Some observers have tended to confuse the issues in considering the lengthy report issued by special counsel yesterday regarding allegations of misconduct by the prosecutors in the Ted Stevens trial.
Three questions are often confused:
1. Did Ted Stevens do a lot of good for Alaska?
2. Did the prosecutors in his case withhold evidence that should have been turned over to the defense?
3. Does the release of the special counsel's report exonerate Ted Stevens?
There is a tendency among some commentators to think that answering "Yes" to the first two questions necessarily forces a "Yes" answer to the third question. This is not correct. It is perfectly reasonable to laud Ted Stevens for his hard work and achievements for the 49th State, castigate his prosecutors for their failings, and simultaneously recognize that the report's release does not prove the innocence of Ted Stevens.
It takes mental discipline--and perhaps a little subtlety--to keep these three questions separate, but Ted Stevens himself had the ability to make those distinctions. The experienced and skilled attorney had a capacity for nuance as well as a trial lawyer's controlled use of temper and bluster.
[Last paragraph revised for clarity.]