Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

How sweet! sweet! sweet! sweet! it is

As the notorious Rummy would have said, "You go to court with the defendant you have, not the defendant you wish you had." Thus, Scooter Libby ended up on trial and became a felon, guilty on four of the five counts charged against him.

Cheney with Libby

Scooter's looking at some jail time, but the real value of his trial was what it brought out into the open about his former boss Vice President Dick Cheney and the inner workings of the Bush White House. It is not a pretty picture. As prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in his closing arguments, "There is a cloud over the vice president," revealed as the master puppeteer pulling the strings in a scurilous personal attack on Joseph Wilson, who had the temerity to suggest in the New York Times that the Bush administration had distorted intelligence on Iraq in the lead-up to war ("What I Didn't Find in Africa," Joseph C Wilson 4th, 6 July 2003).

A lot of indignation has been summoned up by Bush supporters because Scooter was "only" tried for lying and perjury, not for the underlying crime of revealing a covert agent's identity. That's a very convenient red herring. These same people were not nearly so understanding about little white lies when they were trying to impeach Bill Clinton over his relationships with "that woman" Monica Lewinsky. It's a truism that it is more often the cover-up than the crime that brings people down. Ask Richard Nixon — well, of course, you can't really ask him because he's dead — he lost the presidency not because of Watergate but for trying to cover up Watergate. They didn't get Al Capone for being a gangster; they got him for income tax evasion.

Libby surrounded by photographers

Nope, Scooter tried to protect his boss by telling some fibs. He went way out on a limb when he fingered Tim Russert as the person who had ostensibly told him, Scooter, that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA, believing that a journalist would never testify about confidential sources. Scooter guessed wrong, and when Russert told the jury that he couldn't have told Libby about Plame because he didn't know about her, the jury found Russert more credible than Libby's lie. Oops! Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Scooter lost.

Scooter and his lawyers also tried to explain away discrepancies in Scooter's stories by claiming he had "other priorities" and, anyway, his memory is terribly faulty. Right! As if the Vice President of the United States is going to employ a Chief of Staff with a bad memory! You simply don't get that kind of position having a mind like a sieve.

Others want to minimize the Libby verdict by claiming the trial was a case of conflicting "he said/he said" assertions. It was really more like "he said/they said" as Fitzgerald brought one witness after the other to the stand contradicting Scooter's statements. (See graphic of who said what to whom.)

Now Scooter has a decision to make: Faced with jail, will he try to cut a deal by telling more of what he knows.

I'll go out on a limb: If Scooter decides to talk, I predict that Cheney will resign because of his health. With his history of bypass surgery, pacemaker, and now blod clots, that would be entirely plausible.

Inching out even farther on the limb: If it looks like Scooter is close to talking, W will be sorely tempted to issue a pardon to avoid having more dirty linen aired in public. Then there would really be "some 'splainin' to do." But such an obvious ploy could well turn out to be the last straw for a public who has already had more than enough of GWB and just enough to trigger the impeachment GW so richly deserves. Tough choice for The Decider.

For six years the Bush administration has acted as if they are exempt from the laws, ethical principles, and common decency that apply to the rest of us. When asked (in January 2005) about accountability, George W smirked arrogantly and brushed off the question saying, "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election."

What a difference two years and a Democratic take-over of Congress make! There should be a lot of nervous people in the Bush White House. We've already seen heads roll over the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed hospital, and a tempest is brewing over the firing of several US Attorneys, supposedly for "performance" but smelling like "political" reasons (NY Times, 7-Mar-07).

The challenge to Democrats will be to keep turning the lights on the dark side of the Bush administration without over-playing their hand. If they get too wrapped up in retribution instead of reform and improving the lot of the American people, they will lose the golden opportunity before them.

Memo to White House: Be nervous. Be very nervous.

Memo to Democrats: It's about the country and the people, not about political power.

Memo to American people: Hold everybody's feet to the fire.