Disappointment and the ghosts of Fitzmas past

Back in 2005, there was a holiday called Fitzmas. It came in November of that year, and revelers hoped it would return again and again.

Back in 2005, there was a holiday called Fitzmas. It came in November of that year, and revelers hoped it would return again and again.

But they were destined to be disappointed. Months passed, a year passed, and there was no sign of Fitzmas’s return.

Until now.


In case you haven’t heard, Fitzmas is the name for the giddy excitement that arises among fans of CIA-leak prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — left-wing bloggers, mostly — when they anticipate that it will finally be proven that the Bush administration conspired to leak the identity of former CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson in order to smear her husband, the former ambassador Joseph Wilson, because he dared to criticize the grounds for the Iraq war.

Fitzmas first came for the Fitzgerald groupies — also referred to as Plameologists — with the indictment of Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Now Libby’s trial is beginning, and Fitzmas is back.  The trial, Plameologists hope, will finally — finally — reveal the ugly truths at the center of the Bush White House.

They’ve been hoping that for a long time.

The first time around, the bloggers’ anticipation of Fitzmas was almost unbearable. “Did you know that we’re just hours (all right, maybe a couple days) away from FITZMAS????” wrote one blogger on the biggest lefty site around, DailyKos. “Doesn’t it feel like the hap-happiest time of the year?? And...and...don’t ‘cha just feel like you’re going to exploooooooooooode?”

Fitzgerald devotees hoped for an entire slate of indictments — Karl Rove, maybe even Dick Cheney himself. But all they got was Libby, and he was charged with perjury — not with leaking anything or smearing anybody.


It was a disappointment. But the Fitzmas fans didn’t give up. Surely there were other indictments coming, they speculated. Surely Karl Rove would be posing for a mug shot before long.

But long months passed, and nothing happened.

More disappointment came last June, when Fitzgerald sent word that Rove wouldn’t be charged.

Still, a faint flicker of hope endured. Maybe Rove had flipped, some theorized, and he was giving Fitzgerald the goods on Cheney at that very moment.

And then, last fall, in one of the most devastating blows of all, the Fitzmas fans learned, from authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn, that the person who originally leaked Plame’s identity was not one of the White House bad guys but rather Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s close aide at the State Department.


Now, in January 2007, Fitzmas has returned with the long-awaited trial of Libby. 

Surely this will be it. Fitz will put Cheney on the stand and tear him apart, along with the entire rationale for the war in Iraq.

That will be big, big, big.

But the trial puts the Plameologists in an odd situation. They want to put the whole Bush White House on trial. As another hero, Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidPentagon forming task force to investigate military UFO sightings Kamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (D-Nev.), said after the Libby indictment, “This case is bigger than the leak of highly classified information. It is how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president.”

But Fitzgerald wants the case to be an exceedingly narrow affair, focused tightly on whether Libby lied when he told a grand jury he learned Plame’s identity from reporters.

Did the president lie when he said that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa? Fitzgerald isn’t interested in settling that question — to the dismay of his fans.

Still, just as in those heady days leading up to the Libby indictment, and those heady days leading up to the hoped-for Rove indictment, in these heady days of the Libby trial, hope is rising again in the hearts of Plameologists everywhere. “To say I am excited to see Patrick Fitzgerald sweating Dick Cheney on the witness stand would be something of an understatement,” blogger Jane Hamsher wrote recently.

Will Hamsher get her wish? Will there be that all-is-revealed moment that so many have hoped for? Will Fitzmas finally come again?

Well, Libby might be acquitted. Nobody in the Plameologist community wants to think about that.

If he is convicted, they’ll be shouting and high-fiving each other all across the blogosphere.

But even if there is a conviction, if they were honest about it, the Plameologists would have to admit that the whole idea of Fitzmas has been a bit of a letdown.

They began the case with the highest of hopes, that the investigation would reveal a massive scandal at the very top of the White House. And they placed those high hopes in the person of Fitzgerald, who they believed would conduct a tough, tough investigation.


But after that investigation — and everyone agrees it was tough — Fitzgerald ended up charging just one person, and not with an underlying crime.

So the Libby trial is all that it left of a once-glorious dream. 

Merry Fitzmas.

York is a White House correspondent for
National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week.