Notes From the Libby Sentencing
This morning as Marcy and I were headed to court we were listening to James Gordon Meek on Washington Journal. Meek was talking about the the bombing plot at JFK and Marcy and I were laughing as one caller after another expressed extreme skepticism about the seriousness of the threat. Meek did his best to be respectful and try to give some kind of context to their critique but almost to a one the callers were so skeptical about the Bush Administration and anything it might claim that all they could do was scoff.
We saw Meek later at the courthouse and he was good natured about the schism between the Washington Journal's caffeinated, east coast reporter's time slot and west coast callers who were still ripped at 5 in the morning. But he was a bit frustrated that nobody could hear what he was trying to say — namely that as someone who covers terrorism all the time, it was his impression that George Bush was the very best recruiting poster that Al Qaeda could possibly have. That in the face of the Iraq war, their recruiting numbers were up, their fundraising was skyrocketing and even though many of the recent "terrorist" attempts were made by those with little competence the danger from anti-American forces was increasing. America is hated round the world and responsibility for this can be laid directly at the feet of the Bush Administration.
Meek's greater point was indeed lost. Contrary to what some Presidential 08s might want to believe, we are not safer than we were six years ago.
Which brings us to, oddly, what for me was the most telling moment of the Libby trial today. It is customary for those found guilty to express contrition during the sentencing phase, a factor that judges take very seriously when determining jail time. Libby expressed none. Zero, zip, bupkis. It was my impression during the trial watching Libby that he thought himself a great man to whom a terrible wrong has been done. Today Scooter's career as a man on trial ended and his life as professional right wing victim began.
Looking at the incredible collection of letters written in his defense is enough to give anyone the bone chilling creeps, but it does offer some insight into the sickness that governs beltway culture these days. As Rick Perlstein notes:
What's missing from every single one – every one: a single forthright statement about the magnitude of the offense for which he'd already been convicted.
Because they, like Libby, don't believe he's done anything wrong. The modern Republican party is built on the construct that all government is bad, and once in power they set about bringing into fruition this self-fulfilling prophecy with ruthless efficiency. They destroy everything they touch, but they are very good at what they are good at: PR, partisan politics and preserving their own power. From where they stand, from where Scooter stands, there is no culpability in anything done in the service of this, and Scooter was just doing his job. Read through the letters. The presumption of exreme moral rectitude even in the absence of any kind of moral compass whatsoever is gobsmacking.
But it does go along way to explaining why the Washington Journal is fueled by the anger of people who believe that the government is never to be trusted or believed. This is a terrible problem, probably one of the greatest that the next President will face. Even as we need to start redeeming government from Grover Norquist's bathtub and begin to have a conversation about what the appropriate role in our lives that government should play, people have been rendered so cynical and so jaded, so thoroughly convinced that those to whom governance has been entrusted like Scooter Libby and his letter writing pals can do nothing right that re-engaging the public at a level necessary to redeem this country from the problems we are going to face will be extremely difficult.
It was rendered just a little bit easier today when Reggie Walton recognized what Scooter Libby and his cronies did not — Scooter is not a great man, he's a common crook and in the eyes of the law he ought to go to jail. This country will be just a little bit better tonight, a little bit healthier and closer to a place where faith in government and our system of justice can be restored because Libby and all his Very Important Friends were not able to hornswoggle Reggie Walton like they have been so many journalists who have fallen down on the job and failed to ask the kind of appropriate questions that should have kept us from getting to this place to begin with.
Thanks, Judge Walton. It was a privilege to sit in your courtroom and see justice carried out. I'll always remember the experience and I believe that as time goes on it will be seen as an important turning point, one where Americans began to shake off the cynicism that has creeped into our national consciousness and reconnect with the kind of faith in the system we will need in order to the face the challenges before us.
What a great experience. On behalf of everyone here at FDL, thanks to everyone who participated in the process and to everyone who shared it with us.
It was the gift of a lifetime, one I would not have missed for the world.
It did not disappoint.