2007-07-12 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Libby Commutation's Another
By Neil S. Friedman

Libby Commutation's

By Neil S. Friedman

Unpardonable Bush Decision

It was hardly a bombshell when President Bush commuted the sentence of convicted perjurer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week.

As a matter of fact, no sooner was Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief aide sentenced to what some thought was an excessive 30-month sentence a few weeks ago then speculation quickly began that a pardon was forthcoming. But, no one expected such hasty presidential action, albeit only a commutation - the counterpart of a Get Out of Jail Free pass.

Libby was sentenced last month under federal guidelines for perjury and obstruction of justice after a lengthy investigation into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. That revelation to the media, in fact, was believed to be White House retaliation for her husband Joseph Wilson's New York Times op-ed piece that implied the administration's intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - a primary motive for Operation Iraqi Freedom - was false.

It must be fun to be president. Aside from power, prestige and influence, sometimes you get the opportunity to do favors for cronies and their associates. You get them cushy government jobs - even when they may not be qualified. Maybe you exert a little influence so their previous employers wind up making sizeable profits. And, when you're a lame duck - George W. Bush could be the lamest duck we've had in a long, long time - with less than 18 months left in office, what've you got to lose, except a few approval ratings points and another black mark on a chock-full of black-marked legacy.

So, here was Bush, with an electorate that has essentially forsaken him, saying, "I don't care about my 29 percent approval rating. I'm still president and I can do whatever the heck I want."

Incidentally, Libby's sentence wasn't excessive. His 2 1/2-year sentence was similar to rulings on other obstruction cases. According to a few legal Internet sites, the average term for most people convicted for obstruction of justice in federal court is more than five years.

It's become a presidential tradition to issue 11th hour pardons just before leaving office. President Clinton went hog wild and commuted the sentences of 36 people and pardoned 140 people, including a few that were controversial - on his last day in office.

Bush couldn't wait that long. He obviously didn't want Scooter to sit in jail for almost 18 months, so he commuted the sentence. One Democrat senator believes Bush acted abruptly in case Libby had any notions of implicating others.

No wonder GOP presidential hopefuls have distanced themselves from the unpopular administration. They hope to remain clear of its hypocrisy, among other damaging issues.

In freeing Libby, Bush breached his 2000 campaign pledge - made in the wake of Bill Clinton's White House scandals - to hold wrongdoers accountable and to "restore honor and dignity" to the White House.

Sadly, the commutation, which just might be a prelude toward a full pardon, for a convicted liar is hardly dignified.

But, the hypocrisy doesn't stop there.

Remember when the investigation began into the leak of a CIA agent's identity? Bush vowed to fire anybody involved, but adviser Karl Rove, one known leaker, still works at the White House. Libby kept his job until he was indicted for lying.

Want more hypocrisy? What about all the Republicans who insisted that President Clinton be impeached for lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky? Many of them now down play Libby's perjury.

Politicians who live in glass houses…

The Bush Administration seems to be following a growing pattern that clearly demonstrates the inequality in American justice - with the exception of Martha Stewart - when the rich and powerful typically get minimum sentences or manage to beat the system.

And THAT, ultimately, is most unpardonable!

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