Libby as Metaphor for Washington Dining, Whining and Slithering

March 7, 2007 at 6:12 pm Leave a comment

William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security Washington Post

The partisan anti-Bush interpretation of the guilty verdict for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby is that the president and vice president would equally be found guilty of perjury in a court of law for the “lies” they told the American people to get us into Iraq.

In this narrative, Libby is guilty but is also the fall guy, prosecuted while the vice president and other top-level aides such as Karl Rove walk away even though they also broke the law in revealing the name of a CIA agent and then attempting to cover up their role.

Lost in the partisan interpretation of the end is that one of the administration “doves,” not a Cheney man, originally made the leak. He did so not for politics or to manipulate the news or even to defend an administration under fire. He did so because his is a professional number two and a habitual gossiper, one of a breed of Washington animals common on both sides of the aisle.

A Washington jury concluded yesterday that Libby lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury investigating the 2003 leak of the name of an undercover CIA officer — Valerie Plame – who also happened to be married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a retired U.S. ambassador who conducted a confidential mission to Africa (on behalf of the CIA) to assess the validity of reports that Iraq had sought to buy uranium there.

Wilson subsequently went public to criticize the Bush administration for not paying attention to his report, which concluded that there was little evidence that indeed Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger.

When Wilson’s New York Times op-ed was published accusing the administration of twisting his findings and continuing to insist that the uranium evidence was part of the Saddam Hussein indictment, the White House retaliated by whispering to reporters that Wilson and his wife were somehow in collusion to arrange the mission to undermine the administration — and the war.

The trial and the cavalcade of high-profile administration and media witnesses gave a fascinating insight to the way Washington works at the highest levels.

Because Libby was found “guilty,” many will interpret that the Bush administration is equally guilty. Most will not likely understand that Libby is not being found guilty for actually revealing the name of the CIA undercover officer (a violation of the law). He is found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice of the investigation of the leak.

The testimony itself confirms that the first person to name Plame was Richard L. Armitage, who became deputy secretary of state in March 2001. Armitage, who left the State Department in February 2005, is a 30-year Washington insider with a wide variety of appointments at the State Department, at the Pentagon and in Congress. Armitage was considered Colin Powell’s man, a “liberal” along the Bush political spectrum. More important, though, he was well-known as a habitual leaker, gossiper and political raconteur.

The impression offered in the Libby trial, though it was never explicitly confirmed, was that Libby was operating on the orders of the vice president, out there to tarnish the reputation and credibility of Ambassador Wilson with suggestions of nepotism and Democratic Party partisanship.

The reality that Armitage was the original leaker doesn’t change the fact that Libby subsequently dined and whined with reporters to push the bosses’ agenda. But Armitage is not a Cheney guy, and his revealed role does question the presumption of White House conspiracy and Cheney guilt.

The truth is that everyone at the top gossips. I hate to say leak for that suggests a piece of information of greater importance. Gossip fuels Washington, and the relationship between the top reporters and the top officials shape the news and fuels the ship of state.

Saying everyone gossips also isn’t meant to excuse Libby or the government cesspool: My attitude is always that it is a great day for America when a government official is led away in handcuffs. These people are not above the law.

But they are above it all.

Few Americans probably had ever heard of Scooter Libby before this trial; fewer still likely have a clue who Richard Armitage is, even though he was the “number two” at the Department of State.

These were powerful men, made all the more powerful by their proximity to power and by their place in the telephone tree.

The good reporters cultivate these number twos, these unknown senior directors and deputy assistants. They are seen in corners of restaurants with reporters. They show up at cocktail parties, and the reporters and the consultants and the hangers-on titter.

Washington culture and customs promise anonymity by the fawni


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Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby Guilty on Four of Five Counts in CIA Leak Trial White House Gloom

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