Saturday, October 29, 2005

Scooter Libby: Lightning Rod

In all the comments from people familiar with Scooter Libby, it’s striking how consistently he is called one of the most meticulous and detail-oriented people they have ever known. So how does one explain the apparent sloppiness of the misleading statements he made to the Grand Jury and FBI investigators? And how does one explain the ridiculous letter he sent to Judy Miller in Prison? If characterizations of him are true, the only explanation is that he wanted to look guilty of something!

So what kind of damage control strategy is consistent with Scooter looking guilty? Here’s one that seems to make sense:

  1. Make the case about perjury and obstruction of justice rather than about national security, or lying about the reasons for war in Iraq. This would explain why Libby was so blatant in his lying, even while alleging that he did nothing wrong. It would also allow the Republicans to use the following methods of spin:
  • Perjury and obstruction of justice are not really crimes unless an underlying crime is charged.
  • After two years of investigation, this is all they can come up with?
  • Well, it’s basically the same thing that Clinton did.
  1. Keep any high profile names from being indicted. Had Karl Rove or Dick Cheney been indicted, the political fallout would have been much greater than Libby being indicted. Rove and Cheney are widely known by everyone, and despised by opponents of the Bush administration. Libby, on the other hand, was a mystery to most people prior to the investigation. By making his actions so much more blatant than Rove or Cheney, it allowed Rove in particular to claim at the last minute that his conflicting statements were due to forgetfulness, and wouldn't be as easy to prove in a court of law as Libby’s.
  1. Keep alive the possibility of a pardon. Politically, it would be very difficult for Bush to pardon someone with as much negative baggage as a Rove or a Cheney. On the other hand, if Bush ends up pardoning Scooter Libby, people are more likely to eventually forget about it. In fact, after a few years pass, the average American won’t remember the difference between Scooter Libby and G. Gordon Liddy, whose despicable role in Watergate has been so forgiven that he’s on a “first letter basis” with Al Franken!
Fortunately, if that’s the strategy and even I can see it, then you can bet that Patrick Fitzgerald can see it too! He knows Libby wanted to take the blame and he gave it to him – HARD! Now he will get to find out how much punishment Libby is willing to take. Fitzgerald says he wants to get this over with as soon as possible so he can sleep in his own bed in Chicago. What does this mean for Libby? It means that he will have to cut a deal or sit in jail at least until the end of 2008, when Bush is leaving office and can issue a pardon without political repercussions. Three years in jail is quite a bit to take for the team, and this creates considerable pressure on Libby to change his mind.

Much has been made about Fitzgerald’s baseball analogy during his statement to the press. I think this analogy, more than anything else he said, foreshadows his intentions in this case. He said that in order to know whether to punish the pitcher for hitting the batter in the head, he needs to know "what was going on in the dugout before the pitch was thrown." If everyone in the dugout was talking about hitting the batter in the head, then the pitcher is guilty, and so are others in the dugout - particularly the manager, who would have primary responsibility if he was involved in the discussions and did not tell the pitcher not to hit the batter in the head. Who is the manager in this analogy? None other than Dick Cheney!

During the course of this trial, Fitzgerald will have the opportunity to find out everything that was going on in the dugout before the pitch was thrown. Cheney was in the dugout. Rove was in the dugout. Lots of other people were in the dugout. And Fitzgerald knows who they are, and probably has some of them who are willing to testify to what was happening in the dugout.

So when Fitzgerald asks Cheney or Rove, under oath, whether anyone in the dugout discussed what Scooter Libby should say to the Grand Jury about the outing of Valerie Plame, Cheney and Rove are going to have tell the truth, or they could be charged with purgery and obstruction as well.

For Fitzgerald, the Libby indictments are just the first pitch of a 9 inning game!

1 comment:

  1. I think you are correct. I sure wonder if Libby will at some point ask "why the hell am I protecting Cheney" who's heart may give at any moment?

    I love all the baseball analogies.

    My favorite is that Bush was born on third base - but thinks he hit a triple.