At this writing, it looks as if the Scooter Libby perjury case is heading for a hung jury or at most conviction on a minor charge In any event, I think it is doubtful he will be convicted of perjury, and I think that’s fine.
First, because I am generally in his age range, where memory not only plays tricks, it plays Beethoven’s Ninth when what you want to hum is Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The only way to get anything done when you have a lot to do is to shuck the small stuff and remember only who the boss is.
Second, perjury is hard to prove, as it should be. It wasn’t very long ago that many of us were outraged about a special prosecutor wasting tax money to criminalize politics by trapping a president into perjury.
Thanks to columnist E. J. Dionne, we are reminded of what Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others in her party said when they impeached President Clinton:
Lying under oath is an ancient crime of great weight because it shields other offenses, because it blocks the light of truth in human affairs. It is a dagger in the heart of our legal system, and indeed in our democracy. It cannot, it should not, it must not be tolerated.
I disagreed then and I disagree now on the simple ground that politicians lie. This is not a surprise to anyone over the age of about 10. The important thing is to have a free press and an open court system to expose the lies, not necessarily to punish them.
Is Libby guilty of smearing Valerie Plame and lying about it? Of course he is, and so is his boss, Dick Cheney, and his boss, George Bush. But they are guilty in the court of public opinion, which is the only one that should count.
Judicial guilt or innocence doesn’t matter at this level. Sending these sleazemasters to jail accomplishes nothing, but public exposure does, and that mission has been accomplished.