Thursday, March 15, 2007

Washington's Blood Sport

Joseph Bottum's reflections on his friend, Scooter Libby:

let's remember what this was all really about. A black spot was being passed from hand to hand in Washington. Somebody was going to end up with it, and Scooter Libby was the unlucky one. Forget the lies Joseph Wilson told; forget the jovial leak from Richard Armitage to Robert Novak that started it all; forget what Scooter said or didn't say to the grand jury about conversations with reporters. The case was a political trial from the beginning--and the opponents lined up in a properly political way. One side wanted to use Scooter Libby as a step ladder to reach up and pull down someone higher. The other side wanted to make sure that the case ended with Libby.

I never saw much concern from either side about the man himself. I still don't. In its chortling editorial after the verdict was announced, the New York Times admitted that one of its own reporters had been jailed in the course of the investigation and a general legal respect for reporters' promises of confidentiality had been forever swept away. You'd think these would be frightening developments for a newspaper. But, no, it turns out the political purpose of Scooter Libby's prosecution trumps all that. "The potential damage" for the press, the Times agreed, "remains of real concern. But it was still a breath of fresh air to see someone in this administration, which specializes in secrecy, prevarication and evading blame, finally called to account."

I have several friends--a surprising number with real literary talent--who were invited to help this administration. And each one I urged to accept the appointment. You owe it to your country, I said, particularly in times like these. Public service is a duty you can't refuse, when your turn comes.

Never again. Bene vixit, bene qui latuit, Ovid once warned ambitious young men about the bloodsports of ancient Roman politics: "He lives well who is well hidden." Good advice, I suppose. Keep your head down. Don't look for trouble. Stay under the radar. Cultivate your own garden. It's just that, until now, I never really believed this was America. I never really believed this was us.

At the Spine, Marty Peretz writes:
Let me confess--not for the first time here--that Libby is a friend. I like him, I respect him and I think him an utterly honest and decent person. I am a member of the board of his defense committee, and I have contributed money to it. So you may discount my argument on his behalf. Still, I am deeply persuaded that there are many reasons in logic, in fact and in the very idea of justice why Libby's conviction should be overturned.

First of all, there is the question of why the special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald did not indict Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's second at State, who the counsel knew without the slightest doubt--before he ever charged Libby with anything--was the source of the leak, the leak being that Valerie Plame was an undercover officer at the CIA and also the wife of Joseph Wilson, one of the president's critics on the matter of whether Iraq tried to buy yellowcake from Niger. Here is someone who actually committed the crime, if any crime was actually committed, and he was charged with nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are others in the same cushy position as Armitage. Like Karl Rove. Why?

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