Archive for the ‘Scooter Libby’ Category

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Libby’s scapegoat card

July 6, 2007

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In the midst of the many lines of pure nonsense spouted by defenders of the Libby commutation and pardon-to-be, I’d like to focus on one which has the widest cachet, even though once examined it is the most nonsensical. Namely, the idea that whatever I. Lewis did to Valerie Plame, there were plenty of others who did the same thing, and it’s not fair for him to be punished while Rove and Cheney and Armitage get off scot free. Truly, for Libby to play this scapegoat card is the precise equivalent of the classic definition of chutzpah: the matricide/parricide who throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he’s an orphan.

I want to address it, because of all the pro-Libby arguments, this is the only one that I’ve found resonates with ordinary people not already wrapped up in Bush worship. I’ve heard the sentiment expressed by a number of friends who are good liberals. Libby’s lawyers, knowing that on the merits they had no case at all, planned to make the trial into an appeal for jury nullification, based on just this supposed injustice. It was the centerpiece of their opening argument, and it appears that they only backed off from that plan after the White House, alarmed at the defense team’s threat that they would make Cheney testify, sent along assurances that Libby would get his pardon. And we learned that the jurors, most of them opposed to the war and opposed to Libby politically, expressed to reporters a good deal of sympathy for Libby personally because they felt he was indeed being made into a scapegoat.

This whole line of thinking is exactly upside down. For one thing, this isn’t a case of some low-level underling being thrown to the wolves. Scooter wasn’t some sad-sack private or corporal like the scapegoats in the Abu Ghraib affair. He was Cheney’s second in command, the four-star general to Ticky Dick’s five-star. Arguably he was the second most powerful individual in the country, certainly among the top four.

But more important, Rove wasn’t making Libby into a scapegoat. Cheney wasn’t making him into a scapegoat. Fitzgerald wasn’t making him into a scapegoat. Libby volunteered to be the one to take the rap. In fact, the crime of which he was convicted – the lies and the obstruction of justice – were acts he undertook with the aim and for the purpose of assigning himself the scapegoat role so that Cheney (and incidentally Rove) would be protected.

It would not be far wrong to say that the crime for which Irving Lewis Libby was charged and convicted was shielding Cheney by scapegoating himself.

Accordingly, anyone who is offended at the injustice of Scooter’s scapegoating should, exactly for that reason, be demanding an extension of the man’s prison term, not its revocation.

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Bush and the Prime Directive

July 4, 2007

For three solid years, Bush, Cheney, Rove, McClellan, Snow have recited one mantra every single time there was a question about the Plame affair: “It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.” The thought that even the most feather-light touch by anyone in the Administration might weigh down the scales of justice and skew the outcome horrified them into a state of permanent lockjaw. The courts were sacrosanct, to be approached, if at all, on the same eggshell tiptoe with which the crew of the Starship Enterprise approached each vulnerable culture when they made planetfall.

Now we find that, all along, if things didn’t go their way, they were planning to throw away the scales altogether, bypass their own appointed prosecutors and judges, and determine the outcome of the case by fiat. That feather-light touch transforms in a wink into an elephant’s foot.

Next time they trot out their “ongoing investigation” line, the Washington Press Corps had better not stand for it. When these jokers build a wall of silence around the sanctity of the legal process, it always stands just where they need a stonewall to ward off the prying eyes of the press, the Congress, and the voters.

Can the press please stop pretending that’s a coincidence? If it suits his purposes, this Kowboy Kirk is always happy to blow up the planet on his way out the door.

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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.