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Big news of the past day in the trial of I. Lewis Libby is that the defendant and Vice President Dick Cheney won’t be taking the stand. It’s a development that contradicts everything that Libby’s defense team has been signaling for months, and it prompted an angry rebuke from Judge Reggie B. Walton.

On page A1 of today’s editions, the New York Times muses on the motivations of Team Libby: “The decision could be viewed as a sign that Mr. Libby’s lawyers are confident that the prosecution failed to make its case.”

Yeah, that’s gotta be it. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald & Co. have really fallen on their faces. Let’s see—-how many witnesses have they gotten to tell the jury that Libby’s telling of events doesn’t add up? Well, there’s a really credible FBI agent, two reporters who may not have aced the Plame—Iraq story but certainly weren’t caught lying, either, and some Bush administration characters as well. Throw in hours of Libby grand jury testimony in which the defendant sounds shaky at key moments, and you have, well, a slam dunk!

To use the Times‘ phrasing, the decision to keep Cheney and Libby off the stand could also be viewed as a sign of the following:

  • The defense team has decided that the sooner their client gets convicted, the sooner his sentence’ll start;
  • The defense team has decided that they don’t need another guy from the veep’s office testifying that Scooter had a bad memory and was really busy in the summer of ’03;
  • The defense team figures its client will have a better shot at a pardon if they don’t put the veep on the stand;
  • The defense team wants to get home before the winds kick up and the streets freeze over.

Just some possibilities.