Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Libby’s prosecution; Clinton’s impeachment; Obama’s judgment: What were they thinking?

People involved in national public policy need to start thinking before speaking or acting. If not, they will inevitably say and do dumb things. Dumbness, in national public policy and politics, seems to be a bi-partisan and non-partisan occupational hazard.
About three hours ago, a federal court jury found Scooter Libby, former vice-presidential aide, guilty of four counts of obstruction of justice and perjury.

Mountains of ink and computer memory have been and will be devoted to the Scooter Libby case and what it was all about. But, at the end of the day, the jury was asked to decide, essentially, if Libby lied, misspoke or simply got confused when he testified before a grand jury and spoke to the FBI.

Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said, within an hour of the verdict, he was "gratified by the jury's verdict," but said the investigation was justified regardless of the verdict. "It's not the verdict that justifies the investigation, it's the facts," Fitzgerald said. "Any lie under oath is serious (especially) in a national security investigation." [See here].

Yes, indeed, lying under oath is serious in a national security investigation. But, the Libby case wasn’t really about national security. After doing the investigation that led to the Libby trial, prosecutor Fitzgerald [whose day job is being the best U. S. Attorney the Northern District of Illinois has ever had] had no credible evidence of an illegal act relating to national security. Or, if he did have such, Fitzgerald chose to exercise his discretion and not prosecute that matter. Instead, he went after Libby for what Libby said or didn’t say to the FBI and the Grand Jury in the course of Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s so called national security investigation.

If Libby or someone else had done something to endanger national security or former CIA employee Valerie Plame, and there were credible evidence of same, why wasn’t anyone prosecuted for same?

In short, this was a good case for Fitzgerald to say, long ago, “Nothing here, let’s move on, let’s all go back to our day jobs.” Instead, he wasted a lot of time, energy and resources on nothing. Well, not quite nothing, Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson [both known as mediocrities in DC], became the toast of the town and got a book deal and movie deal out of this.

Plame was a CIA operative, according to the L.A. Times report today. Syndicated columnist Bob Novak, himself a key player in this little soap opera, would no doubt say about Plame, “CIA operative, my ass. She is a desk clerk, at best.”

Plame was not important to the CIA, nor was she, the CIA or national security hurt by any disclosure about her. This is true whether the disclosure was by Richard Armitage, Bob Woodward, Scotter Libby or Dr. Seuss. Indeed, Plame will be forever indebted to all of those folks for making her a celebrity. About all one can say about Plame is that on TV, she looks pretty good for her age. [Good lighting and good make-up?]

Moreover, taking a page from Seinfeld's show, prosecutor Fitzgerald didn’t charge anyone with anything relating to a national security violation, making this essentially a "case about nothing.".
Within two hours of the Libby verdict, Senator Barack Obama, according to his Presidential Campaign committee, made the following statement about the Scooter Libby verdict:

The conviction today underscores what happens when our foreign and national security policies are subverted by politics and ideology. Leaks and innuendo in pursuit of a flawed policy lead to shameful episodes such as this. It should never happen again.

I have written previously about the numerous and significant talents of the junior senator from the State of Illinois [See here]. But, this is what happens when a presidential campaign thinks it has to release statements on virtually everything within moments of the occurrence: dumb words are put in the candidate’s mouth.

And, then Edwards sought to one up Obama with a dumb statement of his own. Can Hillary be far behind? Indeed, one imagines Senator Chuck Hagel will join in the fun, in hopes of being the invited nominal Republican to discuss the matter on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Leaks and innuendo in Washington, DC, says Obama. OhmyGod, let’s call out the National Guard. Our foreign and national security policies have been subverted by politics and ideology, says Senator Obama. Maybe, but this verdict has nothing to do with that.

Libby is said to have testified before the Grand Jury and spoken to the FBI without the benefit of advice from a criminal lawyer. If he had received such advice, the lawyer would have said, “tell them you don’t recall if you don’t recall.” Had Libby said that, most likely there would not have been a problem.

This verdict had nothing to do with subversion of foreign and national security policies. What is Obama talking about? His statement is completely unworthy of the intelligence and usual, carefully chosen, well-spoken words of the good Senator—who was President of the Harvard Law Review and then taught law, for about seven years, at the University of Chicago Law School. With credentials like that, he really shouldn’t make statements like the one his office put out, on his behalf, this afternoon.
Talking about perjury and failure to exercise appropriate discretion, there is the case of the House of Representatives voting articles of impeachment against President Clinton. Yes, the federal court found he had perjured himself in a civil lawsuit pertaining to alleged sexual harassment. Yes, perjury is never a good thing.

But, a high crime and misdemeanor worthy of impeaching a President? Gimme a break. Look boys and girls, there are important things about which this country should worry. For starters, Terrorism, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, healthcare, educating kids how to read—especially those kids in a low socio-economic status so they can have a shot at life—just to name a few.

Devoting tremendous amounts of national resources and energy to the likes of what was said to justify the impeachment of Bill Clinton or the conviction today of Scooter Libby is beyond bizarre.

The House of Representatives, Prosecutor Fitzgerald and Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama should and do know better. Let’s hope next time they think, before speaking or acting.