For the last few days, friends have been asking me what I think of the Libby pardon, and then sort of stepping back, wary but with looks amused anticipation on their faces, waiting for me to erupt in incensed indignation.
And they are invariably disappointed when I instead shrug and say, "I don't see how Libby going to jail matters, one way or the other."
Look people, here's the deal. Libby is (or, rather, was) nothing more than one tentacle of the Cephalopod we know and loathe as Dick Cheney. Everything the guy did--from leaking Plame's name to furiously trying to cover it up--was done either at the behest or to cover the ass of his Dark Master. To get all flushed and giddy of the prospect of Libby going to the pokey, while Cheney not only remains free but continue to pretty much run this joint, strikes me as the equivalent of throwing a single Sprite can into your recycling bin and declaring victory over global warming.
On the other hand, Bush's pardon of Libby has a bunch of positive side-effects:
It further illustrates the stunning contempt this administration has for the rule of law. For those of us who have been paying attention, providing more evidence that this administration essentially considers itself unfettered by the checks and balances of the legislative and judicial branches is like carrying coals to Newcastle. But Libby's pardon neatly encapsulates their monarchical arrogance into a single, easy-to-understand event, concise enough for a headline or a CNN crawler. No more trying to explain the intricacies of the US Attorney scandal and how it subtlety demonstrates the White House's disregard for accountability; now you just say "Libby's pardon" and people know exactly what you are talking about.
It negates the "Clinton factor." Apologists for the White House love to talk about Bill Clinton, and how much worse he was than the current occupant of the oval office. Or, at least, they used to--before Bush managed to equal and surpass pretty much every wrongheaded decision and politically-motivated maneuver Slick Willy ever attempted in his eight years of office. Pretty much the only thing Clintonphobes could still cite as unambiguously worse about the previous administration was the use of pardons, thanks to Marc Rich's Get Out Of Jail Free card. Now they don't even have that anymore. (And, fun fact: after the Rich pardon, Clinton wrote an op-ed for the New York Times attempting to justify his decision; Bush, on the other hand, couldn't even be bother do to his own clean-up, instead letting Tony Snow do the 'splainin'. An op-ed, by the way, in which Snow mentions Clinton's name as many times as he does that of his boss.)
It keeps the Plame scandal alive: You put a scapegoat in jail, and that's pretty much the end of the story. Once Ken Lay was convicted, talk of his connections to the White House largely stopped. That's a little thing called "closure," and something--thanks to Bush's decision--we do not yet have on the Plame Affair.
It draws attention to the absurdity of mandatory minimum sentencing requirements: People are outraged about the Libby pardon because Bush presumed to substitute his own judgment for that of the judge and jury. But the federal government does this all the time, with mandatory minimum sentencing laws. As recently as last month, Bush was "pushing legislation that would require prison time for nearly all criminals," ("Nearly" because perjurers and personal buddies will still get a pass, I assume.) If Bush's "judgment" in the Libby case rankles, ask yourself: if this really the guy you want setting sentencing requirements for all 50 states?
It strengthens the case for impeachment I have not yet boarded the I-Train--I don't want to live in a nation where, every time we have a divided government, the legislative branch spends all of its time and energy trying to eviscerate the executive, which is what I fear will happens if the President is impeached two administrations in a row. But my reservations only extend to Bush. The trail of slime in the Libby case leads back to Cheney, and I'm all for getting that guy gone.
If our government is like a house, Bush would be inside trashing the joint: breaking lamps, pulling over bookshelves (easy enough, given the amount of books he likely keeps on them), yanking up the carpet, and so on. He'll leave a mess, but the next inhabitant will be able to clean it up eventually. The stuff Cheney and Rove have done, though--be it the avocation of torture, the obsession with secrecy, or the stacking the judicial branch--is more akin to a toxic black mold, that sort that infests a house for generations, rendering the place unlivable.
