Thursday, November 17, 2005

An early analysis

The revelation that Bob Woodward of WaPo says he learned from a White House source the identity and CIA position of Ambassador Wilson's wife two weeks before Scooter Libby is said to have leaked this information to Judith Miller of the NYT, does put an odd twist on prosecutor Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby. Recall, Fitzgerald claimed in his news conference that Libby was the first leaker, and hence had reason to lie about having leaked, since to do so would likely jeopardize national security. Now, with Woodward's earlier knowledge, the strength of Fitzgerald's case against Libby is a bit, but just a bit, questionable.

This article assails Woodward, and rightly so. I've always been somewhat guarded in my assessment of his reporting. He seems to me to be so enamored of his role as contemporary chronicler of political history that he sacrifices insight in favor of churning out a middling mush, becoming first to press but only that. In the process, his recounting is more like regurgitating.

But unlike the author of the above-linked piece, I don't see Woodward's claim to be ruinous to the prosecution of Libby. On the contrary, I believe that "junkyard dog" Fitzgerald--who's taken Woodward's depostion now--will not take kindly to Woodward's last-minute disclosure, and will demand of Woodward that he reveal this source, and that he'll seek a contempt citation, a la Judith Miller, if Woodward doesn't fess up. Woodward may go to jail to protect his source, but he might not. After all, such a sacrifice isn't newsworthy anymore (BTDT--"Been there done that") and besides, Woodward's got a book to finish.

So Woodward will doubtless squeal, and since it's likely his source was Cheney himself, Fitzgerald will likely want to depose Cheney too--not simply chat with him, in Bush's presence and not under oath, as before--and if Cheney lies: perjury. If he tells the truth: violation of a substantive statute, possibly. Either way, Fitzgerald's gonna have himself a field day--and we're in for a hell of a ride.

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