Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Libby Trial - FDL summation

Marcy and Jane of Team FDL do a fine job summing up the significance of the Libby Trial.

With the close of the Libby trial, I'd like to step back and start trying to define what the important, overarching narratives to emerge from the case actually are:

1. The administration lied us into war and tried to abuse its power to punish the whistleblower who told the American public the truth.

2. Scooter is the firewall to Shooter.

3. Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and other members of the administration conspired to keep federal investigators from uncovering their crimes.

4. The media was complicit in spreading administration propaganda rather than doing investigative journalism, and are now helping to set the table for a pardon.

5. The journalistic standards that have been exposed in the case (witness Tim Russert, Judy Miller, Andrea Mitchell, Robert Novak and others) are reprehensible, and have undermined the public trust in the media.

6. The degree to which this story about the lies that lead to war has been ignored by the media (relative to the feeding frenzy over a Clinton blowjob) left a huge opening that the blogs have filled.

And fill it they did, especially the team at FDL. They provided, not only unsurpassed detailed coverage but the added value of informed analysis.


Only it all got started by someone who never figured in these calculations of alpha male dominance. You see, one of the most important moves of the day came when Peter Zeidenberg stood up and said to the jury:

Defense didn't have to give opening statement. On behalf of defense, Wells elected to give opening. He painted different picture, told you about WH conspiracy to scapegoat Libby. Effort to make LIbby into sacrificial lamb so that Karl Rove would go free. You've heard witnesses testify, you've heard witness after witness, you've heard them testify about one or another conversation with Libby about Valerie Wilson during the time period that Libby claimed he had no memory of Wilson's wife. You heard Russert testify, take an oath and say he never spoke to Libby about Wilson's wife. In direct contrast to what Libby claimed. Now did you hear any evidence about a conspiracy to scapegoat Libby? If you draw a blank, it's not because of a problem with your evidence. [It's because the defense never proved their argument that there was a WH conspiracy against Libby.]

It was an important point because the Defense never proved this point–it never brought witnesses like Andy Card and Scottie McClellan and Dan Bartlett and Karl Rove himself they would have needed to prove their point. More importantly, it got under Wells' skin.

You see, this kind of accusation is precisely the kind of thing that would get under an alpha male like Ted Wells' skin–particularly if the accusation rings true. He couldn't let the accusation lie there because it would suggest to the jury that he hadn't proven his larger case. But he couldn't let it lie because it would damage his own ego. So rather than launching right into the prepared closing statements, rather than summoning rage for Scooter Libby, his purportedly aggrieved client, Wells started by summoning his own rage.


By getting under Ted Wells' skin, Zeidenberg managed to do two things. First, he exposed to the jury what Ted Wells looks like when his emotions are real, rather than a schtick adopted in the service of the client. And critically, he goaded the Defense into using 20 minutes of their alloted time defending themselves, rather than Libby. And for the rest of their closing, they were racing to catch up. Wells was flipping through PowerPoint slides just glossing over the content. He announced he was taking time from Jeffress, who apparently looked up with a forced smile to hide his anger. As Wells went over his time, Jeffress more openly seethed. Then he, too, went over his alloted time.


it looked fake. Utterly, completely fake.

Because Wells reacted to Zeidenberg's barbs, he showed the jury true emotion that made all his elaborate schtick–the thing that Wells does best, normally–look like an act.

Which set Fitzgerald up perfectly.

Fitzgerald stood up and, with his voice raised for almost the only time in the trial, yelled,

Madness! Madness! Madness!

Followed by:

Outrageous! [in mock outrage] The govt brought a case [about] 2 phone calls. And they just want you to speculate. [now with quiet, rational voice] The defense wishes that were so. Saying it, Saying it loudly, pounding the table, doesn't change the facts.

Fitzgerald took Wells' mock outrage and mocked it right back. Not only did his judicious (ha! like that word) use of emotion grab the attention of the jury in a way that Wells' sustained faux outrage no longer could. But with just a few words, Fitzgerald managed to belittle the entire argument the Defense had been making.

But Fitzgerald wasn't done with reappropriating Wells' schtick. After doing a number of things with his rebuttal–finally establishing Valerie Wilson as a person, getting weedier than I have ever been, countering Jeffress' "Perry Mason moment" with his own, accusing Cheney of obstructing justice–Fitzgerald returned to his explanation of why obstruction was so important. He wasn't yelling, like Wells had done. Rather, he used the same barely controlled outrage voice he used in the press conference where he announced charges against Libby. His voice cracked, as it had before.

And he flipped Wells' outrage on its head. Rather than Libby as the aggrieved party, he put the American people in the role of aggrieved party. He picked up Wells' language about what Scooter deserved, and asked, "Don't the American people deserve the truth?!?!?!" Then he picked up Wells' language about "giving Scooter back" and flipped that too.

If as a result his wife had a job, she worked at CPD, She gets dragged into newspapers. People want to find out was a law broken when people want to know, who did it. What role did Defendant play. What role did VP play? He told you he may have discussed this with VP. Don't you think FBI desesrves straight answers. When you go in [that] jury room, your commonsense will tell you that he made a gamble. He threw sand in the eyes of the FBI. He stole the truth of the judicial system. You return [a guilty verdict] you give truth back.

It perfectly mirrored Wells' argument: Faux outrage, Real outrage; Libby and his family, Valerie and her life; Give Libby back … or give the truth back.

No better way to put this trial–you can give Libby back, or the American people can have the truth back. Wow.

But never forget–it was all set up when Zeidenberg, not on anyone's radar as the alpha male in this trial, forced Ted Wells to defend himself, rather than defend Scooter Libby.


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