mercredi, juillet 04, 2007

The Scooter defense

Driving to pick up Sian from camp yesterday, I listened to someone on NPR (all I know was it wasn't infectiously enthusiastic Neal Conan) take calls about President Bush's choice to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence.

Predictably enough, the calls ran the gamut, from those who thought it was a travesty, to those who felt Libby really hadn't done much, if anything, awful enough to be jailed, to callers who felt (a sentiment with which I agree) that Libby was a fall guy for VP Dick Cheney.

Because he was a fall guy (and because many of them don't feel what he did was a crime) conservatives would like a full pardon. Because they are furious at this Administration's notion of executive branch power, liberals want a full scale dissection.

Asked for his newspaper's opinion by the host, a gentleman from the Wall Street Journal editorial page staff opined as how the newspaper felt that the original punishment wasn't fair to begin with-because the crime wasn't that serious. After all, he argued, Libby hadn't outed Valerie Plame as a covert agent-and prosecutor Fitzgerald knew that from the get-go. Regardless of whether Plame was or wasn't, my beef with the WSJ guy is that the trial wasn't about the original leak-it was about the cover-up. Even if the prosecutor couldn't prove that a crime was committed, perjury is a serious enough offense to merit a serious punishment.

If members of the White House West Wing staff were on trial for trying to cover up the truth, most of them would be gone by now. This is one of the most secrecy-addicted administrations since that of Richard Nixon.

That being said, it may not be wise for former Prez Bill Clinton to be talking about this subject, given his own issues with lying to a grand jury-but that never stopped him before.

President Bush's commutation decision is apparently wonderful news for defense lawyers who want to argue about the draconian nature of federal sentencing guidelines. But it is also an indication that for George B., when loyalty and policy collide, loyalty wins-even at the sacrifice of his own principles.

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