Salivating at his own delusions, Chris Matthews asked on Tuesday night’s Hardball, “what will Scooter Libby‘s trial tell us about how the Bush administration made the case for war?” The more impressive question is: what does their coverage of the Libby trial tell us about the Left’s ability to reason?
In his press conference in late 2005, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had stated, “This indictment is not about the war.” Though the leftist blogosphere ignited every time Karl Rove ascended the witness box, Fitzgerald charged no one with outing Valerie Plame. Ultimately, the nation learned the leaker was Richard Armitage, a dovish State Department officer in the model of Colin Powell, both of whom warred against the administration’s “neocons” (and let them take the blame for the leak).
The Scooter Libby trial, then, is about whether I. Lewis Libby had a memory lapse when speaking with prosecutors investigating the non-crime of outing a non-undercover agent, for which Libby was not responsible.
The trial’s ever-shrinking significance and increasingly tangential relevance has not inhibited the Left’s obsession. Its representatives still pine for this trial to tear the lid off a conspiracy that, like President Bush’s National Guard service, they cannot prove but nonetheless believe with religious fervor.
They have, hence, treated Libby jury selection as though it were page-one news. The Nation magazine dispatched uber-leftist David Corn to blog the trial. Today’s Huffington Post features multiple stories on the topic (one of which informs, “Judge Walton does not wanted [sic.] jurors to feel overwhelmed by the presence of the press during their questioning.” Its author adds, “I'm not by personality that diligent with detail.”)
Beyond all other, Chris Matthews has engaged in an orgy of speculative coverage undeserved by the trial itself – and appointed himself chief prosecutor of Libby’s faulty memory alibi. Libby claimed he learned of Plame’s identity from Tim Russert; Russert has testified they did not discuss Plame at all. Matthews made the case on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week:
By the way, does your memory fail you this way? Do you remember things that didn’t happen and swear to them under oath? I can forget a lot. I can’t tell you what I said three seconds ago, but I wouldn’t swear I said something if I didn‘t say it, would I?
Asked the same question by Corn, former Clinton White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis replied, “That's what happens when you're doing push-back.” Davis, who did more than his share of “push-back,” should know.
However, the Left might consider a more “credible” witness: former ambassador and author of The Politics of Truth, Joseph C. Wilson IV (a.k.a., Mr. Valerie Plame). The one-time adviser to the Kerry 2004 presidential campaign claimed documents proving the Iraq-Niger yellowcake connection were forged, because Wilson had seen them, and “the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.” However, the CIA did not possess these documents until eight months after Wilson’s tea-sipping, poolside junket. In fact, not only did the Plame-Wilsons not ferret out forged documents but the ambassador’s verbal report actually lent credence to the notion that Saddam attempted to purchase African uranium in the 1980s. The Senate Intelligence Committee asked him about the document discrepancy, noting in its Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq:
The former ambassador also told Committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article (“CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report of Uranium Bid,” June 12, 2003) which said, “among the Envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because `the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.” Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the “dates were wrong and the names were wrong” when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports. The former ambassador said that he may have “misspoken” to the reporter when he said he concluded the documents were “forged.” He also said he may have become confused about his own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in March 2003 that the names and dates on the documents were not correct and may have thought he had seen the names himself. (Emphasis added.)
Presuming he did have the kind of memory lapse Matthews and the Left belittle, at least Scooter Libby misremembered the genesis of information he actually had: if not Tim Russert, he had discussed Plame with the media. What sort of delusions of grandeur must one have to hear of an IAEA report and dream oneself, Walter Mitty-like, into it as the story’s hero?
Misleading a federal investigator about the way in which he learned of a Valerie Plame’s name, the disclosure of which was neither a crime nor Libby’s responsibility, is inexcusable but it did not affect any prosecution except his own.
Wilson’s lie threatened to undermine a sitting president and more than 100,000 American soldiers in the midst of a hot war against foreign terrorists. He shamelessly called President Bush a liar and our soldiers the servants of a fool’s errand in the world’s most prestigious newspaper. For nothing more than partisan advantage, Wilson opened a bleeding wound in American combat morale. And against this reprehensible deed, there is no “controlling legal authority.”
The Libby trial will demonstrate nothing about the Bush administration’s “case for war,” though, like the innocence of Alger Hiss and the desirability of collectivism, the Left will clutch fast this myth until its repudiation – and after. Already, Patrick Fitzgerald’s press conference has proven so erroneous as to be prejudicial, and jurors who heard the announcement are being excluded.
Two years later, Fitzgerald has moved to bar the defense from informing the jury that the Plame disclosure was not a crime, because, in his words, this “might cause the jury to improperly render a verdict on its evaluation of the government's charging decisions, rather than the facts and the law.”
It might lead jurors to ask why Joe Wilson isn’t on trial for lying to the nation.
There ought to be a law.