As much of an affront the Scooter Libby virtual pardon seems at first glance, when you look at the facts surrounding the legal reach around on the American people, and the punditocracy's gasbaggery response to it, it's that much worse. Today's Progress Report has all the disgusting, dirty details of the administration's hypocrisy. Consider:
After commuting the 30-month prison sentence for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, President Bush on Tuesday left the door open for a future pardon, stating, "As to the future, I rule nothing in and nothing out." Despite Libby's conviction of obstruction of justice, giving false statements, and perjury in federal court, Bush has shown a disregard for the rule of law with the commutation.
Not that it's surprising given the near constant middle finger this administration has given the American people, but the hypocrisy on this is especially astounding:
In his own book, A Charge To Keep, Bush stated, "I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own," in reference to why he signed death warrants for 152 inmates as governor of Texas.
Now, some might argue that this is a totally different situation. But how about this?
Bush's commutation for Libby contradicts the precedent set by his own Justice Department. For example, in a case recently decided by the Supreme Court, the Justice Department persuaded the Court to preserve a 33-month sentence of a defendant whose case closely resembled Libby's. "The defendant, Victor A. Rita, was, like Mr. Libby, convicted of perjury, making false statements to federal agents and obstruction of justice. Mr. Rita has performed extensive government service, just as Mr. Libby has." In fact, Rita's perjury concerned simply "a possible violation of a machine-gun registration law." But when Rita "argued that his 33-month sentence had failed to consider his history and circumstances adequately, the Justice Department strenuously disagreed." (emphasis added)
But it's even broader than that one strikingly similar (and much more innocuous) case. This part is perhaps the most unbelievable:
In arguing for Libby, Bush considered Libby's individual circumstances, stating that the punishment was "excessive" and had already "damaged [Libby's] career and reputation and caused his wife and young children to suffer." Cheney said the punishment was not fit for the "fine man" that Libby is. "The Bush administration, however, has consistently maintained that at sentencing, judges should be precluded from thinking about precisely the sort of individual circumstances the president raised in lending a hand to Libby." Last month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Department "would push for legislation making federal sentences tougher and less flexible," which would reverse the 2005 Supreme Court decision United States v. Booker, "which authorized sentencing judges to consider factors like a defendant's life story and the nature and circumstances of his or her offense." Thus, Bush's reasons for Libby's clemency directly contradict Gonzales's legislation. (emphasis added)
Allow me refresh your memory: Once upon a time, we heard Stuart Taylor of The National Journal complaining on "Meet the Press" that "I’d like to be able to tell my children, ‘You should tell the truth. I’d like to be able to tell them, ‘You should respect the president.’ And I’d like to be able to tell them both things at the same time."
His colleague on that same program, William J. Bennett, spoke of the "moral and intellectual disarmament" that befalls a nation when its president is not "being a decent example" and "teaching kids the difference between right and wrong." "We have a right to say to this president, ‘What you have done is an example to our children that’s a disgrace,’" he added.
These views were seconded by Cokie Roberts, who said she "approach[ed] this as a mother." "This ought to be something that outrages us, makes us ashamed of him," she said. (Her children were fully grown, but perhaps unusually sensitive.) On "The McLaughlin Group," the panel spent some time actually discussing whether that same president, was, in fact, Satan. I am not making this up.
Apparently, the problem was not so much the lies, but who was doing the lying. As "Dean" David Broder famously explained to famed Georgetown hostess and sometime reporter Sally Quin of then-president Bill Clinton: "He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place."
Now look where they are:
New York Times neo-con David Brooks is thrilled that the"farce" of the Libby case has finally allowed "justice" to "rear its head." National Review’s Mark Levin explains that "The way I see it, Lewis Libby was about to become a political prisoner and the president prevented that." (Ironically Levin’s previous post linked to a story about the conviction of a Democratic senator’s son and remarked that "I assume he’ll serve at least as long as Paris Hilton.’)
Yet The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page leads the charge for a full pardon, complaining: "[B]y failing to issue a full pardon, Mr. Bush is evading responsibility for the role his administration played in letting the Plame affair build into fiasco and, ultimately, this personal tragedy." Martin Peretz, writing on his TNR blog, criticizes those "who cannot bear the thought that this president has used his clear and not at all questionable constitutional power to commute the sentence of or pardon anyone sentenced by a federal court," and calls the entire case "foul."