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March 6th, 2007

current affairs

Tonight the news is abuzz with the guilty verdict as to Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's counsel who was convicted of four of the five charges against him, stemming from alleged failure to tell the truth under oath and related obstruction charges.

My own wild guess, based on the imperfect media reports, had been that the jury would convict on two "perjury before the grand jury" charges and acquit on the rest, including in particular the more serious obstruction of justice charge. Thus, the four convictions secured exceeds what my guess as to the result would have been.

Mr. Fitzgerald proved a maxim I think is true--charge a case conservatively, and take on only the burden to prove the case one has charged. It is too early to see how this will all turn out--Mr. Libby retains his right to appeal--but it has all been an interesting exercise in trial work.
As to the matter of public integrity, the uncharged immorality--treating a CIA agent's status as a pawn to be sacrificed to win a media chess game--stands admitted by both sides of this trial.

I cannot help but feel badly for Mr. Libby's family, who no doubt did not bargain to see his career shredded in this way. Yet I feel that way about a lot of families of convicted people, and it's almost beside the point.

I'm intrigued by this week's story of the fired U.S. Attorneys. U.S. Attorneys come and go, so that one cannot make too much of any particular firing. It would be a different matter if civil service personnel were involved. Yet the notion that at least one came and went because he failed to get charges on file by election time is disquieting. I'm intrigued to hear how the facts develop.

I also will be intrigued to see if the Walter Reed Hospital scandal, in which veterans were mistreated as to "out-patient" housing and paperwork, will lead to a generalized reform of the VA system. My own theory, unrelated to this scandal, is that funds we spent on Iraq would have been better spent on strengthening the nation's public health system, to deal with both externally-imposed emergencies sure to come, and with our internal national health care crisis.

I must admit that in the same week that the Vice President's office got in essence convicted into disrepute, I did like what he had to say to the VFW about the Walter Reed matter. To paraphrase him, there should be no excuses. Only action. I become disappointed with a government which talks repeatedly of cutting taxes and limiting entitlements, when it really translates to providing lobbyists for special interests with tax code favors and neglecting our troops' battlefield and post-battlefield needs.

"You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you wish you had", Mr. Rumsfeld sarcastically intoned to a soldier about to go fight in Iraq. Yet our national problem is not the Army we have, but the civilian brass who neglect the needs of troops in pursuit of their own agendae--agendae divorced, per usual, from reality in search of "ideology". Let's hope that Walter Reed helps mark an end to ideology on veterans' benefits.