Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby, and Patrick Fitzgerald: So It's Come Down to This?

Back before former Ambassador Joseph Wilson became a kind of running joke, I blogged quite a bit about him. See here, here, here, here, and especially here and here, for example. Now he's become an interesting phenomenon-- an opportunist and a liar who, although discredited, still gets a lot of attention and undeserved credibility because-- well, why? Because the mainstream news media desperately wants his story to be true. This Wall Street Journal editorial is a very useful primer on the entire story.

Wilson, you'll recall, used 16 words from President Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech and made himself famous:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Subsequent official inquiries have found these words to be true.

For a while Ambassador Wilson was the toast of the anti-Bush crowd and the news media (excuse the redundancy). He even joined the Kerry campaign as an adviser.

Mr. Wilson later was shown to be a liar himself, when he said his wife, a CIA employee, had nothing to do with his getting an earlier assignment to go to Niger to investigate Hussein's efforts to acquire uranium from that country. The Senate Intelligence Committee's report found this claim to be false.

Wilson was quietly dropped from the Kerry campaign. He seemed to be yesterday's news, and even shut up for a while.

But Wilson's been a lot like Jason in the "Halloween" movies. He just keeps coming back. Patrick Fitzgerald entered the seen and the news media was in a swoon over the indictment of Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and the possibility that Cheney himself was involved in outing Ms. Plame, who had been a covert agent at some point.

Nothing ever came of that, for many reasons, but Fitzgerald, like most proscutors, just knows there's a crime in there somewhere, and is trying to get Mr. Libby for obstruction of justice. As the Journal editorial notes, the case is looking thin indeed:
All of this matters because it suggests that Mr. Fitzgerald is scrambling
even now to explain why a seasoned attorney such as Mr. Libby would lie to a grand jury. The prosecutor's original indictment doesn't mention a motive. And his mention of our editorial suggests he's now trying to invent a motive out of Mr. Libby's attempt to defend the White House from Mr. Wilson's manifestly false allegations at the onset of a Presidential election campaign. (Mr. Wilson joined the Kerry campaign until he was dropped after the official probes destroyed his credibility.)

There is all the difference in the world between seeking to respond to the substance of Mr. Wilson's charges, as Mr. Libby did, and taking revenge on him by blowing his wife's cover, which was the motive originally hypothesized by Bush critics for the Plame exposure. The more of Mr. Fitzgerald's case that becomes public, the more it looks like he has made the terrible mistake for a prosecutor of taking Joe Wilson's side in what was essentially a political fight.

The link requires registration, but I hope you can read the whole thing.

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