Sunday, October 30, 2005

Libby's "Steve Martin" defense: "I forgot!"
Remember the Saturday Night Live skit when Steve Martin could talk his way out of any problem before a judge, including a murder rap, by announcing, "I forgot"? That's the whole of Libby's current defense. Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly's political blog quickly dissects that notion, including pointing out that his first lies were made to the FBI a few months after the leak took place, and he repeated the same bogus cover story four times to the FBI and grand jury. He must have really wanted to protect his boss, Vice President Cheney (who actually told him about Valerie Plame), from any scrutiny in the leak investigation.
Why did a lawyer like Libby do something so stupid? The New Republic hazards a reasonable guess:

Scooter Libby is a smart and cultured man. So why did he lie so blatantly and ineffectually to FBI agents and the grand jury? Why did he spin a story that could be so easily disproved?

One theory holds that he wanted to protect his boss. Of course, he did. But, it also seems pretty clear that his boss did nothing illegal, and played no role in the outing of Valerie Plame. So Libby could have accepted culpability for himself and simultaneously exonerated Cheney. And if he truly wanted to protect his boss, he still could have lied with greater forethought and artfulness. Libby, after all, has a reputation for meticulousness. You don't get to be The Guy Behind the Guy without that trait.

I'm guessing that his sloppiness can be attributed to a) his initial belief that reporters would never sell out a confidential source; b) his initial belief that the leak investigation would go nowhere. Before Ashcroft (somewhat mysteriously) recused the Department of Justice from the case, Deputy Attorney General James Comey had handled the investigation. With Comey and Ashcroft running the show, Libby must not have worried too much about the prospects of a perjury indictment. He probably assumed, with good reason, that this investigation would die a quiet death at the hands of Bush loyalists. Once Comey handed the case over to Fitzgerald, Libby was already locked into his mendacious storyline. From then on, he was screwed.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention one other fact about Libby's lack of seriousness about this case. When he hired a laywer to represent him, he turned to a guy who specializes in intellectual property and antitrust. Only now has he begun shopping for a white-collar crime attorney.
--Franklin Foer
This comes from a thoughtful new blog, The Plank, from The New Republic.
posted 5:12 p.m.

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