an unrelated charge is usually easy to find. Perjury, obstruction, and false statements are common "Martha Stewart" charges, not least because they are fairly easy for prosecutors with a busted case to induce during the course of their investigation.

"Perjury, obstruction and false statements" is a bit more specific than "something". I rather doubt most people are guilty of that. People covering up crimes they are charged with, perhaps, but in that case they do, in fact, have some relation to the original crime.

In short, charges like these are usually a sign the prosecution shouldn't have been undertaken in the first place, and represent a failure for the prosecution, even if convictions are achieved.

Investigations fail. It happens. It's the nature of the beast. It's not that big a deal.

True, but with the important caveat that so far there doesn't seem to have been a criminal case

Woah, the bar for laying charges is (appropriately) quite high. The hasn't been a criminal case in the sense that noone has been charged for the crimes. Given the high bar, that's not a strong indication that no crimes were committed, or no investigation was appropriate. The bar for starting an investigation is appropriately quite a bit lower than the bar for charging someone with a crime.

mythago | October 29, 2005 11:59 AM

I'm saying that perjury is not what Fitzgerald went looking for.

Actually, what you said was "perjury is _also_ what the prosecutor charges you with when he's blown millions of dollars of taxpayer's money out his butt, and doesn't want to look like an idiot". That rather strongly implies that perjury is a minor, last-ditch charge, sort of like the cop who can't prove you were driving drunk ticketing you for a busted taillight.

As others have pointed out, the perjury and obstruction of justice were directly related to the original case: Mr. Libby was not indicted for, say, perjuring himself on a construction-defect case related to his vacation house. When you're under investigation for crime A, and you lie under oath about crime A, that's 'directly related'.

And if it turns out that Karl Rove is innocent, well so be it

I think you mean "guilty," because Karl Rove has not been convicted of any crime, and is therefore presumed innocent.

Andrew Wade | October 29, 2005 12:06 PM

I'm with Brian Greenberg on this one; we should punish people for what we can prove they're guilty of, not what we merely suspect.

Oh yes, and we should not go on "fishing expeditions". But it sure sounds like Libby's crimes were uncovered during an investigation into other crimes, for which there was good reason to investigate. Heck, Libby's crimes were interference with that investigation, it's not as if it would take much digging to uncover them.

darren | October 29, 2005 12:15 PM

"Well, I don't know that I'd want to go about bandying the word "treason," actually."

If in fact it is found that Whitehouse officials outed a covert CIA agent, particularly for the childish reasons they seem to have, then the word "treason" isn't being said lightly. This is what it is. As a military member I know full well the implications of that word. Bush 1 even made this distinction about outing CIA agents.

mythago | October 29, 2005 12:18 PM

Perhaps we should take the Ann Coulter weasel path and merely refer to it as "potentially treasonable".

Andrew Wade | October 29, 2005 12:18 PM

And if it turns out that Karl Rove is innocent, well so be it

I think you mean "guilty," because Karl Rove has not been convicted of any crime, and is therefore presumed innocent.

No I meant what I said (which admittedly doesn't always happen.). Karl Rove is presumed innocent in law. Heck, until I learn more, I'm willing to presume he's innocent. That doesn't mean he is innocent.

To elaborate further, I think rather than smear Rove, "we" should try and find out whodunnit, even if that is not politically advantageous. (And even if we don't investigate we should still be very slow to accuse people. Yes the court of public opinion has different standards than a court of law, but let's not destroy people's reputations unjustly.

John H | October 29, 2005 01:15 PM

Had Fitzgerald handed down this indictment and then said he was ending his investigation, I would agree with you Dave. That didn't happen.

He handed down an indictment on perjury and obstruction of justice because Scooter was trying his best to derail the investigation, not because there was nothing better to charge him with.

The indictment spells out that another senior White House official (referred to as "Official A") was responsible for telling other reporters, including Bob Novak, that Joe Wilson's wife was CIA. All indications are that "Official A" is Karl Rove - he wasn't named specifically in the indictment because he remains under investigation.

[Go to page 5 of the indictment [PDF]. Top of the page, item #9.

"On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Divison. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA."

This is a crucial piece of information. the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) is part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, i.e., not Directorate of Intelligence, the branch of the CIA where 'analysts' come from, but where the spies come from.

