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In the more conservative of the two local daily papers (count them - two! ...and owned by the same parent company) in Madison, WI, there was a recent column by Bill Wineke which advocates a pardon for Scooter Libby on the basis that he's a nice guy, and that other people were involved in leaking Plame's identity too.

Wineke does not seem to be a right-winger, is usually a pretty good columnist, and tends to look at issues from a moral or ethical standpoint...which is why I was surprised by his attitude.  Quoting from the column:

Now, President Bush ought to pardon Libby and let him get on with his life.

Libby may have been the only official stupid enough to lie consistently to a grand jury, but he was surely taking the fall for a White House that kept denying in all pious righteousness that it was involved in destroying the career of a trusted government official.

Wineke goes on to argue:

Libby lost his job. His life, surely, has been a living hell for several months. He has been convicted of perjury. He's paid his price and the president, who either knew about the smear against Plame or who was deceived by his closest lieutenants, ought to give him a break.

The only real purpose that might be served by putting Libby in prison would be to convince him to pull the rug out from under Cheney.

I'm pretty outraged by that last bit.  Not that I want to see anyone put in jail, per se (well, perhaps most of the Bush administration), but I do naively believe in ethics in government.  Here's my letter to Wineke:

While I often enjoy reading your columns, I take exception to your article of March 7th about the Libby conviction.  To say that Libby should be pardoned because others were at fault too is nonsensical, and violates the basic premise of personal responsibility under the law.  We are each responsible for our own behavior; that Libby acted at the direction of his superiors is without a doubt, but he is still responsible for his actions.  Further, Libby is a lawyer and not only must have been fully aware of his liability, but should be held to a higher standard as a member of the bar AND as a public official.  That the prosecutor was not able to bring a charge under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act has everything to do with Libby's (and others') acts of obstruction.

You state that the "real that our country went to war in part because of...faulty information".  Is that really true?  Clinton had the same range of information, yet chose not to go to war.  Bush made a choice to go to war against a nation which had NEVER attacked the US, in violation of international law, and he chose which intelligence sources he wanted to hear and which to ignore.  There were many - Hans Blix, Mohamed ElBaradei and Scott Ritter not the least amongst them - who warned that the WMD claims made by the US were false.  As Paul Wolfowitz has admitted, WMD were just a convenient excuse for going to war.  Although Cheney & Libby were circling the wagons, trying to prevent what was already an ephemeral case for war from further dissipating, it seems to me that the real issue is that the administration violated national security with malice and forethought in order to denigrate a critic, in the process destroying the career of a key public servant.  As a result we now lack both Valerie Plame's expertise in counter-proliferation and the intelligence network she managed in Iran, and thus the administration can once again simply fabricate claims about WMD and other munitions without substantive evidence to back up those claims (ElBaradei has said that to date none of the claims made by the US about Iran have proved true).

If there were real justice in the world, Libby would also be held to account for destroying a vital national security asset (at a critical time in our nation's history), and for helping to foment an unprovoked war which even our key partners, the British, recognized as probably illegal under international law and the UN charter.  That war has resulted in the destruction of an entire society and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - none of whom are able to go home and resume their lives as you would like Mr. Libby to do.  It should be noted that Libby was the point-man for pushing the "faulty information" in Colin Powell's speech to the UN - all of which has since been proven to be false.  But none of that is the issue here...lying to investigators is.

20 years ago we had the Iran/Contra investigation, which resulted in a number of convictions and subsequent pardons.  Some who received those pardons - such as Elliott Abrams - are deeply involved in misshaping US foreign policy again today.  Others involved in Iran/Contra who resurfaced in recent years are Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Negroponte, Bob Gates, John Poindexter, Otto Reich and Michael Ledeen.  Those names characterize the nature of our current administration.  For those who don't remember the Iran/Contra hearings, lying to Congress, embezzlement from the US treasury and other official acts of misconduct were the issues then - not the number of people we killed or the terrorism we sponsored in Nicaragua and throughout Central America.  Regardless of what one thinks about the underlying policy issues of these scandals, I would argue that such people - those who have no respect for truth or the role of Congress in our government - are unfit to serve in public office.  However, the granting of a pardon whitewashes such sins and allows these people to recirculate and continue to contaminate official policy.  The mere act of lying to Congress or committing perjury before a grand jury should permanently bar one from any public position or government contracting position.  If it does not, what kind of society are we other than a corrupt one?  While perjury and obstruction seem like petty issues compared to outing an undercover CIA operative for political reasons, those crimes were directly germane to Libby's official acts in office.  Truth and openness should be at the core of our government.

