I have mixed feelings about how the Plame-Wilson-Libby affair has played out. The Libby pardon is hardly a surprise. GWB and Co. have done much worse in the past, and with the current 26% approval rating no longer have much of a reputation to protect. And one good shield deserves another. They owe it to their henchman to shield him from the consequences of shielding them from exposure.
I think about four aspects of the case.
First, it's about those who lash out at Bill Clinton for deploring the pardon because of his own rash of pardons near the end of his presidency. The two acts are different because Clinton didn't pardon anyone who was covering up for him or his administration.
Second, despite my occasional digs at Republicans it shows there are plenty of decent and straight ones around. Special prosecutor Fitzgerald and federal judge Walton are both Republicans and proved they're no hatchet men. Fitzgerald probably gave VP Cheney a break by not compelling damaging testimony from him under oath, but has been upstanding on the whole. Judge Walton didn't give Libby any undue breaks and it can even be said his sentence was on the harsher side.
Third, Libby may not be that bad a guy and one can empathise with his situation. He was put on the spot and lied or obstructed the investigation to protect the boss out of a sense of loyalty. He sacrificed himself knowing he could go to prison and no one would bail him out. (Oh, wait. )
Lastly, just like in that Clinton impeachment drama, probably too much has been made out of this case. The motive in exposing Plame wasn't revenge as much as an attempt to discredit Wilson's revelations by painting him and his wife as anti-GWB partisans. What was the damage done by outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent? Probably only that she could never do a covert job again.
So can't it go this way: the Administration and the CIA say to Plame "oops, we're so sorry about goofing up on this. Here's $5 million (or $10 million) and a promotion to compensate you for our gaffe." End of story. Valerie's quite a babe and will improve the image of the CIA, so to speak. Those who feel taxpayers shouldn't pay so much for the Administration's mistakes should look at the billions of dollars of overspend on no-bid Iraq / Katrina contracts and other wastages inherent in the government. Also the special prosecutor's activities have cost more than this amount.
So in sum, while the Plame leak and Libby pardon affair confirms the seamy side of GWB-Vice politics, it's not that big a deal as to unduly exercise us.