The Libby-Cheney Bummer

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, February 14, 2007; 11:40 AM

Yesterday was a profound bummer.

Having decided to take a first-hand look at the Scooter Libby trial, I got down the to federal courthouse yesterday afternoon just in time to hear the defense announce that it was basically done.

There would be no testimony from Libby. No testimony from Vice President Cheney.

For me, the real cliffhanger of the Libby trial has never been whether or not he would be found guilty -- it was whether or not he and his boss would finally face some questions they couldn't duck.

Questions that would cut to the very heart of the Bush presidency. Questions about the twisting of intelligence, the manipulation of secrecy, the vindictiveness toward critics, and the control of the media.

Neither Libby nor Cheney have made themselves widely available to the press -- and when they have, reporters have usually let them set their own ground rules and pursue their own agendas. Certainly, Cheney made sure he was always in control of the message. (i.e. "Meet the Press.")

As long as journalists fear appearing too prosecutorial with people like Libby or Cheney -- or President Bush -- they'll never get them to go beyond their talking points.

So some of us journalists had high hopes for the prosecutor.

In the end, however, the Libby defense team obviously realized that putting their star witnesses in a position where their every assertion would be aggressively and expertly challenged -- rather than just accepted and broadcast -- would hurt them more than it could possibly help.

Smart move for them. Bummer for a public craving a better understanding of what went so terribly wrong.

Press Conference

The White House abruptly announced early this morning that Bush is holding a press conference today at 11 a.m. ET. I'm filing my column before that -- but will be Live Online at 1 p.m, and we can talk about it then.

Scooter Libby Watch

And all of a sudden, it's almost over.


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