I think Bush is pretty much done for, and impeaching him would serve little purpose; but Cheney is like a guy who has had "a few beers" and is roaming the countryside with a shotgun (if you can envision that farfetched scenario): the sooner he is disarmed, the better we'll be. Or, as Hendrik Hertzberg put it in The New Yorker, Cheney is:
the most influential public official in the country, not necessarily excluding President Bush, and his influence has been entirely malign. He is pathologically (but purposefully) secretive; treacherous toward colleagues; coldly manipulative of the callow, lazy, and ignorant President he serves; contemptuous of public opinion; and dismissive not only of international law (a fairly standard attitude for conservatives of his stripe) but also of the very idea that the Constitution and laws of the United States, including laws signed by his nominal superior, can be construed to limit the power of the executive to take any action that can plausibly be classified as part of an endless, endlessly expandable "war on terror."Yes, exactly. If the Libby walking calls more attention to this fact, then his pardon is all right by me. And if his reprieve stokes the fires of Cheney disgruntlement (as it appears to have done; currently 54% [!!] of all adults favor Cheney's impeachment) to such a degree that we actually throw the bum out, we'll look back on this day fondly.
Posted on July 05, 2007 to Politics
Just biz as usual in the White House...cronyism at it's finest...kinda like when Clinton pardoned his brother on cocaine charges, several people who were convicted of violating campaign contribution laws (contributions to HIS campaign...shocking), Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros....
So yeah...it's really a non story. The pardoning power really ought to be stripped from these guys....I don't know who the right guy to have the power is...but I do know it shouldn't be a policitician with debts to pay...on either side of the aisle.
Great post! I appreciate the well thought out analysis of the Libby Pardon and your opinions. Also the link to the Clinton op-ed was great addition. After reading it I am further convinced of Bill Clinton's commanding intelligence.
So that's how you spell Cephalopod...
Seriously, thank you for concisely summing up exactly how I've felt for years, the English language just doesn't get along as well with me as you...
And who was Marc Rich's lawyer from 1985 to 2000, just before he petitioned for a pardon?
Here here, my good man. Well played.
All I have to add is what I saw on a bumper sticker this afternoon:
"Frodo has failed. And Bush has the ring."
Granted, Cheney fills the metaphor better, but you get the message any way.
I'm not really up on my constitutional law but, as I understand it, there is no provision allowing for the impeachment of a vice-president.
To the framers,the VP as an afterthought. Additionally, Cheney's power is largely because he muscles into it in the name of the president, not because of the office he actually holds. I don't see vice-presidential impeachment, even if it is possible, doing that much to change his level of influence, just the title he carries.
Yes, well said, Matthew.
Ryan, here's the big, big, big difference between Clinton pardoning his brother and Bush commuting Scooter's sentence: Libby, a high-level government official, committed obstruction of justice (yes, a very serious crime for which people go to jail all the time) to shield his bosses from further investigation of much more serious charges (hello, impeachment). He took the fall for the man who later commuted his sentence. It's revealing that Bush, who says he agreed with the guilty verdict, nonetheless described the sentence as "excessive". Excessive? He didn't knock it down to fifteen months, or one month, or even one damn day. Bush thinks he's guilty, but that he shouldn't be punished? Zero jail time was clearly the price of Libby's silence. Was he promised that in advance? Just what kind of deal was made there? That's much worse than regular old cronyism. Roger and Bill don't even come close. And that's not a non-story to many of us.
But, as we all know, cynicism makes inaction cozy and comfortable. They're all the same, right? Why bother?
I'm not really up on my constitutional law but, as I understand it, there is no provision allowing for the impeachment of a vice-president.
Article II, section 4, my friend.
Another serious problem with Scooter's pardon is that the underlying crime - Cheney's crime - put many other people at risk. Clinton, at least, managed to limit the collateral damage.
When Plume was identified as a CIA operative, each of her contacts and informants were placed in grave danger. This just isn't done, for any reason. Perhaps, as this administration has repeatedly demonstrated, those lives don't matter, as they weren't American lives.
Bush seems incompetent and woefully inadequate, but Cheney is truly evil.
A lesser issue is the fact that Libby ruined a perfectly good nickname - for a generation, at least. That pisses me off, too.
Um, anybody here realize that Libby was not pardoned?
Don't think this is going to make the Bushinistas shut up about Clinton. I don't think any force on Earth can do that.
Matthew-- Very well put. I'm in agreement.
Andrew-- If it looks like a pardon and quacks like a pardon...
The point of impeachment is not to "get these guys gone". They'll be gone by the time the impeachment process is through anyway. The real point is to dig up dirt on the Bush administration, which is what the impeachment process will accomplish far more effectively and visibly than any congressional hearings ever will.
And the dirt dug up by the impeachment process will severely damage the GOP (who've largely tied their fortunes to the Bush administration in giving it virtually unwavering support).
That's why impeachment is important, not because it will get anyone out of office. Of course, time has really all but run out, as both parties want to focus on the '08 elections now. The Democrats should have really tried to impeach Bush long, long ago.
Andrew -- I'd lay odds he will be. I think Mordor (to carry through with the metaphor) thought a commutation would be more acceptable. I think it thought wrong, but whatever. Matthew -- great post. Maybe I should enjoy the tumult, rather than walking around seething.
If it looks like a pardon and quacks like a pardon...
...It might be a goose in disguise.
Right now, Libby's appeals are still in the works. Had Bush pardoned Libby, all his appeals and pending court cases would be nullified.
Why does that matter?
Because if Libby still has court action pending, he can still take the 5th in any investigation, hearing, or trial on the matter until his appeals are exhausted (which can take many years).
Isn't that clever? By commuting the sentence instead of pardoning Libby, Bush keeps him out of jail and keeps him from testifying in any Congressional hearings or future investigations.
Cheney must have thought that one up.
See, the nice thing about Sauron is that there was only one of him. Sure, there was the Witch King of Angmar and the rest of the Ringwraiths, but they were all bound to the Ring, so once Sauron was out, so were they.
Of course, looking back a generation (figuratively speaking), Sauron was second-fiddle to Morgoth, but I really can't stomach the idea of seeing Cheney in the main seat, so let's not go with that metaphor. Besides, Bush is no Morgoth.
Perhaps the closer analogy is to Theoden and Wormtongue... not because I think Bush is basically decent if only he didn't have that evil Dick Cheney standing next to the throne pouring poison into his ear, but because Wormtongue still did plenty of damage after leaving Rohan. :(
Hopefully if Libby is pardoned, he'll have the foresight to wear Kevlar or live in seclusion with Cardinal and the House of Saud as they take turns drilling the southern passages of underage altar boys and the corpses of American intelligence agents.
If Libby is pardoned, I'll pray to their non-existent Desert Savage Blood God (Yahweh) and his idiot son for a lone gunmen. The NRA and "conceal to carry" laws should be good for something. No crocodile tears for that mangy moral degenerate traitorous scum fuck.
And those neocon antiquarians dragging up Clinton -- still obsessed about a past they know nothing about while fellating Middle Eastern potentates -- should get a much deserved nutpunching. They are human garbage unworthy of forgiveness, mercy, or good will. Too many mass graves have been built by their Satanic handiwork.
A curse on their seed for seven times seven generations. Since most don't believe in evolution, I encourage people to tell their conservative Christian friends to start inbreeding and running up their credit cards (they're all orgasming for the anti-Semitic genocide / The Rapture since the 80s anyhow).
Pardoning Libby is only moderately less dignified than digging up Reagan's corpse and skullfucking it.
When the GOP wraps itself up in the flag, I'm tempted to douse them in gasoline and set them on fire.
"I don't see how Libby going to jail matters, one way or the other."
Well, if he knew ahead of time that he didn't have to serve jail time for obstructing a criminal investigation, then I'd say it's a pretty big deal. I couldn't give a rats ass if Libby goes to jail or not, but it does matter a great deal to Libby. And the subject deserves our anger and indignation, because we should want to see Libby afraid that if he doesn't tell the truth then he would have to go in the pokey. That's how we would have gotten to the bottom of the issue(s).
But it's all kind of moot, since our justice system is broken in this way, and it's too late to go back as far as I can tell.
1) It's not that incarcerating Libby makes folks feel better, it's that commuting his sentence feels terrible.
2) Commuting his sentence (without citizen OUTRAGE) makes it easier for this and future administrations to behave similarly, chipping away at the response that should be there.
3) Scooter Libby ain't the "nuts". But geez, if we can't even put the perjuring messenger in jail (for obstruction of justice), there's no hope we have to defend this country against those who would harm it.
4) It's not about Plame's job, folks. It's that outing her was a means to prevent the irrefutable disclosure that the case for the war in Iraq was a sham.
