What makes the commutation of "Scooter" Libby's sentence so appalling is that it perpetuates the appearance at least of a conspiracy that now reaches the Oval Office. Even the mother of all presidential interventions, Ford's pardon of Nixon, bears up better: at least it helped to expedite a national healing process.
Yes, President Bush said in his statement that Libby had been a bad boy and had to be punished, and the fine and probation
Is this proof that the Bush White House has devolved into a collection of dead-enders, slogging through their last throes?were left untouched. But Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff is family. He was a part of a what looks very much like a big effort to spread the administration's war propaganda by attacking critics with smears and dirty tricks.
Political crimes are particularly heinous because they are about stealing power. They are ideological and self-justifying. By ensuring that Libby would not be deprived of his liberty Bush has rewarded a subordinate who broke the law on his administration's behalf, even if the president was not directly involved in the wet work (much as Nixon was not involved in the Watergate break-in but approved and helped coordinate the cover-up). Showing Libby any favoritism would seem to be a toxic move unless accompanied by the punishment of far more guilty parties who, in part because of Libby's laconic testimony, have avoided indictment.
Libby is a patsy. He was uncooperative and sentenced in a way that was meant to deter others and motivate him to cooperate. One of the ironies of this strange affair is that there may not be an underlying crime, per se, but rather a sleazy political conspiracy that probably didn't even require the vice president -- who has the power to declassify anything he wants (reg. req) -- to break any laws or direct anyone else to break any laws. What happened may be embarrassing, it might alter histories view of the Bush years, but it may not be criminal.
With a judge's ruling that Libby had to report to prison pending appeal his incarceration was suddenly certain and imminent. But after steering clear for so long, ostensibly to allow the judicial process to play out, and not merely granting Libby a respite that could have postponed Libby's prison start date pending appeal, why does Bush take a position on the merits now, and compound his problems by refusing to rule out a pardon?
It's a basic truism that pragmatism, not principle, rules the day in politics. How much worse would things have been for the White House without commuting Libby's sentence today and leaving the door open for a pardon tomorrow? Is this the final proof that the Bush White house has devolved into a collection of dead-enders, slogging through their last throes?
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