Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Casting "Scooter Libby - The Movie"

The blogosphere continues today to go crazy over the verdict in the Libby trial. I'm at a loss to understand why, to be honest. I think we already know that there's going to be a call for a retrial followed by and appeal followed by a presidential pardon. Conservative pundits are already calling for the last one in advance of the first two which shows they really think he's guilty too but even so - eventually, Scooter will walk.

However, The Guardian attempts to put me (and everyone else who thinks the world doesn't have to revolve around American soap-opera politics) right:
The eventual trial may have fascinated the Washington Beltway crowd, to whom Mr Libby, the former CIA analyst Valerie Plame, and her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson are seasoned and familiar figures. But why should outsiders have to take it seriously too?

For two main reasons. The first concerns the ethics of the administration of which Mr Libby, as top aide to Dick Cheney, was such a senior member. George Bush came to the White House in January 2001 pledging to "change the atmosphere in Washington DC". By this he apparently meant two things: one, that he would govern in a dignified and rule-respecting way that supposedly contrasted with that of Bill Clinton; and, two, that he would try to end the intense partisan bitterness that had marked the Washington of the Clinton era. The Libby case is prosecution exhibit number one in support of the charge that Mr Bush never attempted to do any such thing. On the contrary. The Bush administration has been ruthlessly partisan, fuelled by enmities worthy of the Nixon era. The outing of Ms Plame was a criminal act against the wife of an administration critic. Mr Libby lied about it. He presumably did it to protect Mr Cheney, who wanted to punish the Wilsons. Mr Libby's conviction therefore raises very direct questions about Mr Cheney's own position.

The second reason is because, at bottom, Mr Libby's lies concerned Iraq. The administration wanted to invade Iraq. Mr Cheney, and through him Mr Libby, was not particular about how to do it. When Mr Wilson publicly questioned the weapons of mass destruction case for war he therefore made himself a Cheney enemy. As a consequence, the White House took its revenge on him through his wife. Mr Libby lied to protect not just his boss but his boss's unjust war. That's why yesterday's verdict matters. This affair is not over yet - not by a long chalk.
Well OK...but I don't believe that Cheney or anyone else will now be indicted for outing Plamne. Scooter's the scapegoat and there the effort will stop. Does anyone really think differently?

The BBC has a comment from Matt Frei, their Washington correspondent, which nails it:
So given all these loose ends could "Scooter Libby, The Verdict" ruin the administration?

I doubt it.

Libby's crime may be rooted in the lingering questions about why we went to war. But it no longer comes as a surprise. America has had three years to get used to the idea that the administration did not exactly err on the side of caution when it came to pre-war intelligence.

What the public wants to know now is how the troops can come home with minimal losses, a shred of dignity and the avoidance of a regional war.

The stakes are too high for Middle America to lose sleep about what Scooter said and when he said it. His goose is cooked. The scandal is just another log on the fire of dismay and disappointment in a White House that has long lost credibility. The rats and mould at the Walter Reed medical facility have probably inflicted far more damage on the administration than Tuesday's guilty verdict.

I was struck by a black-and-white photograph dating back to 2003. It showed Dick Cheney conferring with Don Rumsfeld while Scooter Libby looks on attentively. One has been sacked, one will probably go to jail - unless the president pardons him - and one has been sidelined. They are, after all, the most high-profile casualties of their own war.

There is only one way the Libby saga can scoot to the next more damaging chapter. And that is if Scooter reveals the grimy entrails of the Bush White House. That is assuming he possesses genuine, incriminating information and the public is prepared to believe a man who has been convicted of lying under oath.

In Hollywood they have a word for scripts that are bought by a studio but never made into a movie. They are "optioned". Perhaps that will be the fate of this incomplete story.
Meanwhile, the US is in Iraq, the Iraqi parliament isn't and Shiite pilgrims are being slaughtered despite the "surge". What happens to Libby isn't going to change that or even the price of bread. Everyone is writing about Libby and other important stories are, to a great extent, under the radar. Shades of Britney, potty-mouthed bloggers, Anna Nicole and Ann Coulter obscure the real news.

Ah well, at least we can while away the idle hours until the chattering classes of Beltway insiders and wannabe Beltway insiders get back to the real world by trying to cast "Scooter Libby - The Moveie". Frei suggests Harrison Ford for Wilson and Cate Blanchett for Plame. Any others?

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