Libby's a long time national security hand. He knows exactly what CPD is and where it is. So does Cheney. They both knew. It's right there in the indictment.]
from talkingpointsmemo.com

D.F. Manno | October 29, 2005 01:15 PM

Chief of Staff to the V.P. is historically slightly less important than protocol secretary at the White House. Admittedly this administration is different, but you would have to be a seriously anal presidential historian to name even _one_ previous person with Libby's position.

I can name a lot of people who have held one of Libby's current jobs: assistant to the President.

John H | October 29, 2005 01:16 PM

So, tell me again how this isn't related to the crime being investigated?

Laurie Mann | October 29, 2005 02:56 PM

Or that it has nothing to do with our being in Iraq?

I mean, this whole thing goes back to Bush's claim in a State of the Union Address that Saddam was trying to buy uranium. IT NEVER HAPPENED. Joseph Wilson investigated this and found no connection. He was "rewarded" for his efforts by having his wife's CIA job outed by the present administration. Rove's hands are hardly clean in all this, he just hasn't been idicted.

Yet.

Brian Greenberg | October 29, 2005 02:59 PM

Wow...we are playing fast and loose with the facts, aren't we? In repsonse to several comments made above:

JC:


As for the link to the war, the link would be lying under oath in the course of an investigation intent to find out about the outing of a secret agent the putative reason for which was revenge for showing the war was not justified. Yes, there are lots of steps between indictment and the war. But complicated and tenuous are not the same thing. (OTOH, yes, there is no direct connection to the war. The direct connection is to the cover up.)

I'm with you right up until "the putative reason for which...", because everything in your post from there on is conjecture on your part, nothing more. Granted, just about everyone who dislikes the president's war policies would love for that to be the reason for the crime, but no one without a story to sell has ever claimed it to be the case.

Josh:


Also, I sort of think its a bit more justifiable to hold a president accountable for LYING ABOUT WHY WE WENT TO WAR than for lying about sex.

Wow - this goes beyond stretching the truth into out & out fabrication. First of all, the President isn't (yet) involved in this at all. Second, the man accused (Libby, not Bush) is accused of lying about who told him about Valerie Plame and who he told about it, not about the war in Iraq.

Bruce:


I seem to keep needing to point this out to people. Martha Stewart, at the time of her insider trading, was a director of the New York Stock Exchange (on which the stock in question was traded).

It should be pointed out at this point that Martha Stewart wasn't accussed of, nor convicted of, insider trading. She, like Libby, was convicted of lying to a jury about conversations she had with others. It's generally accepted that the prosecutor couldn't make insider trading stick, but wanted a conviction because of the high profile nature of the case. Hence, the comparison to Libby. I think it's a good analogy.

(NOTE: That doesn't mean that Stewart isn't guilty of a crime. She is guilty of covering up a crime for which no one has been charged or convicted. Still, the coverup is a crime...)

Dave: I can't honestly believe that anyone can, with a straight face, argue that blowing a covert agent's cover does not have national security implications.
John: Particularly when that person is the member of the White House Staff, and especially when one of that person's job titles is "National Security Advisor to the Vice-President of the United States," and specifically the National Security advisior to this Vice-President, who has been exceptionally engaged in issues of national security.

E tu, John? Blowing a covert agent's cover absolutely has national security implications. But Libby wasn't charged with that. In fact, given the lengthy, two-year investigation and the charges he was indicted on, I think it's safe to say that the prosecutor has decided that he didn't do any such thing (or at least that he, the prosecutor, can't prove it).

Brian Greenberg | October 29, 2005 03:03 PM

Laurie - if you can prove any of that, you might want to give Patrick Fitzgerald a call. He's been trying for two years and hasn't been able to do it yet.

I guess I'm back in my "defend Bush" mode here (why in hell does that keep happenning?!?!?), but I wish I could figure out why people can't read bad news about their political opponents and leave it at that. Why the need to push it past the facts, and insist that it's worse or deeper than it appears to be? It only serves to remove to focus from the accused and the crimes for which they've been accused.

John Scalzi | October 29, 2005 03:06 PM

Allow me to amend, Brian. It's significant when a member of the White House Staff, and especially when one of that person's job titles is "National Security Advisor to the Vice-President of the United States," and specifically the National Security advisior to this Vice-President, who has been exceptionally engaged in issues of national security, is indicted on five charges stemming from an investigation into the outing of a covert CIA agent, an event which had definite national security implications.

Given that the investigation is ongoing at the moment, I wouldn't say it's "safe to say" anything regarding other aspects of the investigation until it is closed up.

