Who's on First?
Saturday 29 October 2005
It was bracing to see the son of a New York doorman open the door on the mendacious Washington lair of the Lord of the Underground.
But this Irish priest of the law, Patrick Fitzgerald, neither Democrat nor Republican, was very strict, very precise. He wasn't totally gratifying in clearing up the murkiness of the case, yet strangely comforting in his quaint black-and-white notions of truth and honor (except when his wacky baseball metaphor seemed to veer toward a "Who's on first?" tangle).
"This indictment's not about the propriety of the war," he told reporters yesterday in his big Eliot Ness moment at the Justice Department. The indictment was simply about whether the son of an investment banker perjured himself before a grand jury and the F.B.I.
Scooter does seem like a big fat liar in the indictment. And not a clever one, since his deception hinged on, of all people, the popular monsignor of the trusted Sunday Church of Russert. Does Scooter hope to persuade a jury to believe him instead of Little Russ?
There is something grotesque about Scooter's hiding behind the press with his little conspiracy, given that he's part of an administration that despises the press and tried to make its work almost impossible.
Mr. Fitzgerald claims that Mr. Libby hurt national security by revealing the classified name of a CIA officer.
"Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life," he said.
He was not buying the arguments on the right that Mrs. Wilson was not really undercover or was under "light" cover, or that blowing her cover did not hurt the CIA
"I can say that for the people who work at the CIA and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected," he said, adding: "They run a risk when they work for the CIA that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees."
To protect a war spun from fantasy, the Bush team played dirty. Unfortunately for them, this time they Swift-boated an American whose job gave her legal protection from the business-as-usual smear campaign.
The back story of this indictment is about the ongoing Tong wars of the CIA, the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon: the fight over who lied us into war. The CIA, after all, is the agency that asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate how one of its own was outed by the White House.
The question Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly declined to answer yesterday - Dick Cheney's poker face has finally met its match - was whether this stops at Scooter.
No one expects him to "flip," unless he finally gets the sort of fancy white-collar criminal lawyer that The Washington Post said he is searching for - like the ones who succeeded in getting Karl Rove off the hook, at least for now - and the lawyer tells Scooter to nail his boss to save himself.
But what we really want to know, now that we have the bare bones of who said what to whom in the indictment, is what they were all thinking there in that bunker and how that hothouse bred the idea that the way out of their Iraq problems was to slime their critics instead of addressing the criticism. What we really want to know, if Scooter testifies in the trial, and especially if he doesn't, is what Vice did to create the spidery atmosphere that led Scooter, who seemed like an interesting and decent guy, to let his zeal get the better of him.
Mr. Cheney, eager to be rid of the meddlesome Joe Wilson, got Valerie Wilson's name from the CIA and passed it on to Scooter. He forced the CIA to compromise one of its own, a sacrifice on the altar of faith-based intelligence.
Vice spent so much time lurking over at the CIA, trying to intimidate the analysts at Langley into twisting the intelligence about weapons, that he should have had one of his undisclosed locations there.
This administration's grand schemes always end up as the opposite. Officials say they're promoting national security when they're hurting it; they say they're squelching terrorists when they're breeding them; they say they're bringing stability to Iraq when the country's imploding. (The U.S. announced five more military deaths yesterday.)
And the most dangerous opposite of all: W. was listening to a surrogate father he shouldn't have been listening to, and not listening to his real father, who deserved to be listened to.