Cross-posted at Daily Kos
Yes, why people lie may seem obvious, but then, in these days of spin, particularly Republican Right Wing Conservative Movement spin, stating the obvious is sometimes necessary.
A great deal of media attention has been, and will continue to be, focused on GOP pundits attempting to downplay the seriousness of Mr. Libby’s alleged crimes in Fitzgerald’s indictment: false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice. We will be repeatedly told that these are crimes that don’t count, that somehow lying to the FBI and the Grand Jury is merely business as usual in Washington, and that Fitz’s failure to charge the “real crime” of unlawfully outing Valerie Wilson as a covert CIA agent somehow makes the charges in the indictment frivolous and/or mean spirited harassment of a hard-working public servant such as Mr. Libby.
Well, let’s take a brief refresher course in why people tell lies and see what light that sheds on these GOP talking points, shall we?
There are certain individuals who suffer from an inability to tell the truth in any situation. They lie as a matter of habit. Their lies may often take the form of grandiose and elaborate fictions in which the liar in question presents himself as a great hero, or inflates her accomplishments. In like manner, they often downgrade or demean the character or accomplishments of others in their role of self-appointed guardians of truth and righteousness. In essence, they are hacks.
We’ve all come across such braggarts and egotists in our time. Their lies primarily center solely around their own lives and seek to paint themselves as better, stronger, more intelligent, or more virtuous individuals than the rest of us.
Classic examples of this type of liar are Bill Bennett, Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly, liars who accomplished in the art of self promotion and the demonization of their self-styled enemies. As far as we know, Mr. Libby is not this type of individual, or at least not on a regular basis.
Lying for Advantage
Another type of liar is the person who lies in order to seek personal gain, whether in the form of money, power or status. Quite a few politicians fit this mold, as do a significant number of high ranking business executives, particularly CEOs. Indeed, on could argue that the present era encourages those individuals who are willing to lie, cheat and steal their way to the top.
The take no prisoners approach one can find in Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and numerous other Con Men, whether sitting in the board room of Fortune 500 companies or attempting to fraudulently induce vulnerable people to hand over their hard earned dollars to the silky smooth voice on the other end of the telephone. Again, we all know far too many liars that fit in this category, but there is no evidence that our dear Scooter was motivated by potential rewards he might earn regarding the lies he is alleged to have told the Grand Jury.
The Ashamed Liar
Then there are those who lie to avoid personal embarrassment, scandal or to preserve their own reputation and character. The classic example is the man or woman who lies in order to hide his or her infidelities, or to cover up sexual behaviors that society in general finds unacceptable.
We all know this liar, and to be honest, the most famous or infamous example of this type was President Bill Clinton when he misled the American Public and his family about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. There have been many other examples, however, of men who have lied to preserve their public reputations, ranging from Rock Hudson regarding his gay lifestyle, to Jimmy Swaggart and his penchant for visiting prostitutes.
But What of Scooter?
None of these examples fits the pattern of lies by which are alleged in the indictment, however. Libby didn’t allegedly lie about Valerie Wilson to make himself seem more important than he actually was. As the Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney and an Assistant to President Bush, he had no need to massage his own ego with lies about his importance to the Administration. Nor did he lie for monetary or other personal gain, or to cover up some personal peccadillo. So why did he lie?
Because He’s a Crook, that’s Why
Well there is one classic case of lying that I haven’t yet covered, but one any fan of Perry Mason should be familiar with: lying to cover up involvement in a crime. You all remember how Perry would lead on the real villain on the stand, catching him in the one crucial lie that always led to a tearful or angry or just plain dejected confession, thus exonerating Perry’s eternally grateful client and putting one more nail in Prosecuting Attorney Hamilton Burger’s coffin.
Unfortunately, in real life people rarely confess on the stand, whether at trial or before a Grand Jury. They either invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, they cut a deal with the District Attorney for their testimony or they lie. And the reason they lie is simple: to cover-up a crime, either alone, or as part of a group of conspirators.
In this case, based on what we know from the indictment, Libby lied about how he knew of Valerie Plame, what he knew of her covert status as a CIA Operative, and from whom he learned of her. That he lied to protect himself from possible indictment for crimes related to the disclosure of Ms. Wilson’s status seems clear. It’s also clear that his lies and refusal to disclose all that he knows about this matter has prevented Mr. Fitzgerald from being able to charge other individuals, with whom Libby shared and or discussed this information, with crimes.
The most likely person Libby is protecting is his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney who the indictment names as Libby’s source for the information about Valerie Wilson’s CIA connection, but for all we know, his knowledge may also incriminate President Bush as well. After all, President Bush, as we all know “lawyered up” shortly after the Treasongate investigation began, which is one indication that Bush himself had knowledge of the leak which would prevent any attorney/client privilege with respect to statements made to official White House Counsel (who represent the office of the President but not the individual in that office with respect to potential crimes they may have committed).
So this isn’t a case of the lie being the only crime, as was alleged in the Clinton impeachment case. There, Clinton’s misleading statements about Ms. Lewinsky did not rise to the level of perjury, but even if it had, it wouldn’t have pointed to any further crime. Clinton’s testimony was at a deposition given in a civil case involving his sexual harassment of Paula Jones years earlier. It would have had no bearing on Clinton’s underlying civil liability for his actions with respect to Ms. Jones.
In Treasongate, Libby’s alleged lies implicitly point to further crimes which his lies were intended to keep hidden. They aren’t lies to puff up Libby’s reputation, or lies that seek to have him avoid embarrassing disclosures regarding his personal conduct. They are lies to keep himself and others from facing possible criminal prosecution on charges ranging from the outing of a covert CIA agent to a criminal conspiracy to violate the Wilson’s civil rights, to even potential charges of a conspiracy to lie to Congress in order to illegally obtain authorization for the War on Iraq.
We can’t know for certain at this point what other crimes Libby’s alleged lies have covered up, or who he may be protecting. But his motivation to dissemble as set forth in the indictment is quite clear. He went to great lengths to hide himself as the source of information regarding Valerie Wilson. This was demonstrated by the manner in which he wished to have himself described by Judy Miller: not as a “senior administration official” (which was clearly the role in which he was functioning) but as a “former Hill staffer.” We know from the indictment that he had numerous discussions with both reporters and other members of the Bush administration about Valerie Wilson, discussions he either failed to disclose to Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury, or discussions whose nature he deliberately misrepresented. These are not the signs of a man who believes that no crime has been committed.
A man who believes that his actions do not constitute a crime discloses everything he knows to the Grand Jury. Indeed, he doesn’t hide behind the veil of anonymity a reporter offers a source, but discloses what he knows about Valerie Wilson openly to the public. After all if it’s not a crime, what’s to stop him. Surely not this White House which is notorious for how visciously they play political hard ball. That these disclosures were made surreptiously, and under a guarantee of anonymity, strongly suggests a fear that his actions either were, or might be, criminal in nature. His further lies to the FBI and the Grand Jury only add to the reasonable inference that what he is hiding behind those lies would put himself and other Administration officials in legal jeopardy were it to be disclosed.
After all, as everyone knows, one of the reasons criminals lie is to avoid prosecution. Based on what we know, this is the type of liar that Scooter Libby has become: a criminal seeking to avoid indictment for his crimes. Let’s hope he cuts a deal and names names, or that other information becomes known that can make further indictments possible. A perjury conviction, frankly, is the least he deserves.