Laurie Mann | October 29, 2005 03:20 PM

Brian, OK, so the tie to Rove isn't definitive yet. Rove's been playing dirty politics for many years, and this whole incident just reeks of his involvement.

But I stand by everything else in my posting. Try reading a timeline to this Libby's indictment in any newspaper today, and you'll read about the same thing.

darren | October 29, 2005 03:47 PM

"She, like Libby, was convicted of lying to a jury about conversations she had with others. "

Well, now who's getting ahead of them selves Brian? Scoots hasn't been convicted of anything yet.
The indictments thus far are in fact about lying, obstruction et al. However, without trying to make a fallacy out the arguement, it stands to reason that if he didn't leak a covert CIA's name then he is protecting whoever did. Therefore with what I have seen of politicians being career minded opportunists trying to move up a ladder and not down, they protect those that have the ability to pull them up the ladder from above while stepping on the heads of those on the ladder below. They have no problem selling out thier underlings and will protect thier superiors. It is not a far stretch of the imagination from here to see just how many there are above Libby in the political food chain is it? Kinda narrows down the list of potential players in my mind.

mythago | October 29, 2005 03:50 PM

He's been trying for two years and hasn't been able to do it yet.

I believe Fitzgerald's analogy was to an umpire who is trying to figure out of the pitcher threw a ball at the batter, and the pitcher throws sand in the umpire's eyes to prevent him from seeing what really happened. In that case, we wouldn't say "The pitcher must not have thrown the ball at the batter. If he had, the ump would have seen it and benched him."

Harry Connolly | October 29, 2005 05:30 PM

He's been trying for two years and hasn't been able to do it yet.

It's hard to do when people are lying to you.

Brian Greenberg | October 31, 2005 09:08 AM

John:


Allow me to amend, Brian. It's significant when a member of the White House Staff, and especially when one of that person's job titles is "National Security Advisor to the Vice-President of the United States," and specifically the National Security advisior to this Vice-President, who has been exceptionally engaged in issues of national security, is indicted on five charges stemming from an investigation into the outing of a covert CIA agent, an event which had definite national security implications.

Agreed 110%.

Laurie:


Brian, OK, so the tie to Rove isn't definitive yet. Rove's been playing dirty politics for many years, and this whole incident just reeks of his involvement.

Agreed as well, Laurie. I'm sure throwing Rove in jail would be deserved for something, but that's not how our system works. I can think of a few folks I'd like to see put away, but that doesn't mean we lock them up.

darren:


Well, now who's getting ahead of them selves Brian? Scoots hasn't been convicted of anything yet.
The indictments thus far are in fact about lying, obstruction et al. However, without trying to make a fallacy out the arguement, it stands to reason that if he didn't leak a covert CIA's name then he is protecting whoever did.

Yup- you're right, typo on my part. Martha's been convicted, Libby is just accused. I took a shortcut I shouldn't have taken. Mea culpa.

As for him protecting the guilty, that's one possibility. As I wrote here, it's also entirely possible that he was just instinctively trying to keep his boss as far away from a criminal investigation as possible (not a bad rule of thumb). That doesn't mean he isn't covering for the leaker, just that it's not a foregone conclusion at this point.

Jon H | October 31, 2005 10:37 PM

dave wrote: "They didn't, because in the end the prosecutor couldn't come up with anything he could make stick that actually had anything to do with his charter."

You clearly haven't actually read his charter. Obstruction is explicitly part of it.

Jon H | October 31, 2005 10:42 PM

dave writes:"John, I'm a news junkie, and work at one of the largest news organizations in the world, and I couldn't tell you one thing that Scooter Libby had actually done before this."

which says volumes about how clueless and lazy news organizations are, which leads to the lazy said/she said reporting without the balls to check the statements for factual content or to point out blatant falsehoods.

Jon H | October 31, 2005 10:50 PM

"As I wrote here, it's also entirely possible that he was just instinctively trying to keep his boss as far away from a criminal investigation as possible (not a bad rule of thumb)."

No, he concocted a false story which would exculpate the administration and would force the
prosecutor to go on a snipe hunt in the press. That's a bit different than saying "I don't recall".

(He falsely claimed that he heard from journalists, requiring Fitzgerald to find out from journalists what they told Libby. Which dragged things out a year and have stymied a less determined prosecutor.)

They clearly expected that Fitzgerald would get nowhere. That includes Bush, going by a statement he made,that he didn't think we'd ever know who leaked it, which he said with a "ooh, I'm so clever, heh heh" tenor.

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