10/30/2005 12:37 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Few Very Simple Thoughts on Plamegate

1. This is a very straightforward indictment. It charges that Scooter Libby lied to the FBI and to the grand jury about conversations with Timothy Russert, Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller. If it goes to trial, Russert's testimony will show that Libby did not learn Valerie Plame's identity from Russert. Cooper and Miller will confirm that Libby did not tell them that he had learned it from any reporter. Documents and other testimony will establish that he did learn Plame's identity (and covert status) from Cheney, the State Department, and the CIA, and that he spoke about this numerous times before lying about it to the FBI. It's not a complicated case.

2. Right now, Libby is the only indicted person. He faces up to thirty years in prison–practically a life sentence at his age. It's true that perjury convictions rarely produce terms that long, but Mr. Libby would be ill-advised to play averages. He may possibly feel confidence, justified or not, that he will eventually be pardoned. But even if so, a pardon probably won't come until just before Bush leaves office -- and there could be plenty of prison time between now and then. And it might not come at all.

3. Doesn't it seem likely that Fitzgerald's strategy, and its effect, is to place maximum pressure on Libby? The original crime–exposure of the identity of Valerie Plame–remains uncharged. Didn't Fitzgerald say that the reason for that was Libby's obstruction of justice? In other words, Fitzgerald didn't charge the crime because he couldn't prove its key elements, notably intent? Doesn't it follow that if Libby turns, he could tell Fitzgerald quite a bit? Such as whether there was a broader conspiracy? And whether he was ordered to expose Plame's identity? And if so, by whom and with what intent?

4. If you were Dick Cheney, how would you feel about this? You don't know, you can't know, how Libby's feeling right now; that information is locked up in Libby's head. But you do know that he doesn't know, for sure, whether he can expect help from you. And you can't tell him, can you? At this point, Libby is beyond your control. If you have something to hide that he knows, you have to take it on faith that he won't divulge it. That being so, exactly how do you plan to handle your testimony at Libby's trial? This is, well, the prisoner's dilemma. It's set it up so that if Libby delivers Cheney, he will be better off than if he doesn't. And Cheney knows this now.

5. Karl Rove may or may not get swept up later. Does it matter? Rove's political position is untenable now. Either he lied to the president, telling him falsely that he was not involved. Or else, the president turned around and lied to the American public, claiming not to know the leaker when he did. Either way, as of now Bush can only protect his own credibility, such as it is, by firing Rove. To keep him is to admit complicity in the public lie, at the least. Isn't that clear enough, even for the Washington press corps?

6. Scott McClellan is in a similar position as Bush. Either Rove lied to McClellan, or McClellan lied to the press. Simple as that; which is it, Scottie?