No news is good news

Fitzgerald’s delay is both a Good Thing and a good sign.

Yes, I’m as eager as everyone else to know what Fitzgerald is going to do. But today’s delay strikes me as both a Good Thing in itself and a good sign as to the eventual outcome.

It’s a Good Thing because it keeps the Plame scandal on the front page and keeps the bad guys paralyzed with fear. Moreover, after two years of steady drumbeat of conservative propaganda about no crime having been committed and no charges forthcoming, the more time the commentariat and the public have to wrap their heads around the idea of All the President’s Men going to stir over burning a CIA NOC, the better.

It’s a good sign (I hope and believe) because it suggests that someone might have blinked in Fitzgerald’s multi-player staring contest.

Imagine, for example, that my speculation of last night is correct, and that Fitzgerald’s visit to Rove’s lawyer yesterday was for a session of “Let’s Make a Deal.” In that scenario, if Luskin had said “See you in court,” indictments would have been handed up today. If, instead, Luskin had said, “Let’s talk about how much my guy has to give you on what other player to constitute ‘substantial cooperation’,” that would have been a reason for Fitzgerald to hold off while the bargaining went on. (Jeralyn Merritt has a good analysis of how weak Rove’s bargaining position would be.)

Of course, it doesn’t have to be Rove who decided to try to cut a last-minute deal; any of the players might have done so. What’s hard to imagine is a reason for delay that came up at the last minute but that doesn’t mean more trouble for the potential defendants.

In the meantime, take this as an opportunity to practice the virtue of patience. In the words of that great philosopher Valentine Michael Smith, “Waiting is, until fullness.”

Update Various poorly-sourced rumors have it that Fitzgerald is asking for either an extension of the term of the current grand jury or the impanelment of a new grand jury. That would be consistent with the issuance of sealed indictments now. As one blogger said, that would be a little bit like the best sex ever going on slightly too long. But let’s keep our eye on the main chance here.

The point of the exercise is not to satisfy the curiosity and bloodlust of those of us in Blue Blogistan. The point is to punish a breach of public trust that damaged the national security, and, in the process, help the public understand the implications of being ruled by the Great Kleptocracy.

If you find the waiting intolerable, try closing your eyes and breathing in and out very slowly while you imagine the face you had before you were conceived.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: