Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What Magnificant Bastards They Truly Are

We return, naturally enough, to the Scooter Libby matter. The President's commutation of Scooter's sentance has prompted Keith Olbermann to call for the administration to step down entirely. But why, one might ask, was his sentance merely commuted? Why not pardon the man? Was it a minor concession to the reality-based community? Is the President in fact not wholly corrupt and motivated by partisan self-interest?

Of course, it was no such thing. Scooter Libby is still appealing his case. If in the meantime Congress were to call him to testify, he can therefore plead the Fifth and refuse to answer any or all questions about his role in the Plame affair.

If he were pardoned, this would of course not be an option.

We now return to your regularly scheduled despair.

(Also - the President's already said he's not ruling out pardoning Libby later - you know, when this whole Plamegate thing has blown over and the investigations have run their course. Really, they're such complete scumbags it's honestly breathtaking.)


Blogger Management said...

July 2 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush spared Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby from prison in the CIA leak case, saying his 2 1/2-year term was ``excessive.''

Bush acted after a U.S. appellate court today refused to let Libby, 56, stay free during his appeal. Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to investigators probing the 2003 leak of Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame's identity. Libby's backers had argued for a pardon.

``My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,'' Bush said in a statement. ``The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.''

The president's action means that even though Libby avoids prison, his conviction stands, and he is still required to pay the $250,000 fine ordered by a federal judge. He can continue to appeal his conviction and fine.

Bush's decision was denounced by Democrats. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who had demanded that Bush promise not to pardon Libby, called the commutation ``disgraceful'' and said, ``History will judge him harshly for using that power to benefit his own vice president's chief of staff.''

Obama, Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama of Illinois said Bush's action cements his legacy as one of ``cynicism and division'' that ``placed itself and its ideology above the law.'' Senator Hillary Clinton of New York said the commutation ``sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.''

Republicans approved of Bush's decision.

``I am very happy for Scooter Libby,'' said former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, a potential Republican presidential candidate who had urged a pardon. ``This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life.'' Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that Bush ``came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct.''

William Jeffress, one of Libby's lawyers, said in an e- mailed statement that Libby would have no comment on the commutation.


``As for the defense lawyers, we continue to believe the conviction itself was unjust but are grateful for the president's action commuting the prison sentence,'' Jeffress said.

Republicans who opposed the prosecution of Libby will be pleased, said H. Christopher Bartolomucci, a lawyer at Hogan & Hartson in Washington who worked on pardons in the White House from 2001 to 2003.

``This is a president who is not cowed by public opinion,'' said Bartolomucci. ``This was a truly unique case, a case involving a member of his administration, a highly charged prosecution, so the normal rules go out the window.''

Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who represents Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, in a civil suit against Libby and Cheney over the leak, said Bush's administration ``believes leaking classified information for political ends is justified and that the law is what applies to other people.''

Bush's statement said that, with ``incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react'' to the appeals court's refusal to let Libby remain free.

Until now, Bush had stayed out of the case, with his aides saying he would let the appeal go forward.

Special Prosecutor

Libby's supporters argued that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was over-zealous in prosecuting Libby for lying to investigators when no one was charged over the actual leak of Plame's status as a CIA official. Fitzgerald, in a statement, said that the sentence imposed on Libby was ``consistent with the applicable laws.''

Libby was convicted of obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements. He resigned as Cheney's chief of staff upon being indicted in 2005.

Libby was found guilty of lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and a grand jury probing whether the Bush administration deliberately leaked Plame's identity to retaliate against her husband. In a New York Times column on July 6, 2003, Wilson accused the government of twisting intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq earlier that year.

Plame's status as a CIA official was disclosed eight days later in an article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Novak testified during the trial that Plame's identity was provided to him by then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and confirmed by White House political adviser Karl Rove.

Fitzgerald argued that Libby lied about his knowledge of the leak to protect his job. It's a federal crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert CIA agent, and the White House had announced that anyone who leaked Plame's identity would be fired. No one was charged with a crime or fired for the leak.

Libby's lawyers said national security matters kept him too preoccupied to remember details about the leak.

To contact the reporter on this story: Edwin Chen in Washington at .