5) By commuting the sentence, but not pardoning the crime, this ensures that Libby will refuse to testify (take the 5th) in any case against his liege (such as impeachment proceedings), because he's involved in ongoing action (appealing.) It's a two-fer.
6) Calling attention? If people were unaware of the administrations tactics and activities to this point, they're not going to suddenly become aware.
Adam...my point is, that any side of the fence you are on is going to be ruffled by the actions of the other. Pardoning a drug dealing brother is just as obnoxious and scary as commuting the sentence of a guy who obstructed justice. And thanks for leaving out what I think is the most heinous of all the Clinton's pardon...the people who broke campaign contribution laws to his OWN campaign. Essentially he said...."Yeah F the campaign contribution law...I'll just pardon ya after the fact....(as long as you give me enough money to win)...oh yeah and you can sleep in the Lincoln bedroom too."
My bigger point is that politics is just a bunch of crap...and all the things you say you hate about this administration will be done by the other party the moment they take office. So be wise about saying that one party has the moral high ground over another. (ahem Murtha ahem)
I'm praying we are taken over by benevolent aliens...not unlike Kang and Kodos....wait...scratch that.
Wow...1,000 words and 9 comments before some (thank you, andrew) pointed out that Libby wasn't pardoned at all.
Matt - DY is on my short-list of must-read blogs. I'm always entertained and/or educated when I come here, and I even welcome you getting into the political stuff once in a while (even though it seems we disagree on a lot). But there oughta be a law - if you're going to be that eloquent, you really should be required to be proportionately accurate as well. Your post is well said, but plays fast & loose with the facts quite a bit. To wit:
- Libby wasn't pardoned. Nothing about this smells or quacks like a pardon either. He's a convicted criminal and that will follow him around for the rest of his life. Example: he'll likely never hold another job in any administration. Also, I don't care how rich you are, $250K is a lot of money. And if you're convinced that the money was raised for him by partisan backers, then fine - there's $250K less to be spent on the next right-wing scaremongering ad. Either way, the guilty get punished. The same can't be said for Marc Rich, etc.
- Not only was Libby not convicted of leaking Valerie Plame's name, he wasn't even *accused* of doing so. We know who leaked the name, but that answer simply isn't good enough to play media football (Armitage? Aw hell, nobody hates him. Heck, most people can't even pronounce that name...)
- The media keeps the Plame scandal alive, not this. Ironically, despite the supposed danger all of her former colleagues are in because her name is public, Valerie Plame and her husband seem to be accessories to this as well (if you were wrongly outed as a spy, would you show up at Washington dinner parties and pose for photographers?)
- To whomever said (and then repeated) that Libby's appeals allow him to plead the fifth: IANAL, but I'm pretty sure any citizen is allowed to plead the fifth under oath, if they feel their words might incriminate them, regardless of what other actions are pending in court. If I'm wrong, someone please explain it to me. Am I really disqualified from pleading the fifth just because no one's sued me for anything else yet?
- Luckily, we don't impeach people because we think they're evil. We actually need to accuse them of commiting a crime. And while Bush & Cheney have pissed off a lot of folks, no one can seem to pin them down on a specific law they've broken. Too bad one of them doesn't go & knock over a liquor store, huh?
Regarding pleading the fifth -- you can only claim the privilege of pleading the fifth if there is a possibility that you can be charged with something stemming from your testimony. Thus, common procedure is to grant immunity to the person testifying, taking away their right to claim that privilege and forcing them to testify.
Libby is someone who would definitely be granted immunity in order to get testimony against Cheney or Bush. However, I don't think he can be granted immunity for crimes he has already been found guilty of committing. And given that any testimony he gives could affect the pending case, they can't get him to testify.
Thanks, Mabel. That makes more sense to me. But one question: people aren't granted immunity, they're oferred it, right? Can a prosecutor unilaterally bestow immunity upon you & then compel you to testify?
And, of course, this ignores the other ways to testify without incriminating your friends ("I don't recall, Senator...")
At the end of the day, none of this makes it a bad thing when a guilty person remains guilty & is forced to pay a penalty for his crime. To suggest that this is a *BAD* thing is to either twist logic beyond pretzel status, or to satisfy a serious need to find deviousness in every single thing Bush/Chaney do.
