Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Gettting Off Scoot Free

"Fireworks on the Fourth of July at the Watergate?"

When I saw the news that the President commuted Lewis Scooter Libby’s prison sentence, I was numb. A couple weeks ago I had asked what the over-under would be on Libby spending more time behind bars than Paris Hilton. While I’m not shocked by the way that one turned out, I’m not sure what it means. On the day of the Libby pre-Independence Day announcement, I was at the airport and happened to pick up a copy of People Magazine which did a cover article on Paris’s post-jail interview.

In jail, Paris Hilton got to pray a lot, read the Bible and other books of spiritual inspiration, and got to think about what really matters in life. Given how positive the experience appears to have been for Paris Hilton in the long term, I’m sorry that the former vice presidential chief of staff didn’t get the opportunity to benefit from the experience. One of the reasons Judge Walton gave him a relatively stiff sentence was that Libby showed no signs either of contrition or respect for a Federal investigation. I’ll always wonder what might have happened if Scooter had been given the chance to consider the nature of his crimes, examine his soul, and perhaps consider that the underlying crime might have killed several people.

When Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon more than thirty years ago, he balanced the act by setting up an amnesty plan for Americans who had reported to Canada instead of their local selective service office. At the time, the former President had already resigned his office and several of his former aides had either been convicted or spent some time in prison. In 1976, I didn’t like the fact that Nixon had been pardoned by the man he had chosen as his own successor. Looking back, I can see the argument that America needed to get past both Watergate and the War in Vietnam, both of which ended during the Ford administration. I don’t necessarily agree, but I don’t now think that Ford’s motives were purely political.

George Bush the Less Ignominious pardoned most of the principals in Iran Contra, a scandal in which the older Bush had also been implicated. It’s not talked about a lot today. Robert Gates and John Negroponte didn’t get pardons but they were tied to Iran Contra in some way and both possibly escaped being implicated more because of the pardons given the six individuals spared by Bush 43.

It’s worth pointing out that Libby’s sentence was only commuted. At this point, he remains a convicted felon and must pay a 250 thousand dollar fine. The President said that he was concerned that Scooter’s sentence was excessive (apparently the average sentence for obstructing justice is something like 64 months and 3 of 4 first time offenders do prison time). At this point, the President and Scooter’s actions sentenced some thirty five hundred Americans to death along with possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. All indications suggest that the President plans to stay in Iraq at least another year and half which means that another thousand Americans have received the equivalent of a death sentence. He doesn’t seem nearly as worried about them, nor has the President apologized to either Valerie Plame or Joe Wilson. These compassionate conservavtive sure seem to be selective with it.

I believe the President should have the power to pardon, but this President has been militant about not giving pardons up to now. To me, it’s pretty simple, this wasn’t an act of clemency, it’s a cover up. I don’t think it’s what Jefferson had in mind when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.



At 7/04/2007 05:45:00 PM, Blogger benny06 said...

Today is low key for me. We need to reclaim our independence from this King George.

Your arguments are the strongest I've read, and I would like to post a link to them too on my blog.

BTW, today's my birthday too, CL. I keep thinking about the bicentennial celebration and how it meant so much to me when I was 17 today, 31 years ago.

At 7/05/2007 01:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I emailed Mr. Cheney that the dream of America is that it is a government of laws not of privileged people. The idea that Mr. Libby would have been commuted if he had been Joe Citizen is brazen nonsense.

You can call the White House direct Comments Line 202.456.1111 to express your dismay. It will be busy. Just redial very fast a few times when you get the busy signal.

Also you can email

They've already raised the (pocket-change) money from the gigarich friends to pay Mr. Libby's fine so don't cry for him in that regard.

Does Mr. Bush shed a single crocodile tear for Mrs. Wilson's loss of her lifetime's service to our country?

At 7/05/2007 04:56:00 AM, Blogger Charles Lambert said...

How many pardons did Bush refuse to give when he was governor? But I suppose that was different. Those people were murderers.

At 7/05/2007 09:13:00 AM, Blogger None said...

What bothers me most is that Libby will not fess up. Just say, "I'm sorry". Thats all I ask. Rather, he clings to the stonewall created by Rush Limbaugh's of the world, WSJ editorial board and the rest of the right wingers.

My guess is that Bush was just looking out for the kids on this one. The devastating consequences of prison time can be fatal to the family unit. I mean.. think f the kids!

But, CL, you make a great point. Solitary confinement can be a great place to rediscover God. And, thats what the contemporary conservatives are all about.

At 7/06/2007 02:16:00 PM, Blogger Martin Heavisides said...

Considering how liberal he was with execution while governor, I'd say Bush showed a side of himself few that have run afoul of the law have seen before. I'm of two minds. I think a few other people, not least Cheney, should have been in the docks with him, and Scooter Libby's share in the crime may have been less than those of others who were untouchable.
I imagine, with your stepson and daughter in law's situation, all this has considerable personal meaning to you.

At 7/07/2007 02:08:00 PM, Blogger inkyhack said...

According to an article I recently read, the sentence handed to Libby wasn't even considered "stiff." It actually was fairly average for what others guilty of his crime have committed. Stiff, according to the article, would have been five to seven years.

The really funny thing about it is the judge was appointed to the bench by Bush. Bush said he appointed that judge because the guy was "tough on crime." Guess he was tough on the wrong crimes, though.

Also, even more interesting, is that the Republicans are currently trying to pass a law that would allow federal judges to make sentences even stiffer but not make them more lenient. Yet, they then turn around and claim that this judge is too stiff and not lenient enough.

So, I ask, where are the protests?

At 7/08/2007 06:44:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks. I hope you had a good Fourth and happy birthday.

Mr. Pogblog,
I smiled when I saw that Libby had written a personal check to pay the entire fine the day after the President commuted his sentence. That was his entire penalty.

It truly is strange isn't it? He literally laughed at someone in a death penalty case, but this was excessive somehow.

Yes, according to Paris Hilton, jail time did wonders for her soul. I'm glad though that the Libby family won't suffer from having dad in prison and that they'll be able to pay their rent, etc.

This does appear to be the first time that the President has indicated an interest in shortening prison sentences. Funny thing that.

Yep....I mentioned that the sentence was pretty much average for a first time offender who committed this particular crime. The mainstream press barely mentioned that Bush had appointed Walton himself.

At 7/08/2007 05:59:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Some 4th of July then. At least Benny gets a birthday out of it. Maybe Paris could go wrangle a deal out of W. She could probably bore him into doing anything after a couple of hours.

At 7/08/2007 08:21:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

you do realize that the Republicans are likely to nominate Paris Hilton for the presidency in about a dozen years.


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