Just a quick post to check in and comment on an Elizabeth de la Vega article several of you have mentioned. I was in SF working with the book editor this weekend. We finalized the direction for the book (oooh, it's going to be good!) Then today I get back on a plane (to Bangkok this time) and when I come back we really hit crash and burn on the book.
We actually talked a lot about pardon this weekend--Jane, Swopa, Jen Nix, and Safir (the editor) and I. And I gotta say, I was in a distinct minority, in simply not knowing whether Bush will pardon Libby before the trial or in January 2009. I understand the need, for the Administration, at least as well as anyone. But I am not convinced that, as de la Vega states,
Because Scooter Libby's trial strategy is not to have a trial.
At least at the beginning, back when they set up a $5 million fund and hired Ted Wells, they fully intended to have a trial. You hire Ted Wells to go to trial, not to await a presidential pardon. There's a part of me, too, that thinks the reason Libby's lies were so bad were to have a nice tidy trial--they were designed to minimize the importance of his machinations with their absurdity. After all, if you were really trying to protect Dick, wouldn't you have developed some better lies? The crappy quality of Libby's lies has already minimized the gravity of the obstruction charge in this case.
And here's the real reason I have my doubts about a pre-trial pardon. Unlike Iran-Contra, were Poppy pardoned Cap just in time to save his own hide, there is a civil suit pending. I'm getting an update on where that suit will be by January 16, when Libby's trial is scheduled to begin (I recall reporting that the first motions will be submitted around the election, and nothing too exciting would happen until well into next year). But with the possibility that the civil case will reveal more about this smear than even the criminal trial would (because Turdblossom and Novak and Woodward will be called, as well as all the people named in Libby's indictment), pardoning Libby doesn't accomplish the one thing it's supposed to accomplish--it doesn't silence the story. After all, a civil suit has the same public characteristics de la Vega describes of a criminal one.
Trials are not conducive to spin. Spin requires secrecy; trials, on the other hand, are decidedly public. Reporters will be there. Citizens who have the patience to stand in line can watch. Government officials who testify will actually have to identify themselves before speaking.
And I don't imagine the Wilsons are inclined to want to settle this.
Furthermore, there's the possibility some more charges would come out of the civil case (you know, Dick Cheney tends to run his mouth ...). So there'd be the distinct possibility that you'd pardon someone on January 1, 2007, then have someone else you wanted to pardon six months later. It seems to me, if you're pardoning people intimately involved in this kind of thing, you want to only do it once.
So for my part, until someone can answer how the civil case will affect the possibility of a pardon, I'll just confess that I don't know whether he'll pardon Libby. Sure, they want to keep Dick off the stand. But Dick also believes he can bully his way through anything. He probably believes he's a latter day Ollie North, that he can ace his appearance, so why bother with a premature pardon?