The Libby Load


I was not surprised that President George Bush commuted Lewis "Scooter" Libby’s prison sentence. It’s what you’d expect from a corrupt politician who appears to care not a rat’s toenail for justice, truth or principles.

Libby lied under oath before a grand jury, and he lied to the FBI. That’s perjury and obstruction of justice. He was tried, convicted by a jury of his peers and sentenced in accordance with Justice Department guidelines. Bush’s claim that the sentence was "too severe" is just another Bush lie. He knows it was not too severe because he’s been the stingiest president ever when it comes to pardons and commutations.

Why the commutation and not a pardon? Because as long as Libby stands as a convicted felon with his conviction on appeal, he can claim the Fifth Amendment if Congress decides to question him. There are a lot of people who don’t want Libby to tell the truth, starting with Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush and even former President Bill Clinton. Furthermore, by not ruling out a full pardon, Bush retains leverage over Libby until the last day of his term.

Clinton handed out a totally unjustified pardon to one of Libby’s clients — billionaire Marc Rich, who at the time of the pardon had been indicted for racketeering, tax evasion and trading with Iran. Rich had fled to Switzerland, and remains there.

While I am fully aware that America’s political and moneyed elite is the most corrupt in the world, it’s the injustice of the matter that enrages me. Many people, poor and without influential friends in high places, will have their lives ruined for similar or even lesser crimes. Youth with no previous records have gotten as much as five years for petty drug offenses.

What Bush has done is offend justice. The blindfolded lady holding the scales of justice now has stains on her robes. I have never seen a politician so contemptuous of all the principles Americans once cherished as the current Bush.

Libby was a key player in the propaganda machine set up by the Bush administration to lie the American people into a war with Iraq. Incidentally, both the war and the lies continue.

Of course Libby has his defenders. Besides corruption, we are famous for suck-ups to the rich and influential, and no two areas produce more suck-ups than journalism and academia. It’s disgusting to hear their weasel words trying to rationalize first Libby and now Bush.

Libby, after all, was no poor kid whose misdeeds might be excused by ignorance. He was a wealthy attorney with one of the best educations money can buy. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he thought he could get away with it, and he more or less has. In his circles, there won’t be any problem raising $250,000 to pay his fine, and you can be sure his cronies will find him a lucrative position even if he can’t practice law. All of that, of course, until Bush decides to issue a full pardon.

The question is, in the face of injustice after injustice, how can any honest parent teach his or her children respect for the rule of law? When the highest people in the land show disrespect for the rule of law, it becomes a pretty hard sell.

One of the most valuable tools a true leader has is his own example of propriety and honor. Needless to say, that’s one tool you won’t find in the Bush White House or the entire Executive Branch. Maybe we’ll get lucky in 2008.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.