Wednesday, March 07, 2007

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Pity poor Debra Saunders: yesterday she came heartbreakingly close to beating the WaPo editorial board for the coveted1 Wanker of the Day award. Close...but not quite there. Her near-winning entry began with this:

YOU CANNOT look at Lewis "Scooter" Libby without seeing Bill Clinton.
Well, yeah...if you're a fucking moron.

It goes downhill from there (Clinton perjury blah blah blah, out-of-control prosecutor yadda yadda yadda, Joe Wilson liar and so on and so on). Attacking Fitzgerald is part of her standard repertoire, along with global warming denial and mocking Gore, so who can blame her for indulging in it one last time before it goes out of style forever?

And of course every time she writes this same column, she begins with the premise that Libby's perjury charge is bogus just like Clinton's. I've addressed this false equivalence, but perhaps not as clearly as I could have, because she doesn't appear to have grasped the concept.

So here I provide a handy chart for the easily confused:

Underlying offenseNot criminal; at worst, arguably relevant (tangentially) to a civil case that was dismissed by the judge as failing to state a cause of action.Potentially serious criminal offenses (including, possibly, conspiracy) with deleterious consequences for national security.
Practical impact of lieNo apparent impact on litigation.Made it impossible to determine what, if any, criminal offenses had been committed, or by whom.
ProsecutorConservative Republican; active in prior partisan efforts to embarrass the president.Conservative Republican Unaffiliated; no partisan motivation.
Scope of investigationInitially limited to Whitewater, later expanded into unrelated areas. Perjury prosecution was for testimony completely irrelevant to original scope of investigation.Limited to facts surrounding the leakage of a covert operative's identity, scope never changed. Perjury prosecution was for testimony directly related to original scope of investigation.
Media LeaksProsecutor's office systematically leaked information embarrassing to the president.No significant leaks.
Washington press corps party lineThis is serious, and the president should resign.This is trivial, and the prosecutor is out of control.

You're welcome, Debra, and I hope this helps you avoid any further embarrassment.

Update: Edited to correct link and table header (thanks, De).
Other Update: Added a bit of essential information (italicized) I had neglected to include originally. I swear to god I will get this right eventually.
Other Other Update: Corrected re Fitzgerald's partty (non-)affiliation; added a bit re the Paula Jones lawsuit.

1Joe Klein: "I'm as proud of being named 'Wanker of the Day' as I am of being Sean Hannity's 'Enemy of the State for the week.'"