Monday, July 02, 2007

Scooting Free

In a manner of speaking. President Bush today commuted Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence, meaning the former Chief of Staff for Vice-President Richard Cheney will not serve asny jail time, though he will still be a convicted felon, and he will have to pay a $250000 fine.

I have thought all along that the investigation that led to this conviction was a travesty, although the jury apparently acted reluctantly and sincerely believed Libby lied to them. However, in making the decision to comute, I also believe that the President made the right decision. Libby's crime was real- you do not lie under oath, no matter what the questions may be. That is what Clinton did and it iss inexcusable whether it is a Republican staffer or a Democratic President.

However let's consider that Libby is the only member of Bush's Administration to be convicted of anything, let alone the only member even to be indicted- compare this with the Clinton Administration, whose national Security Advisor Sandy Berger has been convicted with illegally stealing and destroying classified papers, whose associate attorney general (the number three post in the Justice Department) Web Hubbell has been convicted of tax evasion, whose former Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Deutch was found guilty of mishandling classified information (leaking), and whose Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Ciscneros was found guilty of lying to the FBI over a bribery case. Deutch and Hubbell were later pardoned by Clinton on his last day in office. In addition, many of Clinton's business partners and close associates were convicted and imprisoned in the Whitewater investigation, including Susan McDougal, who was pardoned as the President left office. And that is without discussing the many peopled who fled the country to avoid being quetioned in the China campaign money scandal (John Huang, Charlie Trie and others). As a reminder to Democrats, Matt Drudge has posted a link to a complete and useful listing of the pardons Bill Clinton issued. Bush commuted Libby's sentence- he did not pardon him.

However, while no Democrat complained about Bill Clinton pardoning criminals convicted of far more serious crimes, and though all of the current House or Seante leadership defended Bill Clinton for the exact same crime ("It's all about the sex", remember?) that Libby was convicted of, many Democrats were not so forgiving this time.
"The Constitution gives President Bush the power to commute sentences, but history will judge him harshly for using that power to benefit his own vice president's chief of staff who was convicted of such a serious violation of law." - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

I would take Seantor Reid more seriously if he or his party had mustered the same condemnation for their President, who was actually impeached for perjury.

In the main, I think President Bush made the correct decision. L:ibby committed a crime, and he ssholuldd make restitution. However, this is a man with no previous offenses, and his record says that he is unlikely to do it ever again. Paying his fine an serving his time under probation is sufficient as far as I am concerned. And although many conservatives may howl, I think that in the long run, Bush may even be appreciated for his courage in commutation without pardoning. Ultimately, I agree with Ed Morrissey, who writes,
If Bush wanted to take any action -- and I would have advised against it -- this is as far as he should go. It allows Libby to remain free while he pursues his appeal, but it makes it clear that the White House won't undo convictions for official misconduct. It strikes a balance that few will appreciate now, but later will accept as wise, as far as it goes. If Libby has a good case for reversal, let the courts make that decision.

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