Actually, people are granted immunity, not offered it. Immunity is a way to affirmatively take away someone's right to plead the fifth, because you can't say that you will be testifying against yourself if there is no possibility of your being charged for a crime. Immunity is not as much about protecting the witness as it is a tool by which testimony can be extracted from unwilling witnesses.
And that second option isn't really a good one either. In fact, I believe that those words (less the "Senator" part) were what got Libby indicted in the first place.
Fuel + Fire
I hate this administration as much as the next guy, but I think if Sandy Berger can get off with a $50,000 fine and loss of his security clearance for stealing classified documents, hiding them in his pants and later destroying them (presumably to protect the Clintons from their own failings with regards to Al-Qaeda)....then the commutation of Libby's jail term isn't that far out of line.
Enough of the foreplay. Let's get crackin.
"And while Bush & Cheney have pissed off a lot of folks, no one can seem to pin them down on a specific law they've broken."
Brian, how do you expect anyone to pin them down on a crime when they are abusing the powers of their office to protect their own asses? To me, that's what this is really about. Libby is guilty of obstructing justice - justice that was ultimately aimed at Cheney. That is a big problem. No truth can be gotten at if there is no repercussion for lying to investigators.
Damn, I hate having to pay attention to politics.
I'm right there with you, Nathan. Actions should have consequences. In Mr. Libby's case, those consequences included a $250,000 fine and the effective end of his career, consequences that would not exist had President Bush pardoned him.
As for Cheney, I wonder why you say, "justice that was ultimately aimed at Cheney," especially when someone else has already admitted to doing what you're implicitly accusing Cheney of having done. Is it because so many people on TV and in the blogosphere have been saying "I just know Bush or Cheney are mixed up in this" for the last couple of years?
I'm not saying Cheney wasn't involved, mind you, only that he's never been proven guilty of anything (let alone accused of anything in this case). Thankfully for all of us, the "he must be guilty" approach is not enough to go to trial...
Actually, the consequence was $250,000, the end to his career, and *jail time*. I've not heard a good explanation why all of that should not be meted out.
I say it was aimed at Cheney because by all accounts he was the man who was directing these men to leak names and lie to investigators (Libby had no motive to do so, Cheney and Bush did). Can I prove it in a court of law - no? But the man who was ultimately trying to do that very thing was stonewalled and obstructed by one of Cheney's underlings.
So you can't say that Cheney's not guilty because his guilt hasn't been proven, and then applaud the commutation of the sentence of the man who stopped the investigation that may have proven Cheney was guilty. That's not morally honest. Let justice be served. If Libby wants to lie to a grand jury about criminal matters, then he should have to pay the full consequences.
If you believe that justice has been served in this instance, and no further punishments are deserved, would you support going after Bush, Cheney, and their cronies for violating the Geneva Convention? For illegal (warrantless) surveillance? For invading a foreign country without declaring war? For sending suspected terrorists (like Canadian Maher Arar) to foreign countries like Syria, knowing full well that they would be tortured and abused for months. (He was returned to Canada after 14 months, and was found to have done nothing wrong). For running GitMo, which clearly violates international law, according to UN experts.
The frustration people feel with Libby avoiding jail time is natural. This administration feels that laws are meant for little people. If Libby had gone to jail quietly and served his time, then the matter might be closed. By commuting the prison sentence, it seems like Bush is trying to keep Libby from making a deal. Surely you can see this, even if it is just optics. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.
Honestly, tell us... Are you better off now than you were seven years ago? Do you really think Bush has done a better job than Gore would have?
Well, first of all, I'm not applauding the commutation of the sentence, merely pointing out that it wasn't a pardon (or anything close to a pardon).
Second, to paraphrase your comment, you can't admit that Cheney's innocent until proven guilty, and then assume that the obstruction of justice for which Libby was convicted would have proven Cheney guilty. That, too, would be morally dishonest.
Finally, Cheney was not directing these men "by all accounts." Maybe all media-based accounts. Or all Democratic accounts. But certainly not by account of the one guy who matters - the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. He never even accused Cheney of committing a crime.
Now, you may say that he would have accused him had Libby not lied to him, and you may be right. But my sympathy for the poor prosecutor is mitigated by the fact that someone else had already admitted to the crime when he interviewed Libby. So there was dirty pool on both sides here. Fitzgerald was asking a question he knew the answer to, and then hanged Libby for giving the wrong answer.
