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Scooter, Indicted

Scooter Libby was indicted today on charges related to the unmasking of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Bloggers have been waiting for months to sink their teeth into the case.

Scooter, indicted:I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted today on five counts related to the Plame investigation. As expected, Libby was charged not with exposing Plame’s identity but with one counts of obstruction, two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements * during the federal investigation into that leak. (Read the indictment here.) Libby resigned after the announcement.

“Libby appears to have had a consistent and premeditated set of lies designed to conceal from the grand jury what really happened,” observesPolitical Animal Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly. “Dumb,” he says plainly, adding later: “Apparently Libby figured he’d never be caught out because the reporters would stay mum and go to jail on his behalf. He lost that bet.”

“Libby indictment devastating for the White House,” reports leading liberal Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo. “If you read the recitation of events which takes up, roughly, the first half of the indictment, one thing is made very clear: Libby was in communication about what he was doing with all sorts of people at the White House while he was doing it.”

Others dispute that interpretation. “The accusation,” writes Cliff May at National Review’s conservative roundtable The Corner, “was that there was a conspiracy at the highest levels of this administration to expose Valerie Plame, to reveal that she was an undercover agent. … That does not appear to be the case. Fitzgerald is alleging no such conspiracy.” At Balloon Juice, conflicted Republican John Cole agrees the charges are less significant than many suggest. “Nothing regarding the actual leak, all behavior during the investigation,” he writes. “Stupid and inexcusable. But not treason.”

Cole’s not the only one downplaying the charges. The multicount indictment “sounds bad, but compared to what White House insiders had feared, it’s really no big deal,” writes conservative H-Bomb at Ankle Biting Pundits. “Lying to a grand jury is serious, if true. The rest is Martha Stewart stuff,” appraises libertarian Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit. “But this isn’t the Libby-Rove-Cheney takedown that the lefties have been hoping for—there’s not even a charge of ‘outing’ a covert agent—and the very extravagance of their hopes will make this seem much less significant. If there’s no more, this will probably do Bush little harm,” he predicts.

Conservative contrarian Andrew Sullivan, however, believes more remains to be discovered. “I cannot understand why someone as smart as Libby would have taken such risks under oath, would have been so stupid, unless he felt the risks were necessary to protect someone or something. It’s hard to believe, in other words, that Cheney is not somehow involved.”

Others see the clamor as merely the next generation in a political blood feud. “A blood attack is now going on by the Democrats on the Republicans—payback time. It’s hard to say the Repubs don’t deserve it,” remarks blog entrepreneur Roger L. Simon. “It’s obvious too that the Plame Affair is not at all about some minor not-so-covert CIA official, but about Iraq. It is a replaying of the war on other turf.” Tim Graham of NewsBusters, a blog targeting liberal media bias, contrasts the attentive coverage by network television to what he describes as the lackluster response to the 1997 indictment of Clinton cabinet official Mike Espy. At The Corner, Tim Graham agrees the coverage outscales the charges.

Liberal stalwart Matthew Yglesias is watching the conservative response closely. “One of the big talking points out there recently has been that though someone might go down for perjury or obstruction of justice, there was no underlying crime here. … But it seems pretty clear … that Libby did, indeed, know Wilson was covert. … Obviously, the only way to know what happened here for sure would be for the relevant people to speak truthfully to investigators. Since the relevant people don’t seem to want to do that, it’s all but impossible to prove the underlying offense. If Scooter wants to be a stand-up guy, he can always just plead guilty, take his lumps, and try and explain what was really going on here.” Elsewhere, Yglesias chastises Republican talking heads for sliming Joseph Wilson in self-defense.

At progressive Daily Kos, where they’re celebrating “Fitzmas,” contributor Armando loyally provides the wider liberal perspective: “I think it is important to remind folks of the big picture again—that the President of the United States lied to the American People.” Later, he points out, “Indictment states that Libby’s actions endangered national security.” Contributor Hunter agrees the indictment is politically significant. “George W. Bush is having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And,” he predicts, “it’s going to get a whole lot worse.”

Read Slate’s take on the Libby indictment and the public debut of Patrick Fitzgerald.Read more blog posts about the Libby indictment.

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Correction, Nov. 1: The article originally misstated the counts against Libby, saying that he was charged with two counts of obstruction and one count of making a false statement. (Return to the corrected sentence.)