Quis pardonet ipses pardonies?

July 2, 2007

It’s been a disappointment to hear mealy-mouthed claims from the Democratic establishment – including Barack Obama, whom I otherwise admire – that the malfeasance of the Bush administration doesn’t rise to the level of impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors”. To the contrary: Bush and Cheney looked over Nixon’s menu of high crimes, smacked their lips, ordered up several of everything, then cooked up a groaning board of their own new recipes. If Bush and Cheney aren’t impeachable, there might as well be no impeachment clause in the Constitution.

But if Congress cared to take notice, the Resident today added one more felony to his long list. As long as Irving Libby faced some penalty, any penalty, for his crimes, he had some incentive to offer truthful testimony to the court about the Plame affair. (Every day of his continued silence constitutes a repetition of the obstruction of justice for which Scooter has already been convicted.) By removing that incentive, Bush has directly interfered in the investigation of a criminal case in which his own aides, and potentially he himself, were directly implicated. The House may add an overt and provable act of “obstruction of justice” to the many covert obstructions already on the Administration’s tab.

The media are of course just being silly to treat this as a “middle way” between accepting Libby’s sentence and issuing a pardon. Disbarment is the only practical difference between this commutation and pardon outright. Probation is hardly an onerous thing; the only restrictions it will entail are very occasional meetings with the probation officer. That $250,000 fine? It’s a joke. In the first three months of the little defense fund that Fred Thompson set up for Libby, it took in a cool two mill. Scooter won’t pay a nickel of that fine; the Vast Right Wing Kitty will cover it all for him.

Oh, but there’s the shame, the terrible shame! So great a shame that virtually everyone who might have the ear of any of the unrepentant felon’s future employers has already praised his patriotism, his honesty, his self-sacrifice, in a stream of letters and columns reproduced everywhere in the sympathetic “liberal” media. I hear Scalia and Thomas are at this very instant drafting a letter to the Pope urging Scooter’s beatification.

Besides, the day is not far off when our Little Emperor will wipe away all tears, and with them whatever scraps of shame might linger. His statement today read, in part:

I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.

My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation.The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.

His “respect for the jury’s verdict” is based on the fact that, should he grant a pardon, Libby would lose all fifth amendment rights not to testify further. When Libby’s appeals are exhausted, Bush’s “respect for the jury’s verdict” will be exhausted too. Then a decent respect for the pre-election opinions of mankind will postpone the Wiping Away Of Tears a little further, until Republican candidates are beyond the reach of the voters. And the commutation will itself be commuted to the pardon.

Observe that Bush speaks of the consequences on “his former life” will be long-lasting. He does not envision any consequences on Libby’s future life. None of the disqualifications associated with a felony record will hamper I. Lewis Libby past November of 2008, and Bush comes as close as he possibly can to promising it, with this carefully worded statement.

The finality of a Presidential pardon is and ought to remain unassailable. What we need is a Constitutional amendment forbidding the issuance of a pardon to anyone who has served as a political appointee of the pardoning President, or his immediate predecessor. The founders designed the pardon power as a final court of appeal for ordinary citizens caught up in the toils of the law, not as a painless way for the powerful to erase their own felonious footprints.


One comment

  1. It’s a shame what happened to Bangladesh. I hope the world steps up and helps them.

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