« This is why the British are better than us | Main | The Daily Memo - 7/3/07 »

George W. Bush: Patriot


President Bush spared I. Lewis Libby Jr. from prison Monday, commuting his two-and-a-half-year sentence while leaving intact his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in the C.I.A. leak case.

In his lengthy statement about the commutation the current President Bush praised Mr. Fitzgerald as a “highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.”
But he said: “My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely.”

He continued: “And more importantly, heh heh, it means that the Libster’s appeal will march on, and that he can continue to plead the 5th, heh heh. He cain’t say shit, heh heh. By the time them’s appeals are exhausted, Cheney’ll be dead. Smart, huh? I saw it on an episode of “Matlock.” What do you think of that, Daaad? Just keep wavin’ at the camera, Pops. You see this logo on my shirt? It says USA. You know what that means, right? It means, ‘Fuck You, America.’ What are you gonna do about it, huh? Huh? Yeah — that’s what I thought. You’re gonna grill some burgers and watch some fireworks and forget all about it. By Thursday, we’ll be dropping nukes on Lithuania. For shits and giggles. And you won’t remember a thing. Game. Set. Point. Touchdown. Triple. Whatever. Heh heh.”

| Comments (8)



And the moron didn't even have the sense to do it on his way out the door, ala, the pardonator, Mr. Hillary.

i am just really, genuinely curious as to the rationale for this sentence being commuted. all day the news has mentioned that it happened and npr even read an email from a man who said "bush did the right thing" but i just don't get why it's ok to arbitrarily say "this guy right here doesn't have to go to jail," when it appears the only thing that differentiates libby is the fact he's a good pal. can anyone explain to me why this is ok (besides just because it helps the administration)?

Unfortunately, timaree, you answered your own question.

The conservative answer is that the punishment greatly exceeded the crime. Libby wasn't charged with outing Plame. He was charged with making false statements to federal investigators and a grand jury. Those statements were about the timing of certain statements that he heard. Libby said he'd first heard about Plame working for the CIA from Tim Russert; Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald thought Cheney had told Libby first. Libby later recanted and said he had forgotten, but Cheney had told him first.

And based on that, Fitzgerald brought charges.

The jury decided that Libby had intentionally lied, rather than merely being mistaken. Which was certainly their prerogative.

During sentencing, the Special Prosecutor argued that Libby should be punished in part for outing Plame. Libby hadn't been charged -- let alone convicted -- for that crime, but the Special Prosecutor thought it should be used to amp up the judge's sentence. (More than that, the Special Prosecutor later disclosed that he knew Richard Armitage had done it when he made his arguments to the jury.)

The judge agreed. He gave Libby 2 1/2 years. (Note that this is permissible under federal law, albeit still pretty ethically skunky.)

And to make matters worse, not only was Libby sentenced to 2 1/2 years, the judge ordered that he had to serve his jail time while his case was being appealed. So even if he has rock-solid legal arguments in his favor (and one of the counts against him has already been overturned, and his legal team says he has other similarly strong arguments), then he'd still probably end up serving at least a year.

Now compare that 2 1/2 year sentence to the one handed down to Bill Clinton for the same crime (lying to a special prosecutor about whether he had had "sex with that woman"): no jail time. And compare it to the sentence handed down to Sandy Berger, who admitted to stealing and destroying classified documents relating to 9/11 before testifying before the 9/11 Commission, and then lying to federal investigators about it: no jail time.

And there's also the "Tu quoque" argument. Remember that this is the first time Bush has commuted or pardoned anyone. And he only commuted the sentence, as opposed to pardoning him. Compare that to Clinton's pardons/commutations of Marc Rich, Susan McDougal, Braswell, Vignali, the Gregories, Melvin Reynolds, his brother Roger Clinton, a number of people convicted of terrorism in Puerto Rico, and many, many others. (Note -- tu quoque arguments are pretty much crap. Just because one guy did something bad doesn't mean it's ok for everyone.)

And finally, there's the "Ken Starr" argument. According to this argument, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was tasked with figuring out whether a crime had been committed in the alleged outing of Valeria Plame. The only charges he ever filed dealt with problems he'd had in his investigation, and they came well after he'd stopped investigating the original crime (having already learned Armitage was Novak's source). Again, this is legal, but there's an onus of trumped-up-edness about it. And when Ken Starr did it, there were editorials about justice run amok, and how unfair it was that when the special prosecutor had been unable to find a crime he basically kept his investigation going until he found one, and how it spells doom for free society when the Man can investigate you until you make a mistake in the investigation and then punish you for the mistake.

Basically, I'm enjoying this because I think all the hypocrites are really showing their colors. Libby supporters were often among the people shouting the loudest for Clinton's skin. And Clinton supporters were among the folks screaming the loudest for Libby's blood. It's pretty funny stuff.

What bothers me about the situation is how this is a blatant infringement of the separation of powers: if Mr. Libby had a problem with his sentence (or his conviction for that matter), then appellate courts would be the appropriate route. Executive intervention in this situation, as indeed with many pardon or commute situations, usurps the power of the judiciary (especially when it is this blatant). People, regardless of ideology, should be angry at this largely unsurprising turn of events. It violates the Constitution itself.

"and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. " From Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution.

thanks, comish! that was highly informative.