In the long and troubled history of special prosecutors, many who have served in that role have gone on to fame and fortune, others simply to infamy. Archibald Cox, for example, was fired by President Nixon but has been a liberal icon forever after. Leon Jaworsky completed Cox's investigation and jailed a bunch of Nixon aides. He has been lionized. Lawrence Walsh ended up with a less shiny halo. He indicted several Reagan administration officials (including the former Secretary of Defense, Cap Weinberger) five days before the 1992 election and may have sealed George H.W. Bush's electoral doom. Even foes of the first George Bush seemed a little embarrassed by that one.
Then there's Kenneth Starr, whose work led to Bill Clinton's impeachment. Starr's conservative fans consider him a hero of the Republic; liberals consider him an evil man who conducted a puritanical inquisition.
And what of Patrick Fitzgerald (photo above left), the investigator of the Valerie Plame - Joe Wilson matter? Right now we mostly have questions about Mr. Fitzgerald's performance, and not many of the answers to those questions can possibly be good. I suspect history will regard Fitzgerald as either incompetent or outrageously overzealous, or maybe a little of both.
Victoria Toensing, former chief counsel for the Senate Intelligence Committee and deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, has written a devastating piece in Opinion Journal that I think is typical of the reviews Mr. Fitzgerald will receive. It's necessary to read the entire piece to understand fully how questionable this special prosecutor's performance was, but here's an excerpt:
[Richard] Armitage, who came forward after Mr. Libby was indicted, was told in February 2006, after two grand jury appearances, he would not be indicted. Mr. Rove, however, after five grand jury appearances, was not informed until July 2006 he would not be charged. Mr. Fitzgerald made the Rove decision appear strained, a close call. Yet of the two men's conduct, Mr. Armitage's deserved more scrutiny. And Mr. Fitzgerald knew it. Each had testified before the grand jury about a conversation with Mr. Novak. Each had forgotten about a conversation with an additional reporter: Mr. Armitage with Mr. Woodward, Mr. Rove with Time's Matt Cooper. However, Mr. Rove came forward pre-indictment, immediately, when reminded of the second conversation. When Mr. Woodward attempted to ask Mr. Armitage about the matter, on two separate occasions pre-indictment, Mr. Armitage refused to discuss it and abruptly cut him off. To be charitable, assume he did not independently recall his conversation with Mr. Woodward. Would not two phone calls requesting to talk about the matter refresh his recollection? Now we also know Messrs. Armitage and Novak have vastly different recollections of their conversation. Isn't that what Mr. Libby was indicted for?(Emphasis added.) Remember how everyone waited with baited breath, wondering if Karl Rove would be indicted? We now now that a Rove indictment was never really in the cards. Fitzgerald tried hard to catch Rove in a lie about a crime that was never committed-- the very alleged crime that was the basis for Fitzgerald's appointment, that he was supposed to be investigating, and that he knew almost from the outset did not occur. But Rove did not lie. Scooter Libby is now alleged to have lied-- but not about Valerie Plame. Apart from Joe Wilson, it looks like the only real liar in this story is Richard Armitage, who is going to walk away unscathed, after delivering a sheepish and unconvincing apology. As Toensing notes:
Put aside hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds squandered on the investigation, New York Times reporter Judith Miller's 85 days in jail, the angst and legal fees of scores of witnesses, the White House held siege to a criminal investigation while fighting the war on terror, Karl Rove's reputation maligned, and "Scooter" Libby's resignation and indictment. By his silence, Mr. Armitage is responsible for one of the most factually distorted investigations in history.What a disgusting episode. Fitzgerald and Armitage should be regarded with disdain for the rest of their careers.