When it says Libby, Libby, Libby, on the verdict, verdict, verdict…

…then Scooter, Scooter, Scooter is a convict, convict, convict.

I’m sorry, but I’ve been saving that line since the whole trial began.

Now that the trial is over (not counting the inevitable appeals), I think it’s time to take a hard look at certain facts of the whole matter.

1) Absolutely no law was broken in the publication that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.

The proof of this is self-evident. The “leaker” of Plame’s identity has been clearly and undisputably identified as Richard Armitage. If the release of that information was a crime, then Armitage would be in legal trouble. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has stated that there will be no charges against Armitage. Therefore, the revelation that Plame worked for the CIA was not a crime.

2) Joseph Wilson lied in his Op-Ed piece for the New York Times.

Wilson said said in the Times that he found “no evidence” that Iraq was seeking uranium from Nigeria. Wilson also said, in sworn testimony, that he had discovered that Iraq had sought to “establish commercial relations” with Nigeria — and uranium is pretty much the only Nigerian export that Iraq would have been interested in.

3) Joseph Wilson lied about who behind his mission to Africa.

Wilson said that the vice-president’s office arranged for his visit. It has become clear that his wife, in what appears to be an act of nepotism, pushed him for the assignment.

4) As has been repeatedly cited, over and over and over again, Libby was accused of (and now convicted of) lying about telling the truth about a liar.

Libby was not convicted of violating any laws regarding the exposure of Valerie Plame (who had already been “outed” years ago by the traitor Aldrich Ames). He was not convicted of lying about Wilson’s mission, Wilson’s reports (either his classified one, or the contradictory one he gave to the New York Times), or protecting the leaker of Plame’s identity.

5) Libby was convicted of lying to investigators of an event that, in the end, established that there was no crime committed at its core.

Libby was not charged with committing a crime that occurred before Fitzgerald began his investigation. (Correction (well, more of a weasel): “Libby was not charged with a single crime related to the actual “outing” of Plame, but rather in the investigation that followed it. The results of that investigation are self-evident, as pointed out above.” The specific mention of “Fitzgerald” was something I did not verify, and I should have just glossed around the specifics and focused on the point — the Libby charges stemmed not from the actual leak, but the investigation into them.) In fact, had Libby simply gotten his story straight when questioned by investigators, there would likely have been no charges filed in the whole matter. It’s a progression of the old aphorism — “it’s not the crime, but the coverup” — into “even if there is no crime, covering it up will still get you.”

So, that’s that for facts. Now for some opinion.

A) On the one hand, Libby appears to have knowingly and willingly lied to federal investigators, and that is intolerable. A message has to be sent that some things can not and will not be accepted.

That could be a tough sell. Courts tend to be swayed by precedent, even bad ones, and Libby’s lawyers can point to a couple of similar cases where the accused was treated very leniently.

In the 1990’s, Bill Clinton freely admitted that he had lied under oath in a civil lawsuit, using the cloak of “privacy” to shelter his liability for violating sexual harassment laws while governor of Arkansas. In that matter, it was determined that while he had indeed violated the laws against perjury, they did not rise to the level of being an impeachable event.

And in just the last few years, former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was convicted of stealing and destroying highly-classified material from the National Archives related to the Clinton Administration’s efforts against terrorism, and how they might have affected the 9/11 attacks. Berger, who could (and should) have been charged with treason, was let off with little more than a wrist slap — a fine and loss of his security clearance until just before the next presidential election.

On the other hand, I don’t like following bad examples — I prefer correcting them. I also don’t like quoting Bill O’Reilly, but he has an aphorism that fits very well here: “you don’t justify bad behavior by citing other bad behavior.” The final dispositions of the Clinton and Berger matters were wrong, and should not — under any circumstance — be used to perpetuate treating major matters so lightly.

I really don’t know. So much of Libby’s culpability depend on people’s memories and recollections that have been repeatedly proven unreliable. Had I been on the jury, I think I would have voted for acquittal, because I think there’s enough “reasonable doubt” to chalk it up to something besides intent. But I didn’t hear all the testimony, and I wasn’t there.

B) Why, oh why, is Joseph Wilson still given any shred of credibility? He started out by lying about the results of his trip, and has been lying — or just plain wrong — pretty much since. He said he wanted to see Karl Rove “frog-marched” out of the White House by police, and it turns out Rove was most likely uninvolved. He said his wife was “outed” by the White House, when it turns out to have been a State Department drone (Armitage puts the “dip” in “diplomat”) who was no friend of the Bush Administration. And after Libby was convicted, he said that there was “nothing personal” about the whole matter.

Bull — Wilson has done everything he can to portray himself and his wife as innocent victims of a grand political scheme. Instead, he was a partisan hack who used his wife’s position to garner himself a self-aggrandizing assignment, then tried to leverage that into a position as a hero of the anti-war movement. In the process, he lied, misled, and slung enough mud to fulfill every negative stereotype of diplomats and politicians. And now he and his wife are slated for celluloid immortality, as Hollywood is rushing to capture their “saga” on the silver screen. I suspect it will have about as much resemblance to the real events as Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

If Hollywood had any integrity at all, Wilson would be portrayed by Jon Lovitz in his “Tommy Flanagan” persona:

“I went to Niger to see if Iraq was trying to buy uranium, and… they weren’t. Actually, they were looking to… sell sand to Nigeria. Yeah, that’s the ticket! It wasn’t Niger, it was Nigeria! They were tired of having all that desert, so they were gonna box it all up and trade to the Nigerians in exchange for a share of this dead guy’s estate. You see, this wealthy Iraqi died in a plane crash in Nigeria, and he had no family, so this Iraqi guy was going to pretend to be his nephew and this Nigerian lawyer was going to give him a third of the dead Iraqi’s $30-million-dollar estate.”

C) This is yet another case of criminalizing politics and policy. Fitzgerald’s first act should have been to establish whether or not a crime was committed, not to reconstruct every single thing that happened. Only after it was proven that there was a crime at the core of the whole matter, then — and only then — should have the full investigation proceeded. We don’t let the regular authorities go on fishing expeditions like this one; special prosecutors shouldn’t be granted this privilege.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse Libby’s apparent lying. But had Fitzgerald done things properly, the investigation would have ended long before Libby was interviewed, and this whole thing would never have happened.

One thing, though, is pretty clear: the whole mess ends with Libby. Fitzgerald has stated, repeatedly, that the only crime he uncovered in the whole sorry mess was Libby’s lying to investigators. There was no crime at the core of the matter, no signs that there was a grand conspiracy to “out” Plame (who committed gross nepotism and abuse of her position by pushing for her husband to get the Niger mission) or “discredit” Wilson (apart from simply pointing out his two contradictory stories), and no orchestrated cover-up behind the whole thing.

It’s all just so damned stupid and pointless.

Wizbang Podcast #57 is up
"Jesus Would Be Disappointed" -- John Edwards