The Criminalization of Criminals

I was at a trial out in the Davis Mountains of West Texas when I heard a bit of unexpected wisdom. A Texas ranger was testifying at the courthouse in Alpine about a man who had run up into the hills to begin a revolution. Nobody listened very closely to the rebel; except for a few of us reporters who found him an intellectual curiousity. Eventually, his bubble tilted way off level and he started shooting. People were hurt. In the trial, his lawyers said he was standing on our most beloved principles of a right to protect his freedoms with guns. The old ranger, though, scoffed. "Look," he said. "Wrong is still wrong even if everybody's doing it. And right is still right even if nobody's doing it."

Leaking the names of CIA agents is not politics; it is a crime. Lying to congress about evidence for a war is not politics; it is a crime. Failing to tell a grand jury that you met with a reporter and talked about the CIA agent is not forgetfullness; it is a crime. Deceiving your entire nation and frightening children and adults with images of nuclear explosions in order to get them to support a bloody invasion of another country is not politics; it is a crime. Anyone other than Karl Rove and Lewis Libby and Tom Delay who does not get this, please raise your hand. The three of you will need to stay after class for further instruction in civics.

Fortunately, as the leaves of the Aspens continue to turn in Colorado (where she vacations) the suspects are also turning in Washington. Targets will be pleading and dealing and soon will be singing. We are, hopefully, seeing the beginning of an investigation that will broaden until it disabuses the final few million Bush supporters of their naievete. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald must surely just be at the beginning of rendering justice. An indictment or two will hardly serve to answer the critical questions. The leak and any lies to the grand jury were most likely motivated by a deep and abiding fear that a much greater crime was at risk of being uncovered. Karl Rove is vindictive, yes. But he is not stupid. Rove would never risk treason unless he thought it served a political purpose. And this was the most important political purpose of all: protecting his most precious asset, George W. Bush. Ethics have never been a consideration of Rove's and he sees the law as only marginally instructive. Karl might have been more concerned about the leak and talking to reporters if somewhere along the line he had been held accountable for any of his other political tricks. But he has not.

We the people expect Fitzgerald to do more than indict a few leakers. There was a grand scheme behind what happened and it was put together by the big brains in the administration. Unlike the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Rove will have a hard time making an argument that this leak just spontaneously occurred to harm Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife in a timely political fashion. What is hiding back there behind the curtains? The mainstream media is now beginning to report on the forged Niger documents in Italy and the names of Bush administration operatives who met in Rome with Italian intelligence and defense officials before the phony yellowcake papers began to circulate. Is that what Fitzgerald is beginning to pursue? If Joe Wilson was threatening to uncover the fact that our government had deployed agents to act as covert operatives against the very citizens they are sworn to serve, well, that's more than a crime; that's a John le Carre' novel. Small wonder Democrats suspect Rove of a smackdown of Wilson.

We have no real shot at the truth without Patrick Fitzgerald. And he will soon be demonized. He will discover that being 42 and unmarried makes him the practitioner of an alternative lifestyle and that he may have once had a beer at an airport in Milwaukee with a Democrat. First they called him accomplished and capable when he was appointed. What will they call him now? Perjury was a high crime when Bill Clinton fibbed about the blue dress girl but it is being spun into a technicality when you stand accused of historic deceptions that have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents. And that's not politics. That's a crime.

Because we have no shortage of pithy sayings down here in Texas, I will leave you with another one that is pertinent. And I wish that I could whisper it into the ear of the prosecutor. It comes from General Sam Houston, who pointed out in one of his infrequent moments of sobriety, that, "There's nothin' more powerful than a man who is in the right and keeps on a comin'."

Carry on, Mr. Prosecutor. Carry on.