This case should never have come to trial. Its origin was an act that wasn't a crime (the revelation of Valerie Plame's status) that was in any case committed by somebody else (Richard Armitage). What's more, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald knew both of those facts for two years before dragging Scooter Libby over conversations he had with journalists over matters whose relationship to the Plame kerfuffle don't even rise to the definition of "peripheral."
This is, on balance, one of the least-worst decisions President Bush has made in awhile, the closest to a clear-cut positive since John Roberts. Social Security Reform was a distraction, and a futile one at that, at a time when Bush's momentum was at its greatest, right after the 2004 re-election. Harriet Miers was a miserable choice for the Supreme Court, and if we grant that Bush's most lasting (and, from conservatives' perspective, most positive) legacy will be the twin pillars of Roberts and Alito, one must acknowledge that it took him a mulligan to get the second half of the equation correct. Dubai was benign on the merits, but Bush exasperated his friends by allowing the Democrats demagogue him to death by characterizing a straight-up management deal as "selling our ports to the Arabs." And, worst of all, his mis-management of Iraq cost the GOP both Houses of Congress, and may deliver us unto Hillary, leaving aside its long-term global implications.
Lastly, immigration has been a perfect example of his recent penchant: enraging his base while simultaneously firing up his opposition.
One imagines Bush's Chief of Staff played by Tim Matheson, shouting at every meeting: "What this situation absolutely requires is a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part." The only difference is, when the Delta House went on a rampage, it was the other guys who ended up in a heap. Too often, this Administration's stupidity and futility turn only inward.
So I guess, today, we can be grateful. But man, what could have been . . .
A clear-cut pardon was something Bill Clinton would have done, in front of a cheering crowd in the Rose Garden, after surrounding his own Scooter Libby and himself at the lectern with an assortment of sycophantic women and blacks. Bush, to his credit, doesn't have Clinton's lack of shame. Nor, in this narrow vein, does he have Clinton's guts.
Byron York, whose coverage of this case should have merited a Pulitzer, has the inside scoop.