Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Libby's Free Pass

Yesterday George W. Bush commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby without him having served a day in jail. He did it without consulting the Justice Department in violation of strict guidelines that he had loudly trumpeted on entering office in the wake of Bill Clinton's highly scandalous pardon of fugitive billionaire Marc Rich on his way out the door. I think a reduction in his sentence was justified. In fairness the prisons sentence was extreme and seemed to ignore a number of extenuating and mitigating circumstances. Thus I would have been ok if it was reduced to say one year. However, I would feel a little better about it if it came from someone who had not firmly established the reputation for being among the most unforgiving presidents in history.

Bush has issued fewer pardons (a little over 100) and commutations (only 3) than any president in modern history. Per capita he holds the record for the fewest. His administration has consistently demanded that US Attorneys seek maximum sentences in all criminal prosecutions irregardless of extenuating circumstances, and that Federal Judges stick to the sentencing guidelines which Republicans crafted with a lock em up and throw the key away mentality. Those sentencing guidelines were scrupulously adhered to in Mr. Libby's case. All of which causes me to ask, was this a case of helping out a buddy or was it a case of buying someone’s silence? Neither appeals to me. Based on his record I am not inclined to accept that this was just George’s humane nature shining through. How does one square this sudden act of mercy with Bush’s extreme reluctance to use the clemency powers of his office?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You’re really taking a cynical look at this purely from Bush’s perspective in saying that this was helping out a buddy or buying silence. Maybe it was a response to the circling sharks who so badly want someone from this administration who they have disliked from the start to go to prison. Remember that the Clinton administration had a number of people convicted and some go to prison that were inside the administration and those that were associated with them. It’s a black mark on Clinton and those that support him want to make sure that Bush doesn’t get away without at least someone going to prison. The merits do not matter but the image of a high administration official going to prison, even if for jaywalking, would go a long way in vindicating people that this administration is filled with evildoers who have pulled the wool over our eyes. In short, Bush’s commutation was the right thing to do in a case where the conviction was not part of the what the original “crime” was that was being investigated and could be argued that you had a prosecutor who wasn’t going to end the investigation without SOMEONE being charged and convicted. In the end this was a non crime, no one got hurt, but someone was going to spend 30 months in jail because of that? A lot to do about nothing and Bush finally ended the madness. Libby still has a significant fine and the conviction on his record. A large penalty for a non crime as is.

The aims of those that are up in arms about this commutation must be considered as well. You can be very well assured that the same people that want to throw Libby in prison for a non crime for 30 months are the same people that want to close down Gitmo because enemy combatants are being unjustly held in their eyes. Libby couldn’t remember what he said a few years after he said something and the Gitmo people were captured on a battlefield against our forces. Maybe if we proved the combatants lied about something these people after Libby would be convinced to keep the combatants in jail. There’s a serious disconnect there. Let Libby go, keep the combatants in. That’s the proper scenario.