The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial today on the Libby verdict.
In hindsight, the defense seems to have blundered by portraying Mr. Libby as the "fall guy" for others in the White House. That didn't do enough to rebut Mr. Fitzgerald's theory of the case, and so the jury seems to have decided that Mr. Libby must have been lying to protect something. The defense might have been better off taking on Mr. Fitzgerald for criminalizing political differences.
For that, in essence, is what this case is really all about. We learned long ago--and Mr. Fitzgerald knew from the start of his probe in 2003--that Mr. Libby was not the source of the leak to columnist Robert Novak that started all this. Mr. Libby thus had no real motive to cover up this non-crime. What he did have strong cause to do was rebut the lies that Mr. Wilson was telling about the Administration and Mr. Cheney--lies confirmed as lies by a bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004.
Mr. Libby did talk to some reporters about the Administration's case for war in 2003, and he did mention Ms. Plame in some cases. So the jury apparently decided that, when asked about those conversations by the FBI and grand jury, he had lied about his own sources of information about Joe Wilson and his wife. In other words, he has not been convicted of lying to anyone about the case for war in Iraq, or about Mr. Wilson or his wife.
Rather, he has been convicted of telling the truth about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame to some reporters but then not owning up to it. One tragic irony is that if Mr. Libby had only taken the Harold Ickes grand-jury strategy and said "I don't recall," he probably never would have been indicted. But our guess is that he tried to cooperate with the grand jury because he never really believed he had anything to hide. This may also explain why Mr. Libby never retained an experienced Beltway attorney until he was indicted.
This prosecution was a political hatchet job from the get-go. When Harry Reid says that the verdict was about "manipulating pre-war intelligence and discrediting war critics," he got it exactly wrong. None of the counts against Libby were about intelligence, and, as this editorial says, "Mr. Wilson was himself so discredited by summer 2004 that the John Kerry campaign dropped him as a spokesman once the Senate exposed his deceit." What Reid attempted to do was use the verdict to indict and convict the Bush administration of believing the same intelligence Bill Clinton believed. Frankly, this is appalling.
UPDATE: Just One Minute asks the salient question, Just what was the "smear" against Joe Wilson? The problem with this "smear" meme is that even the prosecutor Fitzgerald said it was Joe's wife who recommended him, not the vice president.
If the "smear" is that Wilson was lying about what he found in Niger, then that, too, is no "smear," but just the truth. Two bipartisan commissions discredited Wilson. The only smear is the job liberals are trying to do in turning the Libby convictions into an indictment on the White House.
At the same site, there is this excellent debunking of the insipid Media Matters talking points described as "media myths and falsehoods to watch for." The reality is that the myths and falsehoods are in Media Matters' attempt to bolster the Libby trial as anything other than a witch hunt against this administration.