After sitting in on the Libby trial every other day and posting about it on BRAD BLOG, I had intended not to write further about the matter barring new developments. Unfortunately, the rightwing spin machine has launched a new campaign of misstatements that sound intentional.
So much for respecting authority, upholding the law, and appreciating honest hard work: now that a conscientious jury has rendered a verdict of guilty on four of five counts of perjury and obstructing justice for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the GOP noise machine is vilifying the prosecution and smarmily denying any wrongdoing, any at all, in the CIA leak.
So much for conservatism.
Well, bad sports are bad sports, anywhere on the political spectrum. Still, the brazen willingness of commentators subsidized by Rupert Murdoch or the Bradley Foundation to falsify every significant fact in the Libby matter, usually without having sat even one day in court for the trial, is pretty much typical of their work ethic and intellectual rigor.
Sunday morning’s talk shows were representative. George F. Will and Torie Clarke on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos downplayed the CIA leak matter by saying the whole thing “all arose from one column” (Will), a column not very important at that (Clarke).
The right wing is trying hard to keep this one alive. But trial evidence and testimony have revealed that the attempt to “leak” – actually, plant – Mrs. Wilson's name with the media began BEFORE Wilson’s column was published.
Wonder why GOP supporters of George W. Bush find that so uninteresting....
A March 9 syndicated column by PNAC signatory Charles Krauthammer more than represents the talking points:
• Krauthammer says that the prosecution had “No conspiracy, no felony, no crime, not even the claim that she was a covert agent covered by the nondisclosure law.” This last item seems to imply that Valerie Plame was not a covert operative (Krauthammer leaves the implication indirect). But Valerie Plame was covert, and the nondisclosure agreement signed, presumably willingly, by Libby when he took his administration job was one of the trial exhibits. Neither Plame’s covert status nor the nondisclosure agreement could be hammered in court, however – because they would have been too prejudicial for the defense to overcome. The prosecution was not allowed to argue Mrs. Wilson’s covert status or to discuss her outing; those issues were ruled out. Meanwhile, the other items in Krauthammer’s list pretty much comprise “obstruction of justice”: successful lies do prevent an investigation from returning indictments on, for example, conspiracy and felony.
• Emphasizing the universal and undeniable fallibility of memory, Krauthammer spends four paragraphs leading up to his formulation that Libby was convicted for “Misstating when he first heard a certain piece of information, namely the identity of Joe Wilson's wife.” Ironically, the commentator does here what the defendant could not --- emphasize the faultiness of his memory. If Libby had taken the witness stand, he could have talked about the faultiness of his memory as much as he wanted. But he did not, and since only the defendant can speak to what is in his own mind, the “memory defense” was attenuated. (The defense team still got plenty of memory/busy man language into the trial; it was by no means kept out entirely, as anyone who actually heard the trial would know.) Furthermore, what is important about “the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife” – that would be Valerie Plame Wilson, whose identity was revealed by Robert Novak after Bob Woodward and even Judith Miller hesitated to expose it – is that she was 1) a CIA WMD analyst, according to current and former CIA personnel who testified in the trial, and also according to a note from VP Cheney himself; and 2) married to the former ambassador who took a trip to Niger to check out the bogus Niger/uranium/Iraq story. “The identity of Joe Wilson’s wife” is not some bagatelle. Also it would be particularly important to Libby, who according to a trial document was “in charge” of the Niger/uranium topic. (Again, the prosecution was not allowed to emphasize this point.)
• Pursuing the “busy man” defense, Krauthammer says that Libby “was famously multitasking a large number of national security and domestic issues, receiving hundreds of pieces of information every day from dozens of sources. Yet special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald chose to make Libby's misstatements about the timing of the receipt of one piece of information --- Mrs. Wilson's identity --- the great white whale of his multimillion-dollar prosecutorial juggernaut.” The grain of truth here is that undeniably Libby was in over his head. So were Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Rove and all the other underqualified, overpromoted individuals presuming to rearrange the destiny of a nation halfway around the world. Listening to lengthy testimony by Libby ally John Hannah, describing Libby and other personnel trying to determine “governance issues” for Iraq, was like a quick refresher course in the banality of evil: How could these individuals presume to wreck and destroy a nation – and a culture strange to them, at that – without even admitting what they were doing? (It is a tribute to the protections afforded to defendants in our system, or at least to some defendants, that the word “oil” seldom arose in trial.) However, Libby’s multitasking, as testimony and documents showed, included numerous discussions, queries or lengthy meetings involving Mrs. Wilson; and in fact impelled him to take directions from Cheney, his boss, involving her, and to get in touch with the press about her – along with Rove, Armitage, and others.
• Krauthammer’s phrase “the timing of the receipt of one piece of information – Mrs. Wilson’s identity” is misleading. Had Krauthammer heard the testimony, he would have heard from several witnesses that Libby received that “one piece of information” about Mrs. Wilson over and over again – including from his boss, the Vice President. (Many of us tend to remember something better when we hear it repeated. Remember “WMD”? The “mushroom cloud”? “Al Qaeda”?)
It is probably useless to hope for fairness or forbearance, from the over-subsidized media cadre that has never expressed a decent level of concern over Iraqi lives lost in Iraq or American votes lost in the United States. But you really would think they could refrain from blatantly false assertions about something like the status of a CIA analyst and a covert one at that.
(Ed note: If there's still any questions about that last point --- and apparently there must be, because the wingnut apologists for CIA agent outting keep repeating the falsehood that "she was not covert" over and over again --- we'll refer again to Plame's former CIA colleague, Larry Johnson on that specific point. As well, Joe Wilson mentioned the fact twice, and even identified her as the most covert type of operative, a NOC (non-official cover) agent, in his post-verdict interview on MSNBC.)
Meanwhile, in all this, even smaller questions like ‘who stole that letterhead stationery from the Niger Embassy in Rome?’ or ‘who forged those documents about a purported Niger-Iraq deal?’ or ‘who told Cheney about Mrs. Wilson in the first place, and why?’ go unanswered. Maybe that's the main point of this mini-campaign against the verdict --- to distract attention from unanswered questions.
Given the proclivities and failures of the corporate mainstream media to counter such bogus information --- and in fact, lend it legitimacy by airing it in the first place despite its demonstrable falseness --- we suspect the campaign will have much success indeed.