Editorials

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are hoping that the country soon forgets last week’s indictment of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby on five felony charges, including obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury. But thanks to the meticulous and measured work of the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Mr. Libby won’t have an easy time slipping into the well-compensated anonymity of the private sector. He faces a trial and, if he is convicted, up to 30 years in prison and over $1 million in fines. The trial will further explore how his boss, Mr. Cheney, was personally involved in the sleazy scheme to expose the identity of C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame, whose husband, Joseph Wilson IV, was a critic of the Bush administration’s efforts to link Saddam Hussein to nuclear weapons. And while it’s true that Karl Rove, the President’s senior advisor, has so far escaped indictment, Mr. Fitzgerald has let him know that he’s hardly in the clear.

Mr. Fitzgerald ran his 22-month investigation with impeccable dignity, discretion and common sense. He wasn’t after flashy headlines; no special prosecutor has been more successful in controlling leaks. And he refused to be captive to those who were agitating for charges against Mr. Rove and Mr. Cheney. Instead, he stuck to the law, and thus has done more serious damage to the Presidency of George Bush than he would have done had he played to the crowd. Mr. Libby was one of the President’s top advisors, and his trial will be agony for an administration that is used to making up its own version of the truth.

New Yorkers can feel a sense of pride in the 44-year-old Mr. Fitzgerald’s achievement: He was raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the son of Irish immigrants. His father worked as a Manhattan doorman. He attended Regis High School, the selective Jesuit school on the Upper East Side for gifted students, and went on to get his B.A. at Amherst College and a law degree from Harvard University. Summers, he worked as a doorman in the city. He spent a few years in private practice, and he began to make a name for himself when he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in 1988. There, he became well known for his prosecution of terrorists and mobsters; he successfully prosecuted several of those charged in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and obtained convictions of four Al Qaeda men in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in East Africa. In 2001, he was appointed the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, where he cleaned up the corrupt political culture of Illinois by beginning an investigation of former Illinois Governor George Ryan, a Republican, which led to more than 60 indictments. Never one to be partisan, he later indicted several top aides to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a Democrat. In 2003 he took over the Plame investigation, and the results are now rumbling through the White House.

Mr. Fitzgerald noted that his charges against Mr. Libby represent “a serious breach of the public trust,” which could also describe the way the American public is feeling about George Bush these days. Meanwhile, Patrick Fitzgerald is clearly destined for great things.

The $2.9 Billion Bond Act: Good for the City

It’s not a perfect policy instrument, but Proposition 2—otherwise known as the Renew and Rebuild New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005—deserves a “Yes” vote this Election Day. Without approval by New York voters of this $2.9 billion bond act, the ability of the city’s and state’s mass-transit systems to maintain themselves and offer improvements could be compromised for years to come. Passage is not guaranteed: In 2000, a similar $3.8 billion bond act failed when upstate voters turned out in large numbers against it. New York City voters who might be considering staying home on Election Day, because of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s commanding lead in the polls, should think again.

The measure has the support of Mayor Bloomberg as well as his challenger, Freddy Ferrer, and State Comptroller Alan Hevesi. The Partnership for the City of New York, a prominent business group, is also strongly in favor.

The city would get about 43 percent of the proceeds from Proposition 2, including money for the Second Avenue subway and a rail link between lower Manhattan and the Kennedy International Airport. It also includes $115 million for new subway cars and commuter trains, and $90 million for new buses. Because it would be the state, and not the M.T.A., which would assume the debt burden, fare increases to riders would become less likely.

So what’s not to like about Proposition 2? The increase it would represent to the state’s already outrageous $47.6 billion debt burden. Thanks to Governor George Pataki’s profound incompetence, New York State has the second-worst credit rating in the country, after California. But in this case, the returns in transportation maintenance and improvements should be worth the added debt. On balance, Proposition 2 is good for the city.

Wellington Mara

It is hard to imagine professional football without Wellington Mara, who was present at the creation of the billion-dollar enterprise known as the National Football League.

Mara, who died last week at the age of 89, was co-owner of the New York Giants, one of the N.F.L.’s most successful and most valuable franchises. His father founded the team in 1925, when Wellington was a young boy. Both he and the Giants grew up and matured together.

Mara wasn’t the sort of sports owner who craved the attention of the city’s sports reporters. He didn’t fire head coaches on a whim. He didn’t stalk the sidelines during a game, pretending that because he signed the checks, he somehow knew more than the coaches or the players themselves.

He stayed in the background, quietly building relationships with the men who wore his team’s colors—men like Frank Gifford, Phil Simms, Tiki Barber and, most surprisingly, Jeremy Shockey, the Giants’ decidedly unquiet tight end. His philanthropic work was similarly understated: Few New Yorkers know of the Mara family’s generosity, especially to Catholic charities in the region.

Mara’s team reflected the patriarch’s values. Though not without blemishes, the Giants have rightly gained a reputation for class and elegance in a business that seems to reward the crass and the bombastic. Mara, in his quiet way, wouldn’t have had it any other way.

For N.F.L. owners—some of whom are young enough to be his children—Wellington Mara was a link to the past, and to a different style of leadership. It will be interesting to see if any of today’s owners reflect on the dignity that so marked his life and the way he minded his store.

Although Mara and his family moved the Giants from Yankee Stadium to the New Jersey Meadowlands in the 1970’s, he never seemed to suffer for that decision. (Trading Fran Tarkenton back to the Vikings—ah, that’s another matter entirely!) Mara remained connected to the city, so much so that the team eventually restored the traditional N.Y. logo to its helmets.

But it wasn’t his gridiron successes that made the man; it was his conspicuous love of family and tradition. He left behind a wife, 11 children and 40 grandchildren—and generations of current and former Giants who loved him.

Two days after his funeral, the Giants defeated the rival Washington Redskins, 36-0, to take over first place in the N.F.C. East. Wellington Mara no doubt would be surprised to learn that some consider this mere coincidence.