Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Round one is in the books

Today's four-count felony conviction of Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, has rightly dominated the airwaves. But it may come as little more than a nominal victory for Fitzmas' most vocal advocates, who craved prison time for everyone who's anyone in the White House. As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's post-verdict remarks indicate, the criminal side of the Valerie Plame affair is probably over: "Fitzgerald said he did not 'expect to file any further charges' ... [but] held open the possibility that 'if new information comes to light that warrants taking further action, we will do that.'"

Appeals will keep the Libby trial in the public subconsciousness, but the real show, as long has been the case, is likely to be Plame's and Joe Wilson's lawsuit against a host of Bush administration officials. The defendants would have to testify under oath at trial regarding their roles in the whole sordid affair, providing historians valuable information about the Plame outing scandal, about which, as a Libby juror suggested today, the story remains incomplete: "[I]t was said a number of times, 'What are we doing with this guy here?' Where's [Karl] Rove, where's -- you know, where are these other guys?" For the growing number of Americans who are uneasy about how the White House sold the public on the Iraq war, that suit may be their best shot at getting some answers to the questions foremost on their minds.

Still, one shouldn't underestimate the noteworthiness of today's verdict. Libby was the main aide to perhaps the most powerful vice president of all time, and that made him one of Washington's most powerful politicos. His perjury and obstruction of justice convictions have delivered a heavy blow to what remains of the Bush administration's pledge to restore integrity to the White House, and they have reinvigorated the public debate over why we're in Iraq in the first place.

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