"Some perjury technicality"?

Did Kay Bailey Hutchison really say that?

She must have. It was on "Meet the Press."

Is this the Republican strategy for dealing with any CIA leak indictments? Saying no real crimes were committed, just a teensy weensy bit of perjury? Turning Patrick Fitzgerald into Ken Starr?

I hasten to add that I have no idea whether anyone will be indicted. I've never met Pat Fitzgerald, and I had problems with the way he threatened reporters with jail, but as the U.S. attorney in Chicago who went after some Daley cronies, he has a sterling reputation.

It is true that prosecutors who can't prove the original crime often wind up bringing perjury and obstruction charges. But lying to investigators, or to a federal grand jury, strikes at the heart of the law-enforcement process. This happens to be the message that GOPers pounded over and over again when Clinton dissembled over Monica, so surely they take it seriously. Or is that only when a Democrat is president?

Hutchison likened the senior administration officials who might or might not be indicted to Martha Stewart, who was only charged with a cover-up (lying about insider trading is okay as long as you're not convicted of insider trading? Well, Martha did get two TV shows, even though one is tanking). The Texas senator also complained about "sort of a gotcha mentality in this country," which again, try as I might, I can't remember being a significant Republican complaint during the prosecutions of the Clinton years.

It instantly occurred to me that I might check what Sen. Hutchison had to say during the Lewinsky scandal. But in the blog world, somebody's already thought of your best idea five minutes ago. So before I could type in the Nexis search, I saw that Michael Crowley | http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank, on the New Republic's new group grope "The Plank," has this:

"Hmm . . . That's not the tune Hutchison was singing back when Bill Clinton was caught with his hands in the intern jar. Here's the February 13, 1999 Dallas Morning News:

" 'The principle of the rule of law -- equality under the law and a clear standard for perjury and obstruction of justice -- was the overriding issue in this impeachment,' said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who also voted 'guilty' on both counts."

HuffPost blogger Trey Ellis | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/trey-ellis/its-only-a-technica_b_9387.html pounces on Kay Bailey:

"Senator Hutchinson's absurd utterance was another GOP trial balloon intent on trying to mute public outrage. Fox and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber has been beating this drum ever since 'lawyers close to the case,' (probably Rove and Libby's), leaked that indictments were coming not for the felony charge of outing an undercover agent but for lying about it to federal investigators. You have to at least hand it to these guys, when they're handed lemons, they try their damndest to make lemonade. 'Gee, there's not enough evidence to actually convict the highest-ranking members of the White House and the office of the Vice President of treason, just perjury and conspiracy. Is that so wrong?'

"The party that said they won the last election because of their stand on moral issues doesn't have a leg to stand on. Nothing shows how out of touch Republicans now are with the values of the American people."

Michelle Malkin | http://michellemalkin.com/archives/003765.htm takes exception to Hutchison's remarks:

"Um, has anyone suggested that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is a 'gotcha' kind of guy who would throw away his good reputation by pursuing 'technicalities' instead of 'real' crimes? I haven't heard anyone on our side suggest anything of the kind."

And yes, this must be an official strategy, as the New York Times | http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/24/politics/24leak.html reports that "allies of the White House suggested Sunday that they intended to pursue a strategy of attacking any criminal charges as a disagreement over legal technicalities or the product of an overzealous prosecutor."

Pat Fitzgerald, menace to society?

Wasn't this guy appointed by the Bush Justice Department after Ashcroft realized he was too conflicted to investigate Plamegate?

So the vice president of the United States did have some involvement:

"I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday," according to the NYT | http://nytimes.com/2005/10/24/politics/24cnd-leak.html?hp&ex=1130212800&en=db7d02c93e5913ef&ei=5094&partner=homepage.

"Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said."

Nothing like preemptive leaking -- one of the great spectator sports.

Bill Kristol | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/239rebkj.asp tries to elevate the argument against White House indictments (and anticipates the Clinton-comparison argument):

"Unless the perjury is clear-cut or the obstruction of justice willful and determined, we hope that the special prosecutor has the courage to end the inquiry without bringing indictments. It is fundamentally inappropriate to allow the criminal law to be used to resolve what is basically a policy and political dispute within the administration, or between the administration and its critics. One trusts that the special counsel will have the courage after conducting his exhaustive investigation to reject inappropriate criminal indictments if the evidence does not require them, no matter how much criticism he might then get from the liberal establishment that yearns to damage the Bush administration through the use of the criminal law.

