Let's say you're a senior Bush administration official indicted by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's grand jury in its investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name.

Do not panic. Sure, there'll be that inevitable rough patch -- bad press, employment difficulties, massive legal fees, some very anxious moments and such.

But history shows there's a silver lining: Many of the senior administration officials indicted by independent counsels since Watergate have never seen the inside of the Allenwood federal penitentiary. They've been acquitted at trial or had convictions thrown out on appeal. What's more, they've often gone on to fine jobs in the private sector or even back in the government.

Take Reagan administration Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan, the only sitting Cabinet member in recent years to be indicted, according to survey by the Associated Press. He was accused of grand larceny involving his old construction firm. A jury acquitted him.

Mike Espy, President Bill Clinton's agriculture secretary, also was acquitted after his indictment for corruption in taking gifts from Tyson Foods Inc. Clinton's housing secretary, Henry G. Cisneros, was indicted in 1997 on 18 counts of conspiracy, obstruction and lying to the FBI. He pleaded to a misdemeanor, paid $10,000, got a presidential pardon and then headed the giant Spanish-language television network Univision.

Billy R. Dale, who ran the White House travel office early in the Clinton administration until he was fired, was indicted for embezzlement and acquitted. Reagan national security aide Thomas C. Reed was indicted in 1984 on four counts involving illegal stock trading and acquitted the next year.

And of course former Reagan national security adviser John M. Poindexter was indicted in the Iran-contra investigation and convicted in 1990. The charges were overturned a year later, and, next thing you know, there's Poindexter, back in town working in the Bush II Pentagon at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

And remember, if all else fails, there's always a presidential pardon, the talk circuit and book contract.

From Indicted to Invited

Speaking of the indicted, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon's favorite Iraqi exile -- until he fell into disfavor apparently for playing too close with the Iranians -- is coming to town in mid-November, though it's a bit unclear who asked him.

Chalabi, whose portfolio includes finances and oil, was chatting by phone recently with Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and mentioned he was coming to Washington. Snow suggested that while he was here he could stop by and talk finances and economic reconstruction.

Loop Fans may recall that Chalabi, a convicted felon, was sentenced in absentia by Jordan to 22 years in prison on 31 counts of embezzlement and other bank-fraud charges. There had been talk of Chalabi visiting the White House, but we're told that this is maybe to see National Security Council types and that President Bush is not scheduling any time for him. It may be he'll stop in at the State Department as well and possibly see Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Chalabi is in the hunt to be the next prime minister after the December elections, but Iraqis say the smart money so far seems to be drifting to another deputy prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Former prime minister Ayad Alawi, a secular Shiite, is also running but religious Shiites don't want him. Chalabi may be running second, we're told, but polling isn't a traditional Iraqi pastime.

Wilma 1, Florida's Bush, 0

Last week, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) hailed his state's fantastic preparedness for Wilma. Florida, in stark contrast to Louisiana -- run, of course, by Democrats -- was going to rely on its own local emergency officials, he said, not wait for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We are battle-tested, well resourced, well trained," Bush boasted just before Wilma hit.

"In the case of Louisiana," he opined on Monday right after the storm blasted across his state, "it was left to the federal government to fill a void, and the consequences are there for the rest of the world to see."

"Florida was well prepared and positioned to respond to the storm," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Tuesday. "The state is doing a great job," he said. Not "a heck of a job," but darn good.

But by Wednesday, with gas, water, ice and food shortages and deliveries in disarray, Floridians were complaining mightily about the lack of emergency planning and coordination, and police were keeping order at some gas stations.

And Gov. Bush was singing a different tune. "We did not perform to where we want to be," he said.

Coordinator to Brookings

Word on the street is that Carlos Pascual, a career foreign service officer, former ambassador to Ukraine and now State Department coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization, is off early next year to the Brookings Institution to be director of its foreign policy studies program. He would replace James B. Steinberg, who is off to be dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.

Any glutton for punishment interested in the State Department job -- figuring out what went wrong in postwar Iraq and policy planning on the reconstruction effort -- should send a resume to Condoleezza Rice, c/o the State Department. Thick skin and ability to deal with cranky Congress required.

Yes, Florida is ready and willing to take on Hurricane Wilma, Gov. Jeb. Bush (R) assured residents before the storm, depicted behind him, struck the state and changed his tune.