9:26 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Olbermann: Bush, Cheney should resign
‘I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.’
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'
Updated: 5:13 p.m. MT July 3, 2007

“I didn’t vote for him,” an American once said, “But he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

That—on this eve of the 4th of July—is the essence of this democracy, in 17 words. And that is what President Bush threw away yesterday in commuting the sentence of Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

The man who said those 17 words—improbably enough—was the actor John Wayne. And Wayne, an ultra-conservative, said them, when he learned of the hair’s-breadth election of John F. Kennedy instead of his personal favorite, Richard Nixon in 1960.

“I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

The sentiment was doubtlessly expressed earlier, but there is something especially appropriate about hearing it, now, in Wayne’s voice: The crisp matter-of-fact acknowledgement that we have survived, even though for nearly two centuries now, our Commander-in-Chief has also served, simultaneously, as the head of one political party and often the scourge of all others.

We as citizens must, at some point, ignore a president’s partisanship. Not that we may prosper as a nation, not that we may achieve, not that we may lead the world—but merely that we may function.

But just as essential to the seventeen words of John Wayne, is an implicit trust—a sacred trust: That the president for whom so many did not vote, can in turn suspend his political self long enough, and for matters imperative enough, to conduct himself solely for the benefit of the entire Republic.

Our generation’s willingness to state “we didn’t vote for him, but he’s our president, and we hope he does a good job,” was tested in the crucible of history, and earlier than most.

And in circumstances more tragic and threatening. And we did that with which history tasked us.

We enveloped our President in 2001.And those who did not believe he should have been elected—indeed those who did not believe he had been elected—willingly lowered their voices and assented to the sacred oath of non-partisanship.

And George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and shaped it to a razor-sharp point and stabbed this nation in the back with it.

Were there any remaining lingering doubt otherwise, or any remaining lingering hope, it ended yesterday when Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of one of his own staffers.

Did so even before the appeals process was complete; did so without as much as a courtesy consultation with the Department of Justice; did so despite what James Madison—at the Constitutional Convention—said about impeaching any president who pardoned or sheltered those who had committed crimes “advised by” that president; did so without the slightest concern that even the most detached of citizens must look at the chain of events and wonder: To what degree was Mr. Libby told: break the law however you wish—the President will keep you out of prison?

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental com-pact between yourself and the majority of this nation’s citizens—the ones who did not cast votes for you. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party. And this is too important a time, Sir, to have a commander-in-chief who puts party over nation.

This has been, of course, the gathering legacy of this Administration. Few of its decisions have escaped the stain of politics. The extraordinary Karl Rove has spoken of “a permanent Republican majority,” as if such a thing—or a permanent Democratic majority—is not antithetical to that upon which rests: our country, our history, our revolution, our freedoms.

Yet our Democracy has survived shrewder men than Karl Rove. And it has survived the frequent stain of politics upon the fabric of government. But this administration, with ever-increasing insistence and almost theocratic zealotry, has turned that stain into a massive oil spill.

The protection of the environment is turned over to those of one political party, who will financially benefit from the rape of the environment. The protections of the Constitution are turned over to those of one political party, who believe those protections unnecessary and extravagant and quaint.

The enforcement of the laws is turned over to those of one political party, who will swear beforehand that they will not enforce those laws. The choice between war and peace is turned over to those of one political party, who stand to gain vast wealth by ensuring that there is never peace, but only war.

And now, when just one cooked book gets corrected by an honest auditor, when just one trampling of the inherent and inviolable fairness of government is rejected by an impartial judge, when just one wild-eyed partisan is stopped by the figure of blind justice, this President decides that he, and not the law, must prevail.

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

When President Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20th, 1973, Cox initially responded tersely, and ominously.

“Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men, is now for Congress, and ultimately, the American people.”

President Nixon did not understand how he had crystallized the issue of Watergate for the American people.

It had been about the obscure meaning behind an attempt to break in to a rival party’s headquarters; and the labyrinthine effort to cover-up that break-in and the related crimes.

And in one night, Nixon transformed it.

Watergate—instantaneously—became a simpler issue: a President overruling the inexorable march of the law of insisting—in a way that resonated viscerally with millions who had not previously understood - that he was the law.

Not the Constitution. Not the Congress. Not the Courts. Just him.