"And I will go out on a limb to say this, based on the very limited information one can glean from press accounts: It seems to me quite possible -- dare I say probable? -- that no indictments would be the just and appropriate resolution to this inquiry.

"I say this knowing that administration officials may have engaged in behavior that is not altogether admirable. I say this knowing that legions of Clinton defenders will complain that conservatives were happy to support the impeachment of a president for lying under oath seven years ago. My response to the second charge is that if anyone lied under oath the way Bill Clinton did -- knowingly and purposefully in order to thwart a legitimate legal process, or if anyone engaged in an obstruction of justice, the way Bill Clinton did, then indictments would be proper. What is more, the Clinton White House mounted an extraordinary -- and successful -- political campaign against the office of the independent counsel and the person of Kenneth Starr. All the evidence suggests that the Bush White House has been fully cooperative with, even deferential to, the Fitzgerald investigation."

Except if a senior official doesn't tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a grand jury -- and is charged with perjury -- that, by definition, is less than "fully cooperative."

I found this John Dickerson | http://slate.msn.com/id/2128530/nav/tap1/ piece in Slate to be one of the most revealing about Scooter:

"It's surprising . . . to find Libby is at the center of a press scandal. The daily communications operation is not something he cares much about. Rove, by contrast, spends a portion of every day running his own press operation. He sends BlackBerry messages, forwards polling data, and argues his case to influential journalists. Libby flies at a higher altitude, talking mostly to marquee columnists and preferring longer and more in-depth conversations to the rat-a-tat-tat required by reporters on deadline.

"Libby does enjoy the intellectual cat-and-mouse game of longer form interviews, those who have worked with him say. He challenges basic assumptions and presses on a reporter's sloppy definitions. In my experience interviewing him, if a line of reasoning was in any way harmful to the administration or the vice president, it was sometimes impossible to get past the gorilla dust. His shimmy and shake sometimes got so bad, I wondered if he would even admit to working for the vice president. 'It's very lawyerly kind of amusement,' says a former aide.

"When the Cheneys hosted a party in February 2002 for the paperback publication of Libby's book, the guest list was not filled with workaday journalists, but with the elite from New York and Washington: Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee, Leon Wieseltier and Maureen Dowd. In those early days after 9/11, it seemed like the relationship between the press and the media elite might turn out to be a fairly cozy one. The Bushies hated 'old Washington,' but as Libby and the vice president spoke from the landing at the bottom of the stairs, it seemed as if their half of the administration understood the quiet commerce between the ruling elite and the more permanent Washington establishment . . .

"Libby is fussy and precise with reporters, which is why friends and colleagues find it so hard to believe that he would have been involved in leaking Plame's identity, obstructing justice, or committing perjury.

"Libby was an exacting source for anyone who talked to him. After using a Libby quote, it was not unusual for reporters to receive a call from the vice president's press shop. Mr. Libby wanted to know why only a portion of his comment was used. 'He would prefer that if a reporter was going to quote him that it be an unedited transcript,' says one who worked closely with him. Other reporters were scolded if a Libby quote hidden under the attribution of 'senior administration official' was placed near sentences that he thought might identify him, even if no reasonable reader could come to such a conclusion. In other words, he's as careful as they come in Washington."

On the Miers front, Ryan Lizza | http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20051031&s=lizza103105 marvels in the New Republic at how quickly the right has turned:

'That was fast. Last month, George W. Bush was the leader of the conservative movement. This month, he's a traitor . . .

"To be sure, the conservative abandonment of Bush isn't total. The right is divided. Some see the split as one of Washington eggheads versus the red-state masses. Others, noting that the debate over Miers is, at its core, about abortion, interpret the current anger as a revolt by social conservatives. But neither of these explanations quite captures what is going on. The conservative war over Miers is being fought by elites on both sides. The pro-Miers elites are just doing a better job of wrapping their cause in populism."

The WSJ's John Fund | http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110007448 is feeling the heat for his Harriet reporting:

"In desperation, I took to going on radio talk shows in Texas and tongue-in-cheek offered to practice 'checkbook journalism' for the first time in my career. I said I would write a small check to the favorite charity of anyone who contacted me and could plausibly say that he has had a serious discussion about politics or judicial philosophy with Ms. Miers. So far it hasn't cost me a dime.

