Despite rigorous efforts on the part of the media establishment, the public has so far reacted to the perjury trial of vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby with a combination of weary, slightly annoyed disinterest and bemused boredom.
Though the complicated case contains cloak-and-dagger overtones (with its focus on the "outing" of CIA employee Valerie Plame), a prominent defendant with a colorful nickname ("Scooter" has been characterized as the most powerful aide to the most powerful vice president in history) and even a touch of glamour (Ms. Plame is a slender blonde who looks stylish in endlessly recycled video on cable news), I have yet to meet anyone outside the punditocracy who has closely followed the details of the trial.
There are three reasons that coverage of these legal proceedings produces mostly yawns or an irresistible urge to turn the page of your newspaper or punch a new channel on the remote control.
1. There's Nothing at Stake in the Verdict. Scooter Libby has already resigned his lofty post as chief of staff to Dick Cheney, and no one believes he'd get it back if he's acquitted. Moreover, there's no longer any reason to believe that this case would "bring down the Bush administration" or lead to other high level resignations or prosecutions. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has already passed on legal action against other figures prominently involved in the tangled case (like former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage or Presidential Counselor Karl Rove) and no one -- no one -- has been charged with a crime in identifying Ms. Plame as an employee of the CIA. Unlike Iran-Contra, or the various Clinton scandals that coalesced in impeachment proceedings, there is no sense of White House jeopardy or potential crisis. Regardless of the jury's decision, there won't be some further meltdown of the already unpopular Bush administration -- unpopular for more substantive reasons (particularly the painful course of events in Iraq) than the exposure of an insignificant desk-jockey at Langley.
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