Debra J. Saunders

There can be no better metaphor for why Republicans lost congressional seats in the November 2006 elections than Vice President Dick Cheney's decision, after wounding a buddy in a hunting accident, to go hunting on Election Day.

Cheney is firing wildly again. Or so it seems, as defense lawyers are using the veep's notes during the perjury and obstruction-of-justice trial of Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Cheney is out of control.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has failed to charge anyone for illegally leaking CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. Instead, Fitzgerald is going after Libby for lying about leaking. This is a trial that never should have happened -- about leaks that do not appear to be criminal. Fitzgerald is out of control, too.

The trial has served its political purpose. As far as the Bush administration is concerned, the political damage is done. Once, Americans heard President Bush say he would fire any staffer who leaked Wilson's name. But Bush fired no one, even though Bush guru Karl Rove confirmed Wilson's identity to journalists who called him. (Be it noted, Fitzgerald is not charging Rove.)

Cheney makes things look worse for framing Libby as a fall guy. Or as Cheney jotted in a note presented in court, "Not going to protect one staffer (plus) sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

"The incompetence of others." Now that is choice. I have no idea if Libby is guilty or not. On the one hand, Libby's story about learning Wilson's identity from a journalist is denied by the journalist. On the other hand, intelligence officials who testified against Libby have had to admit that their memories about Libby's guilt oddly have improved over time.

During an editorial board meeting, I asked former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe what he thought of Libby. He said that while any defendant should be presumed innocent, leaking a CIA officer's identity bordered on "treasonous."

If it is treasonous, why hasn't Fitzgerald charged Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who originally leaked Wilson's identity to columnist Robert Novak, thus sparking the federal probe? And why aren't more Bush critics calling for Fitzgerald to charge Armitage? The answer: Armitage was no Iraq war booster.

Debra J. Saunders

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