Just - Mr. Bush - as you did, yesterday.

The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the “referee” of Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s analogy. These are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush—and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal—the average citizen understands that, Sir.

It’s the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one—and it stinks. And they know it.

Nixon’s mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency. And in the end, even Richard Nixon could say he could not put this nation through an impeachment.

It was far too late for it to matter then, but as the decades unfold, that single final gesture of non-partisanship, of acknowledged responsibility not to self, not to party, not to “base,” but to country, echoes loudly into history. Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign

Would that you could say that, Mr. Bush. And that you could say it for Mr. Cheney. You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday. Which one of you chose the route, no longer matters. Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is irrelevant.

But that you have twisted the machinery of government into nothing more than a tawdry machine of politics, is the only fact that remains relevant.

It is nearly July 4th, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a King who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them—or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them—we would force our independence, and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time—and our leaders in Congress, of both parties—must now live up to those standards which echo through our history: Pressure, negotiate, impeach—get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our Democracy, away from its helm.

For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.


And give us someone—anyone—about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

9:27 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Bush leaves door open to pardon for Libby
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON | President Bush on Tuesday left open the possibility of a full pardon as he defended his decision to overturn I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s prison sentence.

“As to the future, I rule nothing in and nothing out,” Bush said.

The president’s commutation order Monday spared Libby from going to prison for 2 1/2 years for perjury and obstruction of justice, but it didn’t end the debate over the convicted official’s ultimate fate. Some of Libby’s supporters continued to push for a full presidential pardon that would forgive his crime and negate his $250,000 fine.

“What’s excessive here is the president’s caution,” columnist Wesley Pruden wrote in The Washington Times. “The verdict was wrong, harsh and vindictive. … By saving Mr. Libby from prison but leaving in place the rest of a sentence reeking of rotten politics, the president enables the destruction of a reputation and the imposition of a cruel fine.”

Libby’s critics accused Bush of misusing constitutional authority that was intended to protect citizens from judicial abuse. Political Action noted that Libby spent less time behind bars than heiress-gone-wild Paris Hilton.

Bush, who has been far less willing to grant clemency than other recent presidents, has ordered three other commutations. All three involved lengthy sentences for drug-related offenses. In those three cases, the defendants served lengthy jail terms before Bush freed them.

In Libby’s case, Bush ignored Justice Department guidelines that call for consideration of commutation only after the convicted felon reports to prison.

Before his indictment, Libby served double duty as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff and a top adviser to Bush.

Earlier this year, the Bush administration urged the Supreme Court to uphold a 33-month sentence for Victor Rita, a gun dealer who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in a case involving allegations of illegal machine-gun sales.

Daniel Kobil of Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, an expert on clemency, said that Bush’s limited use of his clemency powers weakens the case for sparing Libby.

In addition to the four commutations, Bush has issued 111 pardons. In contrast, President Bill Clinton ordered 61 commutations and 396 pardons. Former President John F. Kennedy issued 100 commutation orders and 472 pardons before his first term was cut short by his assassination.

The idea of commutation was first floated publicly by William Otis, who served as a special prosecutor in former President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

“The case was proved, and the conviction should not simply be wiped away,” Otis, a conservative legal scholar, wrote in a June 7 guest column in The Washington Post. “Commutation offers a middle ground.”

In an interview Tuesday, Otis said the question now is whether Bush will take the next step and grant a pardon.

“A pardon would be excessive leniency here because of the crime for which Libby was convicted: lying to a grand jury,” Otis said.

WASHINGTON | Critics angered by President Bush’s decision to spare I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby a trip to prison contrast Bush’s sympathy for Libby to his actions in another high-profile criminal case.

As governor of Texas in the late 1990s, Bush rejected numerous pleas for leniency for death-row inmate Karla Faye Tucker. Supporters ranging from Pope John Paul II to one of the governor’s daughters asserted that Tucker’s prison embrace of Christianity and her remorse for a drug-fueled double murder justified a lesser penalty of life in prison.

“My responsibility is to ensure our laws are enforced fairly and evenly without preference or special treatment,” Bush said in clearing the way for Tucker’s 1998 execution. “I have concluded judgment about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority.”

9:27 AM  

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