The Corner

Leak Investigations

No one knows where Fitzgerald’s new grand jury will take him and the rest of us. But I’m begining to suspect it will be … nowhere.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is often wrong when it comes to things like what the best public policy should be. That’s because Washington is a company town and the company is government and so its views are biased in a pro-government direction (even among many, many “anti-government” Republicans). But where conventional wisdom tends to be right is on the apolitical issues of how the “system” works. This view is less ideological and more cynical and therefore more realistic. At the outset of the Fitzgerald investigation most Washington cynics chuckled that such investigations never pan out. For a while there it seemed that maybe Fitzgerald had broken the pattern. But I think the Woodward revelation has revived the cynics’ view and I doubt that view will come as close to being disproved again for years to come.

There’s been much handwringing about the chilling effect all of this will have on the press in the future. I don’t buy it anymore. A year or two from now — and certainly in the next administration — we will see far more leaks. When people demand an investigation, the Fitzgerald inquiry will serve as a useful cautionary tale. What ambitious prosecutor will want to deal with this sort mess ever again? What editorial board is going to campaign for a replay where journalists are deposed and jailed and dirty laundry aired? This was probably the best investigation of its kind in modern memory and, lo and behold, it’s become an unmitigated mess. No one will want to make a similar mess for quite awhile.

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