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Friday, July 06, 2007


"Never mind that many of his complaints boil down to 'Republicans shouldn't be in charge of government'."

I'm pretty sure that one of his complaints was that this President represents a small part of the Republican party. That sounds like the opposite of what you just said.

But putting that aside, the central question seems to be "Is pardoning (or commuting the sentence of) someone who was caught lying to protect you as large of an abuse of power as firing someone who is investigating you?" In some ways, I think the commutation might be a more clear abuse of power, because there is nothing ambiguous about the fact that Scooter had been convicted in a criminal trial. I think that may be what sets this apart from all the many other things people could get upset about, this one was judged to be criminal beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is pretty hard to imagine that Bush would actually resign, ever, under any circumstances. But saying Bush is worse than Nixon because at least Nixon had the decency to resign, I think that might resonate with people, even conservatives. Then again, Nixon sure went on air and said he wasn't a crook and it sure didn't look like he was about to resign at that point, so I suppose there is always hope for Bush, whatever slim bit of hope it is.

So yeah, the false shock is just political posturing, but I think the comparison to the Saturday Night Massacre is a valid one.

Yes, he did make that point that Mr. Bush represents a small corner of the Republican party. But note from the text link (just added above) that he repeatedly complained of "those of one political party" being in charge of various things. Sort of a fox guarding the henhouse sort of thing.

It's a Republican administration. There are Republicans in charge of most if not all departments. This, again, should not be an outrage.

As to the central issue of the Libby commutation, certainly Bush has a tin political ear in this case (as with so many others). But was it an actual abuse of power? There's no question the President was fully within his rights under the Constitution. And who else besides convicted criminals would need a Presidential pardon/commutation? Saying the President acted improperly because he pardoned someone who had been convicted of criminal acts is essentially saying the President shouldn't have the power to pardon.

But he does have that power, so we get back to the idea of whether the President acted honorably even if legally. I don't think he did. But I don't think he's acted honorably in a great many things, and far more important things, than this. Which is why this "outrage" at the Libby affair seems so misplaced to me.

Bottom line, should he have commuted Libby's prison sentence? Probably not. At least, not before the appeals process had run its course.

Is this as bad as Nixon firing a special prosecutor, in the middle of an active investigation, while the President was under a subpoena?

Not even close.

It is hard to be succinct on this topic, but I'll try. Obviously what Bush did is legal, and within his written power. So was what Nixon did, although they changed the laws afterwards. But in context, it is outrageous. The White House did something illegal, Scooter got caught covering it up, took the fall, and the President he was protecting commuted his sentence. "Do something illegal for me, and if you get caught I'll take care of it" seems like something worthy of outrage.

Sure it isn't the most outrageous thing, but it is something easy to understand. Personally, appointing Kissenger to head the 9/11 Truth Commission and nominating his secretary to The Supreme Court stand out, but those aren't abuse of power.

Yeah, I can see your point. Though I think an awful lot of people are assuming a quid pro quo with the President which may not quite be accurate.

Keep in mind that Libby apparently tried to cover up his own involvement in potentially illegal (not to mention potentially treasonous) activity. One need not ascribe a desire to protect the President to Libby's own attempted self-protection. And in any case, the President was not suspected of leaking information himself. Too fine a point for some, perhaps, but still -- it wasn't the President that Libby was protecting, per se.

It's entirely possible that Bush's actions in this case are simply an expession of his renowned appreciation for loyalty to the "team". In other words, however unsavory his behavior, there's no particular reason to believe that he promised to take care of Libby before Libby acted illegally. Yet this seems to be the rallying cry of the outraged Left, as you summarized above.

One might certainly maintain that Libby expected the President to "take care of him" if he got into trouble, based on the President's established pattern of rewarding loyalty. Does that quite rise to the level of quid pro quo? I don't think so.

I still don't think that commuting Libby's sentence before the appeals process had run its course was a particularly astute move. For the record, I do disapprove of the action -- so we agree on the basic issue at hand here.

But the original post was about the degree to which the action is worthy of outrage. And really, at the end of the day, after everything this administration has done to tarnish the office and the whole country over the past 6 1/2 years.... THIS is what gets people worked up?