In a subsequent email I had with Wineke I think he understood my basic point about government ethics - which I probably could have made more succinctly by leaving out any lingering outrage about the war - but he still thinks Libby should be shown mercy because he's "an essentially
decent man".  I'll reserve judgment on that; the face one shows in court to a jury does not reflect Libby's actions in government, such as with Powell's UN speech, or his close association to Cheney, Wolfowitz and PNAC.  Other than that I've never met the man and don't know if he's a "nice guy" or not.  Nor should one's affability determine the length of one's sentence.

I think the secondary issue of recirculation of corrupt public officials is maybe even more important.  Iran/Contra was arguably much more damaging from a foreign policy, Congressional control, and constitutional standpoint, but it seems that the common underlying rot is in pardoning official crimes, and then allowing those people to hold public office again.  What do Kossacks think?

Originally posted to skrekk on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 01:06 PM PST.


Recycling convicted felons back into government service is:

14%1 votes
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71%5 votes
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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (8+ / 0-)

    Go easy on me...first time diarist, long time lurker/commenter.

  •  Libby is a murderer. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skrekk, UncleBuck

    He had a direct role in leaking the identity of the head of a CIA shell company.  That company had agents throughout some of the most hostile places on earth, dealing with some of the nastiest people on earth.  When Valerie Plame was revealed not to be a corrupt part of an arms country but in fact a covert agent, some of those people were most likely killed.

    Libby should have been hanged for treason, affable or not.

    It's not a justice system. It's just a system.

    by bluedogtxn on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 01:09:28 PM PST

    •  Or at least an aider and abettor of murder n/t (0+ / 0-)

      "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

      by bobdevo on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 01:11:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  well (0+ / 0-)

      There is one unknown star on the CIA wall that could be related to the outing.

      But I think it's too far to call Libby a murderer.

      •  Do you call a drunk who plows into (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        skrekk, DBunn, UncleBuck

        a family a murderer?  I do.

        What Libby participated in could reasonably be expected to result in dead people.  Not only dead CIA agents, but brokers, middlemen, even innocent folks who were involved in this clandestine network and were targeted by association.  The guy who innocently introduced one of the company reps to another guy with a suitcase full of cash wanting an RPG...

        That guy's dead.

        The guy who said he could get an order from the company rep, not knowing it was a front.  That guy's dead.  

        The secretary at the fake office in Tehran who insists she didn't know anything, even under torture.  Well, I'm sure the Revolutionary Guard guys are gonna be real sympathetic, right up until she's dead.

        He's a murdering skunk.  There is no going "too far".

        It's not a justice system. It's just a system.

        by bluedogtxn on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 01:23:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  uh (0+ / 0-)

          Not sure where you're going with the drunk canard.. that came out of left field.

          Re-read your post.. it's all hypothetical.

          •  The drunk, before he gets in the car, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ought to know that what he's doing can reasonably be expected to have a chance of killing someone.  He gets in the car and rolls the dice.

            Scooter Libby and his boss and their co-conspirators ought to have known, based on their experience in clandestine matters, that the course they were undertaking could reasonably be expected to kill someone.  They rolled the dice anyway.

            As to the "hypothetical" nature of the killings, well, since the same guys who did the leaking of the name control the leaking of the consequences of what they did (and it's all highly classified), do you reasonably expect the results to be anything other than hypothetical for the rest of us?

            What they did could and likely did, quite predictably, result in people being killed.  They, like the drunk in the "canard", damn well knew it, too.

            It's not a justice system. It's just a system.

            by bluedogtxn on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 02:21:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  heh (0+ / 0-)

    Libby may have been the only official stupid enough to lie consistently to a grand jury, but he was surely taking the fall for a White House that kept denying in all pious righteousness that it was involved in destroying the career of a trusted government official.

    Okay, let's trade. Bush pardons Libby, then Bush and Cheney both resign.

