What's All This Then?

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Monday, October 31, 2005

I probably have a different take on the Libby indictment and on Patrick Fitzgerald and his press conference than most other commentary bloggers. No, let me re-phrase that. Not most other bloggers All other commentary bloggers.

In the first place, I didn’t feel the need to rush to my computer and dash off comments while the prosecutor was still conducting his press conference. I really don’t see the point in that kind of activity. Do such bloggers really think that people will be rushing to view their web sites while the news is still unfolding - before an announcement has even been completed? To me, Monday morning is an appropriate time to comment on anything that took place on Friday or over the week end. O.K. Enough about what other bloggers do or think. If you’re here, you’re interested in my comments.

My initial gut reaction to Fitzgerald’s indictment announcement was the same as it was to Harriet Miers’ withdrawal from her Supreme Court nomination. Anger - that here was someone else saying things to make me look like something less than a perfect prognosticator.

First it was Harriet Miers ruining my prediction that she would get more Senate votes than John Roberts and that Chuck Schumer would ask the most penetrating questions. There is still hope that my initial caveat on this prediction will kick in and she will be found to be a serial ax murderer - keeping my record of infallibility intact. But then came Friday’s indictment, blasting my prediction in February that the only people who would suffer from the Fitzgerald investigation would be journalists Cooper and Miller.

Again a caveat. I did use the word "suffer" and "suffering" is unquestionably subjective. One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure, so we won’t know if I was right or wrong about who will endure suffering in this case until Libby - and for that matter Miller and Cooper - tell the world how this matter has affected their psyche and their soma.

I watched a good part of Fitzgerald’s press conference on Friday and had a couple of reactions that I guess most people would think of as odd. The first was a feeling of gratitude that this guy hadn’t been nominated for a Federal judgeship. Not that he doesn’t have the legal skills. He seems to have those in abundance. But I felt grateful that the nation had been spared the agony of watching a Senate confirmation hearing for this guy as Senator after Senator broke down in fits of hysterical sobbing at their inability to get Mr. Fitzgerald to give his opinion on anything beyond the spelling of his name.

It seemed to me that there were a lot of reasonably simple questions that could have been answered with something as innocuous as "yes" or "no" - but instead we got homilies about reading tea leaves or warnings that if he actually did give a direct answer, it would be misinterpreted. So we came away not knowing if there was a possibility that more indictments would be announced or why the wrong dot on the wrong letter meant that you couldn’t prosecute anyone for the illegal act that started this whole affair.

The second was a feeling that I’ve had ever since he came to my neck of the woods as former Senator Peter Fitzgerald’s pick to be the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois - that there was something not quite normal about him. As though he was an alien from another planet. That you could picture him as less of a human than as someone created in a laboratory by a mad scientist obsessed with the story of Les Miserables but with Inspector Javert as the hero instead of the villain and that his sole purpose in life was to labor night and day, 365 days a year, to discover if anyone anywhere had broken the letter of any law, no matter who and no matter what the circumstances. I’ve written of these feelings about Fitzgerald several times in this blog and his performance throughout Friday’s press conference only served to confirm my past impressions.

Now to the meat of what didn’t happen and what is unlikely to happen. Fitzgerald has the reputation of being a straight arrow and a prosecutor’s prosecutor, guided only by the law and no other considerations. But back in June of this year, I said that I thought the case smelled to high heaven.

There was no way it should have taken two years. Bush could have ended it in a week. All he needed to do was gather Cheney, Rove, Libby and a few others in the Oval Office - maybe even Novak - ask who did what - and reveal it to Fitzgerald and to the American people. In fact, if he had done something like that, there would never have been the need for Fitzgerald and a grand jury. But that could only happen in a world and a White House that doesn’t exist. It took two years because no one wanted to tell the truth - and for my money that includes the President. And now no one can be charged with the crime that was revealed to the world in Novak’s despicable column - that two senior government officials, acting no better than foreign spies - revealed the covert status of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Jonathan Polllard is in jail forever for trying to help our ally Israel with information that he couldn’t believe we were withholding from that country - information helpful only to Israel’s defense - despite claims that his acts were harmful to our interests - claims that can never be proved because the powers that be manipulated him into jail without a trial that might have revealed that they were far short of being Simon pure in their activities. But because the laws that cover the crime of outing a covert CIA agent - a crime that could result in the imprisonment or death of people known to have dealt with that agent - do not have the "i’s" appropriately dotted and the "t’s" appropriately crossed, prosecutorial automaton Fitzgerald tells us that no one can be charged with that crime.

No wonder that Mr. Bush had words of praise for Fitzgerald. A prosecutor less obsessed with every fine point of the way a law reads might have found a way to use it to bring the charges which amount to acts of treason. Cheney and Rove and some others in and around the White House may have dodged a bullet. I only wish we could say the same thing for all the people who dealt with Valerie Plame while she was performing her duties as an undercover agent - but we’ll never know - and how’s that for a wrap up of this sordid affair?