The verdict in the Scooter Libby trial is sickening. It’s a case that should never have been brought- but overzealous prosecutors always feel they must deliver some bang for the bucks. It’s disappointing that the initial response from the president, who should pardon Libby, was so tepid.

In addition to the prosecutor’s determination to get a head, any head, clumsy tactics on the part of the administration contributed to Mr. Libby’s ruin:

“Rather than confront Mr. Wilson’s lies head on, [the administration] became defensive and allowed a trivial matter to become a threat to the Administration itself. They allowed Attorney General John Ashcroft to recuse himself and Mr. Fitzgerald to be appointed even though Justice officials knew that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had been the first official to leak Ms. Plame’s name to reporters. Mr. Libby got caught in the eddy not because he was dishonest but because he was a rare official who actually had the temerity to defend the President’s Iraq policy against Mr. Wilson’s lies.

National Review is Libby Central, with many excellent pieces on this miscarriage of justice. NR’s Byron York on why the verdict went the way it did:

“What convinced jurors to convict Libby, apparently, was the credibility of a single prosecution witness, NBC’s Tim Russert. ‘I thought he was very credible,’ Collins said of Russert. ‘A lot of people thought he was very credible.’ And Russert was the key in more ways than one. It was his phone conversation with FBI agent Jack Eckenrode in November 2003 that let prosecutors know there was a conflict between his story and Libby’s, thus turning the CIA-leak investigation into a perjury probe. And it was his testimony- that he did not tell Libby about Valerie Plame Wilson, as Libby told the grand jury – that was the fatal blow to Libby’s defense.”

As an aside, I found it odd that Russert was functioning as a journalist rather than being interviewed as a participant in the story last night on NBC’s evening news.

Former senator Fred Thompson offered the most anguished and most eloquent meditation on Scooter Libby’s misfortune:

“From there the players’ moves were predictable. Fitzgerald began his Sherman’s march through the law and the press until he thought he had finally come up with something to justify his lofty mandate – a case that would not have been brought in any other part of the country.

“The media by then was suffering from Stockholm syndrome – They feared and loved Fitzgerald at the same time. He was establishing terrible precedent by his willingness to throw reporters in jail over much less than serious national-security matters – the Ashcroft standard! Yet Fitzgerald was doing the Lord’s work in their eyes. This was a ‘bad leak’ not a ‘good leak’ like the kind they like to use. And it was much better to get the Tim Russert and Ari Fleischer treatment than it is to get the Judith Miller treatment. Fitzgerald paid no price for his prosecutorial inconsistencies, his erroneous public statements, or his possible conflicts of interest. And now they get to point out how this case revealed the ‘deep truths’ about the White House.”

Bush cannot allow Libby to suffer this injustice.John Podhoretz, who has been on a roll lately, also thinks that Bush MUST pardon Libby eventually:

“[I]f Bush fails to pardon Libby, he will implicitly be accepting the contention that Scooter Libby was part of a White House conspiracy at the highest levels to destroy the career of a CIA agent whose husband had proved Bush & Co. had lied us into the Iraq War.

“Without a pardon (again, assuming an unsuccessful appeal), Bush will leave office with a former employee in jail on charges that rise directly from the most damaging charge against his administration – the “Bush lied and people died” charge.

“No, the ‘Bush lied’ claim wasn’t the subject of the Libby trial. In fact, Libby was charged with lying to a grand jury about conversations with reporters, and a general charge of obstruction of justice. But, in the end, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald got it both ways.”