    Sound good?

  •  The ONLY advantage of a pardon... (0+ / 0-)

    is that it is deemed (legally) to admit guilt.  Offering it presumes guilt.

    So if Bush were to do so...

    "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

    by ogre on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 01:17:46 PM PST

    •  Actually, accepting the pardon implies guilt, (0+ / 0-)

      according to the 1915 Burdick v US ruling.  Citing myself in a previous post....a pardon can be rejected by the recipient, but if accepted, the pardon carries a confession of guilt.

      The problem is that pardoned felons, such as Elliott Abrams, are free to serve in the government again.

      •  And thus the need for impeachment ANYWAY. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It allows the criminal to be disbarred from serving in any federal post, even after a pardon...

        "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

        by ogre on Fri Mar 09, 2007 at 05:38:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Don't want pardon--impeach (0+ / 0-)

    Nice first, skrekk

  •  It's About ACCOUNTABILITY !! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skrekk, DBunn, gustynpip

    All the Republicans I know, espouse accountability.  
    And yet, I can think of nothing more UN-accountable, than letting a perjured felon be pardoned.  
    His perjury blocked an investigation into a serious crime, not to mention possibly covering up other crimes.
    I don't see, how being "nice" plays any factor.  I hear Ken Lay was a heckuva guy, too, as well as Bernie Ebbers.
    And he gets paid to write this dribble?

    •  Don't ya know - Accountability is for others. (0+ / 0-)

      Democrats, liberals, progressive, that kind of folk.  Repubs - they're above accountability.  Yea, yea, some call that hypocrisy.  But that don't apply to Repubs either.  Repubs Can't be hypocrits.  Cause the rules just aren't the same.  Ya just gotta understand how things work if ya wanna play in the Repub world.

    •  Usually Wineke is pretty thoughtful & good, (0+ / 0-)

      but he was really off-base on this one.  In his follow up email to me he referred to some of the comments various jurors made after the trial - that Libby was not charged with the underlying crime, and that he should be pardoned.  Somehow those jurors seem to have forgotten what crimes Libby had been charged with between when they finished their deliberations, and when they exited the courthouse.

  •  Great LTE (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skrekk, gustynpip

    Probably a bit long to get published, though :)

    One consequence of Libby's actions that you did not discuss-- the impact of his obstruction of justice on the 04 elections. He deprived the voters of information that, had they known it, would have been enough swing a very close election the other way. Now that is a crime against the American people.

    As to Mr. Wineke, the quality of his compassion is suspect. The guys who import heroin or hold up 7-11 stores, I'm sure also have a very pleasant and charming side to their personalities. They suffer greatly during the ordeal of investigation and trial. They have kids who will suffer while they serve their time. They have dreams that will never come true. Does he favor pardons for them too?

    •  Good point about the elections (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think PlameGate, and the NSA wiretapping issue, would likely have swayed the vote...had they been fully revealed prior to the elections.

      My letter was actually an email directly to Wineke about his column in order to get a response - not an LTE per se - so I was trying to be respectful and focus just on the government ethics issue, so I didn't bring up white collar vs street crime.  I just hope that when I get caught selling crack that my bubbly personality shines through.

      •  No question (0+ / 0-)

        ... the election would have gone the other way. But don't take my word for it-- ask Libby! Why else obstruct the investigation? The simple goal of the leak-- to punish Joe Wilson-- had been accomplished. The simple crime-- the leak of Plame's name-- was not prosecutable because knowledge of her covert status was not provable.

  •  Attempt to redirect: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    what do people think about officials who have been convicted of felonies related to their office, subsequently being pardoned and then serving in public office again?  Or being able to secure government contracts?  Elliott Abrams (my pick for most vile) and  John Poindexter are just a couple of examples, but I know the Bush admin has used many more from Iran/Contra.  Although not a felon, that John Negroponte could ever get a job in the government again - much less Senate confirmations - is beyond me.  He would be my choice for person most deserving of a felony conviction.

  •  Ethics & Rethugs-- hahahahaha (0+ / 0-)

    Need a pardon for Libby, so he can serve in the next Rethug admin. too, heheheheheh.

    The editorialist advocating a pardon is engaging in being an accomplice to the crimes against our country and Constitution.

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