But I'll put it another way. There's a certain segment of the population that hates Bush and thinks he's the worst president ever. I'm not shocked that these people are outraged, they are outraged about everything. There's a certain other segment of the population that thinks Bush is one of the best presidents ever. Nothing he does will outrage them.

And there's a middle ground of people who aren't necessarily happy with everything he's done, but don't necessarily think he's evil incarnate. For those people, is this particular action supposed to be so egregious as to sway them over to the Bush-hatin' camp?

I just don't see it.

Given record of this administration, I find it easier to believe that Scooter was acting on orders from the POTUS or VP, and the Plame exposure was on orders from above, and that his perjury and obstruction of justice were for the protection of the same, than to believe that Scooter was acting on his own initiative, that he was only trying to save his own skin, and that after bringing scorn and trouble on the administration with these unbidden actions he being looked after with no quid pro quo.

Is there proof of this? No, BECAUSE there was perjury and obstruction of justice. Scooter insulates the POTUS from charges of treason, takes the fall and gets a commutation and people are willing to believe this is not abuse of power.

Is there proof of this? No, BECAUSE there was perjury and obstruction of justice.

Hmmmm... so, just out of curiosity, how does one get convicted of perjury without somebody knowing the truth behind the lies? I mean, to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that somebody is lying, you need to demonstrate that the truth is different from what they said.

So if we can assume based on the conviction that Libby's lies were exposed because the truth behind them was revealed -- we should expect to see the proof of your claims, no?

In any event... here's the real concern I have with the whole Plame affair. Somebody in the administration certainly appears to have committed treason. Yet no such charges have been leveled against anyone. If Libby was obstructing justice to protect himself, why was he not charged? And, if he was caught obstructing justice to protect someone else -- why then, now that the obstruction is known, has that someone else not been charged?

If you want to split hairs, you do not need to know what the truth is to know what the truth is not. We know that when Scooter told FBI investigators and again told the grand jury that he had first heard of Plame from Tim Russert, he was lying, and he was doing it to obstruct the investigation. He had talked of Plame more than once with the VP, but we don't know the entire content of those discussions.

Ummmmmm.... OK, so since we're splitting hairs... you can't know what the truth is not if you don't know what the truth is -- or at least, enough about the truth to be able to authoritatively contradict the lie. Elsewise, what you think isn't the truth, might yet be.

You demonstrated my point with your last comment. You assert that we know that Libby was lying -- because you know enough of the truth to contradict his claim. If you didn't know that he had earlier heard about Plame from the VP (or, theoretically, anyone else), then you couldn't know that he was lying about Russert.

Anyhow.... that brings me back to the gist of the discussion... if we know that Libby was lying about getting his info from the press, why hasn't that lead the special prosecutor further down the trail toward the root crime? Unless I'm missing something, Libby was not actually accused of leaking Plame's identity. So we caught him lying about where he heard about her, now why don't we know anything more about who was responsible for the leak?

Put it another way -- if lying about where he first heard Plame's name was supposed to protect his superiors in the White House, and he got caught in the lie, then ultimately that lie could not have protected anyone after all, whatever the intent. So since Libby's lie is now inoperative, where are the follow-up charges against somebody? The special prosecutor says there won't be any additional charges, and he's shutting down the investigation.

Let me be clear about this -- I don't believe that perjury and obstruction of justice should be taken lightly. I don't believe that the President should generally be in the habit of commuting sentences or issuing pardons prior to the completion of the normal appeals process.

I don't think that just because the special prosecutor is shutting down his investigation, that must mean there was nothing further to investigate. Not by a long shot.

But I DO think that the "outrage" of the Libby affair should be far, far overshadowed by the outrage that nobody has even been charged with the actual leak, let alone prosecuted for it. I DO think that the Bush administration should be held responsible for a lack of vigor in pursuing the case. I DO think that we should demand additional action from the Justice Department to track down whoever was responsible for all of this.

I just don't think that Libby's lies have much to do with the big picture here. My point from the original post:

But seriously, Scooter Libby is what you're getting all upset about?

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