So yes, Libby committed a crime, but it's hard to believe that it actually obstructed a lot of justice.
Not that that makes it excusable...
People across America have reached the tipping point on the Bush White House. Talk of impeachment is everywhere, everywhere except the Beltway where I hear folks still think Bush is relevant. Here is what I think we should work on during the next few months.
Given the short period of time between now and the next Inauguration Day, we need to focus our efforts on two things: removing Vice President Cheney from office and neutralizing Karl Rove. Cheney is better suited as a Communist Party apparatchik under the old Soviet system than the vice president of a democratic republic. At the very least, Rove should be stripped of his security clearance. Obviously, he cannot be trusted with state secrets.
It is time for new adult supervision of the president.
Personally, I think it would be counterproductive (due to the short time frame) to impeach Bush. Also, it would be a grotesque sideshow. For all his posing and strutting about, at bottom Bush understands he is too inexperienced and uninformed to act on his own. Left entirely alone, he only makes boneheaded decisions (e.g. Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court). With the right kind of adult supervision, I believe Bush can be coerced into good behavior for the remainder of his term.
Impeachment is impossible without the cooperation of some Republicans. We need to convince moderate and/or endangered Republicans that Cheney is too toxic to leave in place. I suggest we promote the idea of a suitable replacement for Cheney. This should be a person of stature such as Sen. John Warner or Sen. Richard Lugar, neither of whom is running for president in 2008. These two gentlemen are respected by members of both parties?for their character and their foreign policy expertise.
As for Rove, I think Democrats should concentrate on revoking his security clearance. Bush will never fire him. But without a clearance, Rove is done.
Innocent until proven guilty. If this is the list of "crimes" that have been committed:
"If you believe that justice has been served in this instance, and no further punishments are deserved, would you support going after Bush, Cheney, and their cronies for violating the Geneva Convention? For illegal (warrantless) surveillance? For invading a foreign country without declaring war? For sending suspected terrorists (like Canadian Maher Arar) to foreign countries like Syria, knowing full well that they would be tortured and abused for months. (He was returned to Canada after 14 months, and was found to have done nothing wrong). For running GitMo, which clearly violates international law, according to UN experts."
Then each one has a set of corresponding elements that should be easily proven in a court of law. Go out and do it.
The problem is that while you are wholeheartedly believing that this is the fault of 2 people, it's the fault of the entire government (including the 90+ Senators of both parties who voted for the war). If we're going to impeach the leadership, you need to also impeach the foot soldiers who are going willingly along in lock-step.
Come November of 08, we'll see the real changes instituted by a new President...since the left did such a good job of doing nothing other than the status quo after the midterm elections, I'm eagerly awaiting the new version of the same old thing. (Said with dripping sarcasm, which of course can't be seen on a discussion board).
Matthew Baldwin and Brian Cockerham in 2008!
<oldman>And another thing...</oldman>
"Fault" does not justify impeachment. Neither does "being ruthless enough to get away every little bit of what you're allowed to do under the law, even if people think you're really sleazy for doing so."
Bush & Cheney both campaigned on strengthening the role of the executive branch relative to the other two branches, something they felt Bill Clinton had let falter during his term. In my opinion, they've taken this mantra to unbelievable extremes, and seem to have completely ignored the political/PR fallout of some of their positions. As a result, much of the nation doesn't like them, but no one seems able to pin them down to any "high crimes & misdemeanors" to warrant impeachment.
But man, it sure feels good to hate them so much...
> "Fault" does not justify impeachment. Neither does "being ruthless
> enough to get away every little bit of what you're allowed to do under
> the law, even if people think you're really sleazy for doing so."
Whoops! I see a spelling error in there...
> Impeachment is a constitutional remedy intended by the founders to be a
> method available to the legislative branch for controlling an
> out-of-control executive branch.
> Being caught in a criminal act is not necessary for impeachment; rather,
> the case must be made that the executive branch is failing to execute
> their mandate to protect the nation within the constraints of the
> constitution which they swore and oath upon.
> Given this administration's repeatedly demonstrated willingness to
> seize any and all powers to itself while daring others to call them on
> it, there is little reason NOT to consider the option of impeachment.
There! fixed that for you.