There is a flood of articles appearing now on the conclusion of the Fitzgerald investigation and the accompanying guessing game about just how it will end. But with so much at stake right now and so many of the leaks with very immediate tactical significance, reading these articles can become less a matter of the taste of the dish than trying to figure the ingredients and recipe behind it.
Like this article on Scooter Libby in Friday's Los Angeles Times.
According to the article, Libby was something only slightly less than obsessed with Joe Wilson. Not only was he part of the original operation to push back against Wilson and discredit him. As the article describes it, long after the Plame matter had evolved into a full-fledged criminal probe by an outside investigator, Libby continued compiling detailed records of Wilson's public statements. He marked up a copy of Wilson's book highlighting what he regarded as false or anti-Cheney passages. And even though he was already at the center of an investigation he continued to recommend mounting new anti-Wilson press operations well into 2004.
That possibility only ended in April 2004, says the article, when Dan Bartlett ordered White House staff to stop engaging Wilson, figuring that more White House attacks on Wilson would only bring more press focus to his charges.
Now, I don't doubt that there's a good deal of truth in this story. Indeed, the point in what I'm about to say is not to cast doubt on the accuracy of anything in it. But if you read the LAT story closely you see that the authors were able to interview multiple White House staffers (seemingly all or most former ones) and were apparently provided with a sheaf of documents illustrating Libby's near-obsessive Wilson-monitoring.
If I read the article right it seems they were provided with a copy of this dossier ...
The result was a packet that included excerpts from press clips and television transcripts of Wilson's statements that were divided into categories, such as "political ties" or "WMD."
The compendium used boldfaced type to call attention to certain comments by Wilson, such as one in the Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa student newspaper, in which Wilson was quoted as calling Cheney "a lying son of a bitch." It also highlighted Wilson's answers to questions from television journalists about his work with Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.
The intensity with which Libby reacted to Wilson had many senior White House staffers puzzled, and few agreed with his counterattack plan or its rationale, former aides said.
So, a lot of access to former White House staffers in on key meetings and actual documentary evidence of what Scooter was up to, what his efforts produced. That sort of access ain't easy to come by and it's seldom accidental.
This certainly seems like an attempt to pin this whole thing on Libby.
Leaks like that won't affect Fitzgerald; they're not intended to. They're aimed at shaping perceptions of indictments if they come down. If Libby and Rove are indicted, then, yes Rove got caught up in it. And it shouldn't have happened. But the whole unfortunate mess was spawned by the bitter Libby-Wilson antagonsim. It wasn't something that involved the whole White House team, not something characteristic of how it functions.
That would be the argument.
And it's one everyone should have their eyes out for, since the key players in the White House appear to have decided that Libby is already a fatality in this battle.
Before leaving you, one other point to consider. Note Bartlett's alleged instructions to back off from Wilson in April 2004. Keep that in mind when considering possible coordination between the White House and the majority staff on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence while it was finishing up the Iraq WMD report in the summer of 2004. We'll return to that subject later.