Bush Commutes Libby Sentence (updated)
For Bush, this gambit comes at the perfect time, though I’m not sure how helpful it will be for Republicans in the long term; the President’s decision to commute the sentence should take the spotlight off of his Immigration Reform Bill debacle, at least for the time being — but it will also turn the public conversation to political favoritism, and already, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer are positioning themselves for high moral dudgeon.
And, to add to the drama, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden wants an outraged public (read: progressive partisans who want to keep their lone, pitiful, dishonestly acquired scalp) to dial-up the White House and express their OUTRAGE!
Hopefully, Republican presidential candidates can figure out a way to make this a campaign issue that works to their advantage — which I think they can do, if they are able to explain to people just what Libby was convicted of, and on the basis of what, precisely, that conviction was handed down. (Tim Russert, call your office, please.)
Because until that time, we’ll hear nothing from the press but the slowly ossifying “truth” that Libby “outed” a “covert” CIA agent — even though he wasn’t even the leaker, and even though Plame was not covert in any way that made the “outing” illegal under the IIPA.
For what it’s worth, my money is on Fred Thompson. Should he (ahem) ever announce.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bush said in a statement. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.’Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
The presidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s action means that LibbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s conviction still stands and he is still required to pay the $250,000 fine ordered by a federal judge.
This falls short of a pardon — and I suppose there’s still a chance that Bush will grant Libby the full pardon before exiting the White House, should Libby lose his appeal on the conviction. But if the President was going to take the kind of sustained heat he’s about to get from the press and Congressional Democrats, anyway — and believe me, they’ll be falling over themselves to get in front of a camera to talk about the Republican culture of corruption — he should have just done the right thing and pardoned Libby completely.
And yes, I believe a pardon is the right move, and that commuting the sentence is just another in the most recent string of Bush compromises. On the other hand, from a pragmatic perspective, it keeps alive the possibility that Libby succeeds in his appeal, so it’s not a bad political gamble, all things considered.
The one good thing to come out of all this? Is that Joe Wilson, it’s fair to say, will be none to happy:
In a recent interview with Ã¢â‚¬Å“In The Know TV,Ã¢â‚¬Â a public affairs television show broadcast in the DC area, Joe Wilson Ã¢â‚¬â€ the husband of former CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame Ã¢â‚¬â€ spoke out about the potential pardoning of Scooter Libby.
Wilson argued, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Considering that this is an obstruction of justice case, and considering that the prosecutor has said repeatedly that there remains a cloud over the Vice President, it seems to me that those who are arguing for pardon are in fact accessories to an ongoing crime.Ã¢â‚¬Â He said that until the cloud over Cheney is lifted, the ultimate crime cannot be said to have been punished.
Wilson also argued that Bush should recuse himself from any involvement with the Libby scandal. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The idea that the President would not recuse himself given the superior-subordinate relationship he had with Mr. Libby Ã¢â‚¬â€ and considering that it would be the first time that you would consider a pardon in a criminal investigation that involves perhaps the Office of the President, certainly the Office of the Vice President Ã¢â‚¬â€ would be totally inappropriate,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
The idea the Wilson would talk about recusal given the superior-subordinate relationship he had with his wife — who orchestrated his being sent on the “fact-finding” mission that uncovered facts opposite to those he outlined in his infamous op-ed — speaks not only to his repulsive arrogance, but also to his failure to recognize an irony so clarified that it belongs in a ramekin next to a 5 lb lobster tail.
Tell me, does anybody have standing to sue this guy for wasting tax payer dollars — and for dividing the country with his transparent attempt to swing an election by publishing material that was later revealed to be one of a string of lies for which Wilson, unlike Libby, has not been prosecuted?
update: Well, I predicted the media would break out the “Libby outed Plame” falsehood, but I suppose a Democratic presidential hopeful and media darling Barack Obama will have to do:
This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people’s faith in a government that puts the country’s progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years.”
Well, not that he’s likely to take advice from me, but Obama might begin this restoration of “the American people’s faith in a government that puts the country’s progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years” by, first of all, not engaging in the very behavior he claims to condemn (he calls the Administration cynical and divisive while being cynical and divisive), and second of all, not mis-characterizing the crime or person who was convicted of it: Libby did absolutely nothing to compromise our “national security.” To say the he did is an unconscionable slander, one born either of ignorance or cynical opportunism.
If Obama is looking for the leaker, Fitzgerald found him: Richard Armitage. Who, incidentally, has never been prosecuted, and who is not, so far as I can tell, being accused, essentially, of being a traitor to his country.