The Corner

“Has Washington Gone Insane?”

Dan Henninger today, trying to understand (and plugging Byron) :

It is not my intent to plumb the possibility of mass psychosis in Washington, but nonetheless we must come to grips with the phenomenon of the world’s most powerful capital spending so much of its intellectual energy chasing nightmares of its own imagining. Exhibit A here would be the fascinating case history of Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame.

If memory serves, those of us who expect to find value in tracking public events spent nearly two years on an obsessive Beltway press search for who “outed” Valerie Plame. And this was a high crime insofar as Ms. Plame was a “covert agent” for the CIA. In someone’s notion of political reality, this was a big deal. Its actual size was revealed in a federal court hearing last Friday, as described by National Review’s quite grounded White House correspondent, Byron York:

“CIA leak prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald argued . . . that as far as the perjury charges against former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby are concerned, it does not matter whether or not Valerie Wilson was a covert CIA agent . . . ‘We’re trying a perjury case’, Fitzgerald told Judge Reggie Walton. Even if Plame had never worked for the CIA at all, Fitzgerald continued — even if she had been simply mistaken for a CIA agent — the charges against Libby would still stand. In addition, Fitzgerald said, he does not intend to offer ‘any proof of actual damage’ caused by the disclosure of Wilson’s identity.” No damage?

So setting aside the catastrophic personal tragedy for Scooter Libby (and the possible erosion of confidentiality protections for the press), the Plame affair all those months was a forced march down a blind alley. Still, I think the Plame case has value as a window to understanding why Washington today spends more time bouncing off the walls than sticking to Jon Stewart’s apparently archaic attachment to solving problems “in a rational way.”

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