Debra J. Saunders

 In short, Bush was right to say in his 2003 State of the Union Address, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Niger."

 It's not even clear that the leak of Plame's name was a crime. As prominent GOP attorney Victoria Toensing noted, the government has to establish that Plame was covert and that the Bushies knew it. Fitzgerald positively runs from that issue. He wrote in last week's brief, "Defendant is not charged with knowingly disclosing classified information."

 Toensing added that Fitzgerald's refusal to release the CIA criminal referral that started the investigation to Libby's attorneys should set off your bells and whistles.

 The worst of it is, as Toensing lamented, this whole mess was "absolutely avoidable." If the Bushies had simply been up front and admitted they were assailing Wilson's credibility -- or if they'd just kept their mouths shut -- there probably would be no special prosecutor looking into the Plame leak, burning through unknown amounts of tax dollars and setting a dangerous precedent by jailing a journalist for not revealing her sources.

 Dubya has fallen into the same trap that ensnared Bill Clinton. After Paula Jones sued Clinton for sexual harassment, Clinton should have refused to be deposed. Yes, some on the right would have slammed Bubba, but, in the end, Judge Susan Webber Wright would have thrown out the lawsuit -- as she did in 1998 -- because Jones failed to establish economic damages. Had Clinton kept mum, he would not have lied under oath, America would have been spared the dirty details on his sex life and the House would not have impeached him.

 In this case, Libby is facing charges not for leaking, but for covering up the leak. I'm not saying the Bush administration was victimized by Bush-haters. This brouhaha was self-inflicted. This is what happens when the Bush administration chooses the lowball route -- that is, to let anonymous surrogates make the attack and then play dumb -- instead of challenging critics head-on.

 Team Bush was so busy trying to pretend his administration doesn't fight back, that it did its political enemies' work for them.

Debra J. Saunders

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