Saturday, March 10, 2007


In the following March 7 editorial entitled, "Spartacus B. Cheney," the St. Louis Post Dispatch separates the wheat from the chaff in the Scooter Libby fiasco. Tells it like it is. Exposes the pundits on Fox and CNN for what they really are -- Bush's bitches. I may live in the vast wasteland of Little Jimmy Inhofe Country, but I was born in Missouri. Today -- I'm damned proud of it.

Spartacus B. Cheney

If Dick Cheney had a shred of honor, he'd resign the vice presidency and offer to take the rap for his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who's looking at 18 months to three years in a federal prison after being convicted Tuesday for lying about his part in a scheme that his old boss clearly engineered.

What an opportunity for Mr. Cheney. With one grand, magnanimous gesture, he could erase his image as Washington's Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of Halliburton, the scheming Rasputin to George W. Bush's Czar Nicholas II. History might even record Mr. Cheney as a principled man of honor, who, when his men were threatened with annihilation, stood tall and proclaimed, "I am Spartacus!"

We shall not hold our breaths. If the long and tortuous four-year saga over how 16 false and misleading words came to be in Mr. Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech proves anything, it's that the concept of personal sacrifice is foreign to this White House. Sacrifice is for other people — for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines sent to war on false premises; for reporters willing to go to jail to protect sources who didn't want protecting; for underlings sent out, either knowingly (like Mr. Libby) or unknowingly (like former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan), to tell lies.

It was a four-year journey from yellow cake to yellow streak. It seems long ago, but the original idea was to see if laws were broken by the cad or cads who leaked the information that Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a CIA operative.

It was in the fall of 2003, some six months after the U.S. invaded Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction, including some that might have been produced with uranium yellowcake purchased in Africa, as suggested by Mr. Bush in those famous 16 words in Jan. 28 of that year.

This wasn't true, of course, and Mr. Wilson's trip to Niger on behalf of the CIA had indicated as much. But the truth was inconvenient to the effort to gin up a war on Iraq. Instead, as testimony in the trial revealed, Mr. Cheney led a full-bore assault on Mr. Wilson's credibility, including the disclosure of Ms. Plame's identity to selected reporters. Mr. Libby was part of the effort, as was Karl Rove, the president's political guru. As to the president's involvement, the kindest interpretation is that he was clueless. Mr. Cheney let him go before the press and promise to fire anyone on his staff who was involved.

The nation owes a debt of thanks to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for Northern Illinois, whose relentless pursuit of the truth in this case was less about what Mr. Libby said or didn't say, but about lifting the curtain of self-righteousness from the White House. What was revealed was not the great and powerful Oz, but a craven band of bunco artists.

As a prosecutor, both in the Plame affair and in his ongoing investigation of Democratic and Republican political scandals in Illinois, Mr. Fitzgerald has proved to be patient, careful, leak-proof and nonpartisan. He found insufficient evidence to seek indictments under the difficult terms of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, but plenty of evidence for what he believed he could prove: five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice against one defendant. The jury returned convictions on four of the five.

Alas, Mr. Fitzgerald also drove hobnailed boots into the First Amendment, jailing one reporter for 85 days and threatening to jail others unless they outed sources. This overzealous behavior by the prosecutor was mitigated by two facts: One, the sources, including Mr. Libby, released the reporters from their pledges of confidentiality; and two, some of the biggest names in Washington journalism allowed themselves to be spun like rotisserie chickens.

L'affaire Plame was not a proud moment for either American government or American journalism — or, for that matter, for American justice. If there were real justice, Scooter Libby wouldn't be the only guy headed for prison.


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