Monday, July 02, 2007

Even I didn't think he would do it

As governor of Texas, George W. Bush sent hundreds of men and women to their deaths without batting an eye. And as President, he's sent thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis to their doom. But 2 1/2 years in Club Fed is too much for one of his cronies is too much for the President to stomach.

Incredible--to me at least--that George W. Bush would be so arrogant, cynical and, yes, stupid as to commute Scooter Libby's sentence before the man's toes had crossed the threshold of a federal prison.

Read the White House statement excusing Bush's act. As might be expected, it is a farrago of deceptions, half-truths and outright lies.

Commutation sounds less dramatic than a pardon, (the $250,000 fine is still in place), but it isn't. Scooter isn't going to pay the fine: one way or another, his friends are. While he will lose his law license for having been convicted of a felony (if he hasn't lost it already), some of his buddies will make sure that he lands on his feet.

What amazes me is the stupidity of Bush's move, and especially its timing. According to the White House, Mr. Bush "concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive." But he did not wait until Scooter had served a year, or six months or even thirty days; he spared him even a moment in jail. He did this before the Court of Appeals has heard Libby's appeal, or even received the briefs. Indeed, in all probability, a notice of appeal has barely been filed, and it may not even have landed in the appellate court as yet.

Many people suggested that Bush would pardon Scooter to avoid a prison sentence and the risk that Libby would spill his guts to prosecutors. I never bought that. From all the evidence that I've seen, Scooter's middle name is loyalty; he would never turn on his bosses, especially with only two-and-a-half years in some Club Fed to serve.

So, why did Bush act, and act now? Maybe I was wrong about Scooter and he really was threatening to roll over. But I think it's more likely that the President is simply displaying once again his contempt for the law, the public and the truth.


Anonymous said...

You didn't think he would do it?

Even I didn't think that anyone would be as ridiculous as to attempt to create a moral equivalence between the execution of murderers and the imprisonment of someone who may or may not have lied about who first told him the unsecret identity of a decidedly non-undercover CIA agent.

Whether he lied or not, the fact remains that "outing" Valerie Plame was not a crime...if it was, Richard Armitage would be in prison right now.

Apparently, lying to a grand jury is only a crime if one is not a Democrat. What, exactly, was Bill Clinton's sentence again? I can't seem to remember.

The Old New Englander said...

Is executing someone convicted of murder the same as jailing a perjurer? Of course not. But Bush could see no reason for compassion in any of the hundreds of death sentences that came to him. Did those people ask to be freed? No, they could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. I've never been in prison, except as a visitor on a couple of occasions, but from what I hear, it's no picnic. Yet W let them all die. For his crony, however, he has boundless compassion.

Oh, by the way, Clinton did not lie to a grand jury--in other words, he did not obstruct justice. He lied in a civil deposition. I've been a lawyer for more than thirty-five years. I've never heard of someone being charged, much less jailed, for perjury in a civil deposition. I'm not excusing what Clinton did--I've never been a big fan of Bill's, by the way.

As for Libby's perjury, that was a separate act from revealing Valerie Plame's identity--and a separate crime. The reason that Richard Armitage was not charged was that the prosecutor could not show all of the many things that need be proved (including actual knowledge that she was a covert agent) for criminal liability to attach.

(Scooter may have been dumb to lie when there may not have been a crime to cover up--although lots of perjury is done to cover matters that are not criminal--but there are a lot of dumb criminals in jail. Dumb is not excuse.)