Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More thoughts on the Libby semi-pardon

So my initial reaction to Bush's semi-pardon was one of political excitement -- what will the GOP candidates say? -- but philosophical support on the sly. In essence, I thought two and half years seemed excessive -- and it wasn't that long ago that the whole "lying under oath" charge was being used as the basis for impeaching President Clinton. Here's my argument, summarized nicely by Timothy Noah on Slate:

But Judge Reggie Walton went overboard in sentencing Libby to 30 months. This was about twice as long as the prison term recommended by the court's probation office, and if Libby hadn't been a high-ranking government official, there's a decent chance he would have gotten off with probation, a stiff fine, and likely disbarment. Walton gave Libby 30 months and a $250,000 fine, then further twisted the knife by denying Libby's routine request to delay the sentence while his lawyers appealed it. (Libby was duly assigned the federal prison register number 28301-016, but Libby's lawyers managed to move quickly enough to keep Libby out of the slammer until his appeal was denied on July 2, the same day Bush commuted his sentence.) The voluminous pleas for leniency from Libby's A-list friends seem to have annoyed Walton, who erred on the side of severity not in spite of Libby's high position in government but because of it. Walton wanted to make an example of him

What's the matter with that? Two words: Bill Clinton. No fair-minded person can deny that the previous president committed perjury about Monica Lewinsky while serving in the Oval Office. The country knew it, and it let him get away with it. Does that mean no government official should ever again be prosecuted for perjury? Of course not. But it does mean Walton should have wondered whether he was imposing a double standard in treating Libby more harshly because Libby worked in the White House. Is it really fair to treat White House aides more harshly than ordinary citizens when presidents get off scot-free?

I still have sympathy for this argument. But then this morning I read this quote on Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own," - George W. Bush on why he signed death warrants for 152 inmates as governor of Texas.

The quote is from his own book, "A Charge To Keep."

As Sullivan goes on to write, that's pretty much a debate ender. President Bush is willing to sacrifice his allege principle of non-interference for one of his political allies who helped defend his failed war policies. But for people facing the death penalty? Not his role. Not gonna do it.

What a shameful man George W. Bush is.


Blogger John said...

Well written and bitingly accurate.

3:37 PM  

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