Sunday, October 30, 2005

DEPT. OF EXEGESIS Did Todd Purdum sleep through Patrick Fitzgerald's news conference on Friday? Or is he being willfully obtuse?

Here's Purdum, writing in the Saturday edition of The Times:

Patrick J. Fitzgerald...offered renewed evidence of that oldest of Washington axioms: the cover-up is always worse than the crime.
Except that Fitzgerald didn't offer evidence of any such thing.

Fitzgerald didn't diminish the seriousness of the underlying crime he was charged with investigating. And he certainly didn't exonerate Libby on that score.

In fact, he went to great pains to get across almost the opposite message:

FITZGERALD: In trying to figure out [whether Libby committed a crime by outing Plame], you need to know what the truth is.

So our allegation is [that] in trying to drill down and find out exactly what we got here, if we received false information, that process is frustrated...

The whole point here is that we're going to make fine distinctions and make sure that before we charge someone with a knowing, intentional crime, we want to focus on why they did it, what they knew and what they appreciated; we need to know the truth about what they said and what they knew...The harm and the obstruction crime is it shields us from knowing the full truth.
Fitzgerald's conclusion, clearly, isn't that Libby is innocent of having intentionally outed Plame. And he isn't saying that Libby's guilty of deliberately burning her either.

Instead, Fitzgerald's point is that, because Libby has lied, he (Fitzgerald) simply isn't in a position to know which of these possibilities is true.

A nuanced thought, granted. But nothing a bright fourth grader couldn't handle.

So why are Purdum and The Times conveying something close to the opposite of the truth on the front page of their newspaper?

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.