The Best Ending for the Libby Trial

Whichever way the jury decides on whether "Scooter" Libby lied before a Grand Jury, there is one piece of business that the Bush White House — the president himself, the vice president, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, and Mr. Libbey himself — needs done.

And that is a simple apology to Valerie Plame, the former covert CIA agent who was outed and then pushed onto reporters' radar screens by the Bush White House as a means of attacking the credibility of her husband, Amb. Charles Wilson.

Full disclosure: while I have strongly disagreed with President Bush's policies, especially his decision to invade Iraq when he did and his administration's conduct of the war, I remain an admirer of him personally, especially his sincerity and compassion. We were friends in Yale College, co-residents of the small community of Davenport College, and fraternity brothers in Delta Kappa Epsilon. That is the way I remember him then. That is the way I see him now, at least sometimes outside of the partisan political arena anyway.

That George Bush should know the gross injustice done to Mrs. Wilson. He should appreciate the basic unfairness, if not illogic, of attacking Amb. Wilson's criticism of the administration's assertion that Saddam had attempted to purchase the nuclear bomb fuel called "yellow cake" from Niger by attacking his wife and outting her as a CIA agent.

Why not just criticize Amb. Wilson's claim that there was no evidence of such a Saddam effort to purchase yellow cake directly, on the merit? Why out his wife as a CIA agent, even assuming, as these senior White House officials claim, they didn't know she had been a covert agent some years ago? Is the claim that nepotism was the reason Amb Wilson was sent to Africa really an effective way to refute his assertions on the merit? Are secret "deep background" briefings really the way to win an argument on the facts, rather than whispers into reporters ears?

It was simply unfair to out Mrs. Plame for these reasons. Period. It was apparently first casually done by Under Secretary Richard Armitage to Bob Novak and then Bob Woodward, but then repeated to many other reporters by Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove and other senior White House and administration officials.

President Bush once suggested he would fire anyone involved in this leak. But now after the Libby verdict — guilty, innocent, or a hung jury — he owes Mrs. Wilson an apology on behalf of his White House and administration. And so do Messrs. Libby, Rove, Armitage and others who pushed her name out to reporters. And so does, especially, the vice president, whose anger apparently drove much if not most of what happened, according to Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony and Cheney's angry notes on Amb. Wilson's July '03 NY Times column.

After all, Mrs. Wilson served her country as a covert agent, possibly risking her lifw, and her outting clearly not only compromised and endangered her but likely did the same for many people abroad with whom she associated.

An apology is clearly in order.

I know President Bush doesn't like to say I'm sorry any more than other presidents and politicians do. But in this case he can live up to the man I remember 42 years ago and the man I still see today — a fair man and and compassionate man — and apologize on behalf of all responsible for using her, at her expense and potential danger to her personally, to attack her husband.

That was wrong. I can't even address this hope to VP Cheney. His reply would undoubtedly be the same two words he said to Sen. Leahy on the Senate floor, rhyming with "luck yourself." But when the Libby verdict is in, President Bush can provide closure and set an example for everyone else.

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