What the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby really revealed was the astonishing lengths to which Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration went to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson for his 2003 claim that the administration had been dead wrong about Saddam Hussein trying to buy material from Niger to make nuclear weapons. The intensity and single mindedness of this pursuit leapt out from the testimony.
The decision to "out" a covert CIA officer, Wilson's wife, which is a federal crime, showed a kind of desperation. The concept that she had sent her husband to Niger on some kind of boondoggle, instead of to investigate the Saddam sale, is bizarre in the extreme. With all due respect, Niger is neither Wilson's, or anybody else's, ideal boondoggle destination.
Second , the intensity of the Wilson smear campaign, long meetings with favored reporters in hotels and on the phone, even the using of classified information, seems obsessive.
As The New York Times put it: The evidence shows Cheney and Libby "countermanding and even occasionally misleading colleagues at the highest levels of Mr. Bush's inner circle" as they pursued a "covert public relations campaign ," not only to protect the case for going to war, but also Cheney's connection to flawed intelligence.
There you have it. In the most dysfunctional administration of our time, the vice president's office felt free to use classified information to bolster a false impression of Saddam's nuclear capabilities -- going to absurd lengths to keep the truth from the American people and perhaps even the White House. According to testimony, Cheney got Bush to declassify secret material, but the president was not told how Cheney was going to use it.
Here is a nice summary of the case on Scooter Libby's trial from the New York Times, and this is a link to their handy Diary showing all the dates and witnesses laying out who knew what, when. Of course, the trial is with the jury, now shortened by one, but continuing with their original deliberations. Meanwhile, Cheney's shadow looms large:
... White House Watch reader Joseph Britt of Sun Prairie, Wis., writes in response to yesterday's column about Cheney's omnipresence: "It's interesting that very expansive claims of Presidential authority have over the last few years been made on behalf of a President so weak that he has done what none of his 42 predecessors ever did -- assign vast responsibilities for making and implementing policy to the one official he cannot fire. . . . I wonder that this aspect of the Bush administration has been so little remarked on; one would think that something that had never happened in over two centuries would attract more notice."(from Dan Froomkin's White House Watch column in the Washington Post at http://tinyurl.com/2jzpsc .
The political cartoon above is by R.J. Matson. You can link to more political cartoons at Adam Zyglis' cartoon archive, http://tinyurl.com/yvzmn9