"For my trouble, I have been incorrectly attacked by allies of Ms. Miers, including some in the White House, for supposedly waving a checkbook seeking negative information about her. For the record, I made my offer in a jocular fashion, but to make a serious point. With the exception of President Bush, no one appears to know the nominee's judicial philosophy."

By the way, says Fund, "I believe it is almost inevitable that Ms. Miers will withdraw or be defeated."

In National Review, Danielle Crittenden | http://nationalreview.com/comment/crittenden200510211239.asp offers a woman's perspective I haven't seen before:

"It doesn't involve cigars or a stained dress. But the nomination of Harriet Miers has created a woman problem on the Right every bit as big as that which faced feminists during Bill Clinton's presidency.

"For years, conservative women's groups such as the Independent Women's Forum have opposed feminist visions of female equality. We opposed affirmative action in the workplace, believing women had to be held to the same standards as men. We rallied against quotas, with the reasoning that if there were fewer female firefighters than male, this was because women didn't wish to take these jobs, and not because of discriminatory hiring practices by the fire department . . .

"We were disgusted with feminist groups when they stood by Bill Clinton through all his women troubles -- when the National Organization for Women, for example, jettisoned all its previously stated principles on sexual harassment in order to retain political power.

"Now conservative women face a similar dilemma with Harriet: President Bush has asked us to stand by a woman who is unqualified for the Court because he knows what's in her 'heart' -- not in her head.

"We are asked to stand by her because, simply, she is a woman -- a 'pioneer,' a 'glass-ceiling breaker' -- even while other more qualified women were rejected for the position (and interestingly, rejected by Harriet herself, who headed the 'search' committee).

"That her pioneering had nothing to do with gathering expertise in constitutional law -- well, no biggie. We must swallow the idea that quotas and affirmative action are justifiable policies for the highest Court in the land.

"We are asked, further, to stand hypocritically by this decision as Patricia Ireland did when she stood by Bill Clinton -- going so far as to sign letters with other 'accomplished' women saying we believe Harriet Miers is qualified for the Court. Whatever our principles, we must jettison them in order to retain political power."

Meanwhile, the Senate will not get a key part of the paper trail, as the Boston Globe | http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/10/25/bush_says_he_wont_air_memos_from_miers/ reports:

"President Bush vowed yesterday not to release any White House memos by his Supreme Court nominee, Harriet E. Miers, provoking a standoff with senators from both parties who have demanded more information about her work in the White House.

"Senate leaders, who have asked that they be given a complete list of Miers's memos by tomorrow, vowed to continue their efforts to obtain at least some of Miers's White House work, arguing that such documents are especially important because Miers lacks a record as a judge or law professor.

"The emerging confrontation developed as criticism of the Miers nomination expanded with the launching of two new conservative websites aimed at forcing her withdrawal and raising money for ads against her."

The other woman under fire, Judy Miller, gives an interview to New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser | http://www.nypost.com/commentary/56046.htm:

" 'I'm not mad, I'm sad,' Judy told me from her home on Long Island. 'Isn't it sad that, after going to jail for 85 days for a principle, it's come to this?' . . .

"Judy will not take on her colleagues as personally as they've maligned her. 'Believe it or not, I can be pretty mild. I'm not going to sink to that level,' she said. 'But if someone says I'm a liar, I'm going to say I'm not a liar.'"

Of course, those "colleagues" include her boss, Bill Keller.

American Journalism Review Editor Rem Rieder | http://ajr.org/Article.asp?id=3989 says Keller's mea culpa "was both the right thing and the smart thing to do. Admitting that you've screwed up is never easy. It's exponentially harder when you're the boss at a revered (if flawed) American institution, and your mistakes have compounded that institution's problems.

"The Times has never been what you would call a particularly transparent newspaper. Its From the Editors note about the misguided Wen Ho Lee coverage was tortured, grudging. Its awfully late guilty plea about the paper's WMD fiasco didn't even mention Miller.

"But this time Keller was forthright, to the point. And there was none of the accepting-responsibility-but-not-blame that is so popular these days. No 'mistakes were made.' These, Keller said, were on me. That's the way a true leader acts."

Among the unhappy ex-Timesmen is David Halberstam | http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001350697:

" 'I think the paper has taken a terrible hit,' said David Halberstam, one of the Times' most respected alums, and a former Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. 'I think it is shocking that this young woman who has been a known identified land mine for a long time seems to have guaranteed loyalty to the office of the Vice President of the United States more than to The New York Times.' "