Crime and Punishment

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cell Block in a Prison, Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California, USA

Sayeth Frank Rich:

EVEN by Washington’s standards, few debates have been more fatuous or wasted more energy than the frenzied speculation over whether President Bush will or will not pardon Scooter Libby. Of course he will.

A president who tries to void laws he doesn’t like by encumbering them with “signing statements” and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbinding technicality isn’t going to start playing by the rules now. His assertion last week that he is “pretty much going to stay out of” the Libby case is as credible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The only real question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about his fellow Republicans’ political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day 2008.

Rich goes on to say, in the incisive prose that the New York Times has hidden behind the wall, that Libby knows too well where all the bodies are buried to be cut loose. Cheney's Cheney was there when the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) schemed to land us in the debacle that is Operation Endless Bloody Occupation.

Over at Newsweek Michael Isikoff and Richard Wolffe engage in some of that fatuous speculation.

Out of obligation and duty, Cheney is almost certain to press Bush to pardon his close friend and protégé.

But don't count on Bush to go along—at least not yet. Bush is not big on pardons. In his first six years as president, he has granted just 113, fewer than any president in the last 100 years, says Margaret Love, a former Justice Department pardon attorney. At his first press conference as president in February 2001, Bush set himself apart from Bill Clinton, who had caused a stir with several controversial pardons in his final days. When it came to granting pardons, Bush said, "I'll have the highest of high standards."

The president can pardon anyone at any time. But Bush has abided by long-standing Justice guidelines that spell out who should be eligible. Those rules say a person shouldn't even be considered for a pardon until five years after he's completed his sentence. "I know the way he's approached pardons," says Bush's former press secretary Scott McClellan. "If you boil it down, it's two things. One, that they serve their time. And two, that they express remorse for the crime." By those standards, Libby doesn't make the cut, especially if he pursues an appeal and continues to insist he did nothing wrong.

What Isikoff and Wolf don't even address is that Bush has a long history as a merciless criminal justice enthusiast. As Governor of Texas he presided over a record 152 executions, including that of a mentally retarded man. Soft on crime he's not.

Yet, according to Isikoff and Wolffe, former White House aides expect him to pardon Libby.

Fatuous debate indeed. There is no doubt that Bush will pardon Libby. The only subject for discussion is just how big a hypocrite that makes him.


Anonymous said...

Bush isn't a hypocrite at all.

Not by his standards.

Bush believes, in accord with his highborn social class, that there should be special privileges for special people. Two laws, one for the commoners and one for the aristocrats (and servants of aristocrats).

Therefore, there's no hypocrisy in pardoning Mr. Libby, as he is the servant of the aristocracy (and has done rather well, I'd say).

In answer as to "when" Mr. Bush will pardon Mr. Libby--why, after November 2008. Mr. Libby's appeal process will keep him out of jail until then, and Mr. Bush's Christmas Eve pardon will ensure that Mr. Libby spends not one day in the custody of the state.

Mr. Libby's future is bright. He will have a highly-paid "job" in a political "think tank" and/or sign a multimillion dollar book deal.

I favour amending the Constitution to remove the President's pardoning power, or else to subject it to judicial scrutiny (a Supreme Court review?) before the pardon can be made final.