« “It’s the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one—and it stinks.” | Main | Ham Terror Alert Level: Green »

Following up on the Libby Mess

bush.jpgAs you know, earlier this week Bush stirred up quite a pot of trouble when he commuted Scooter Libby’s 30 month prison sentence. Now on one side of the coin, there’s no question that he has the power to do this, as it’s explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. And there may be some merit to the argument that other first time offenders found guilty of perjury rarely see much, if any, prison time (we have to remember that Libby wasn’t found guilty of actually leaking Valerie Plame’s CIA status, or any of the other crimes related to that incident). Alan Dershowitz even makes the interesting argument that it’s the appeals court which is really the bad guy here (he says that, yes, Bush acted politically but, right or wrong on the merits, Bush had the political authority to do so - the court, however, also acted politically, “but that was entirely improper, because judges are not allowed to act politically”). All that being said, there is still something I do have a problem with regarding Bush’s action, and that’s the utter hypocrisy of the whole thing.

As explained over at Slate, “what’s astonishing is that the factors Bush relied on in commuting Libby’s sentence are the same ones that the administration has aggressively sought to preclude judges from considering when imposing sentences on everyone else.” In other words, Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence goes against his own sentencing policy, as he and his administration have consistently argued that judges should never consider a criminal defendant’s particular situation when sentences are handed down, and should instead focus almost exclusively on the federal sentencing guidelines. And Bush’s hypocrisy is made worse by the fact that he’s never before pardoned anyone or issued any sentence commutation (at least while President, although I’m pretty sure he never did so while Governor of Texas either). Are we really to believe that Libby’s jail sentence was the most patently unfair sentence to come across Bush’s desk in all that time? That no other sentence was possibly deserving of a commutation or pardon? This type of hypocrisy coming from Bush is no longer a surprise, but it’s certainly the latest sign of how corrupt this administration is.

Of course, on top of the issue of how hypocritical this is, there’s also this question - while it was legal for Bush to commute Libby’s sentence, was it really ethical for him to do so, considering the close relationship between Libby and Bush and his administration? The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers (D-MI), sees some problems with this as well, arguing that the clemency may have been an abuse of power requiring congressional oversight: “Taken to its extreme, the use of such authority could completely circumvent the law enforcement process and prevent credible efforts to investigate wrongdoing in the executive branch.” With that being said, a hearing has been set for next Wednesday morning (July 11), where the Committee will look into this whole mess.

Oh, and get this. It turns out that Bush’s action may have had an unintended consequence - it now seems that Libby’s two years of “supervised release” may go out the window too. The original judge who sentenced Libby has asked both parties to file briefs on this issue by next Monday. The issue? As Judge Walton put it in his order:

Strictly construed, the statute authorizing the imposition of supervised release indicates that such release should occur only after the defendant has already served a term of imprisonment….It is therefore unclear how [the statute] should be interpreted in unusual circumstances such as these.

In other words, because Libby won’t serve any prison time, there’s an argument that the supervised release that comes after imprisonment just doesn’t apply. How do you like that?

And if you like that, you’ll love this. A footnote in that same order has suggested that one or both parties might want to get clarification from the White House as to what the President’s position is on this issue? Gee, I wonder what Bush would have to say about this?

Although I’m already sick of the campaigning for the next presidential election, the damn thing can’t get here soon enough.

| Comments (2)


damn good article, very informative.

he’s never before pardoned anyone or issued any sentence commutation (at least while President, although I’m pretty sure he never did so while Governor of Texas either)

IIRC, President shit-for-brains (as Texas governor) commuted a DEATH sentence for convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.