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July 7, 2007

The "Scooter" Libby cakewalk

by Lucas Alvarado-Farrar, Online Features Editor
After the U.S. Court of Appeals denied I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's plea to avoid prison time while he worked out his next appeal, it was time for President Bush to step into action and make a decision. He was stuck. The President could pardon Libby – who was convicted of perjury in the Valerie Plame CIA leak affair – to satisfy the unanswered calls from his conservative base or leave the issue alone and allow the court's sentence for the former vice presidential aide stand in an attempt to soothe the Democratic Congress.

Instead, he did neither. The President chose door number three, a commutation of Libby's punishment by eliminating his prison time. This gesture has not only left both sides unsatisfied but also made it clear that the move was fueled by Bush's personal relationship with Libby.

Bush's attempt to avoid confrontation on an issue which has separated conservative from ultra-conservative left America feeling torn shortly after its 231st birthday. As reports surface on the way Bush shunned input prior to his decision to commute the sentence, it becomes apparent that it was motivated by friendship and not some greater executive knowledge. After claiming that the jail sentence was "excessive" is his speech on July 2, Bush completely abolished the time instead of reducing it as his words implied.

Although Bush stated that he has been contemplating the Libby situation since it began, he has failed to realize the hypocrisy of his ultimate decision. It has been his administration that has constantly pleaded with judges to increase fines and punishments in cases involving national security. Yet when one of his own is taken down the lonely road of confinement, he immediately cries foul. Justice has been hop-scotched to help a loyal supporter.

Despite his "compromise" of left and right, President Bush has ended up mocking the rule of law and the convictions of the justice system. By handing out a "get out of jail free" card to Libby, he is sending a message that lying to the American people is not a serious crime.

Although Bush commuted the sentence, Libby must still serve a 2 year probation period and a $250,000 fine, a significant punishment. Significant until you factor in that under U.S. law a probation cannot exist unless a convict has served jail time, a convenient loophole for the White House. It is also imperative to remember that Libby's legal defense team has raised close to $5 million dollars on his behalf and that the fat-cat New York publishers are foaming at the mouth to get the exclusive on Libby's story...there goes that $250,000 fine. Loophole by loophole and dollar by dollar, Bush's "harsh punishment" leftover for Libby by the commutation is beginning to look more like a cakewalk.

One key feature has been overlooked: what Libby knows about the President and Vice-President. As a former chief-of-staff, Libby knows what other skeletons are in the closet. If the investigation were to go further, with enough pressure on Libby, he could crack and give away the map to the graves. By commuting his sentence, Bush is attempting to ensure that such an act is kept only a figure of speculation rather than another fiasco.

In America, lying under oath is a crime, lying under oath to save your skin is a crime and lying under oath to save others is also a crime. What the "Scooter" Libby train wreck has taught America is that if you have the right connections, you can get away with all of the above.



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  • Richard Henzel (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 8:11 PM
    Terrific column. I didn't read the header before reading the essay and assumed I was reading a national, or at least a city newspaper. Well done.
  • MLS (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 8:13 PM
    I, as an American, A VietNam verteran and having spent 16 months in Iraq, am embarassed in front of the entire world by this President's latest poorly thought out action. The man has lost what little credibility he may have had with nearly everyone I have spoken with concerning this issue. I sincerely hope that the Texas college where he is proposing to place his presidential library, asks him to skip them as it would bring more grief for them in the coming years than they can possibly imagine.
    If you read this Mr. Bush, why not resign now before your ratings actually drop to ZERO.
  • Andrew Feller (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 8:16 PM
    trav·es·ty (trăv'ĭ-stē) pronunciation
    n., pl. -ties.

    1. An exaggerated or grotesque imitation, such as a parody of a literary work.
    2. A debased or grotesque likeness: a travesty of justice. See synonyms at caricature.

    tr.v., -tied, -ty·ing, -ties.

    To make a travesty of; parody or ridicule.

    [From obsolete, disguised, burlesqued, from French travesti, past participle of travestir, to disguise, parody, from Italian travestire : Latin trāns-, trans- + Latin vestīre, to dress (from vestis, garment).]
  • julie (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 8:30 PM
    there is a big prostitution cse now going on in DC. The accused madam has released HER BLACK BOOK TO THE MEDIA.

    sO BECAUSE OF bUSH THE MEN LISTED IN BOOK CAN LIE AND SAY THAT COMPANY WAS FANTASY

  • Andy (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 8:33 PM
    "...handing out a "get out of jail free" card to Libby he is sending a message that lying to the American people is not a serious crime. "

    Oh, please. Libby is serving just as much time for perjury as Bill Clinton who lied to a grand jury. Welcome to American politics.

  • pete (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 8:55 PM
    Nicely done Lucas - you've made Google News!

  • judy (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:04 PM
    I am furious with the president and support that we not allow presidential pardons or anything else! Enough is enough. This administration has trampled what we hold dear. They have trampled our civil liberties, they have mocked the rule of law. They have made a mockery of their position, and their thirst for power has destroyed our country's credibility.
  • nomokoolaid (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:08 PM
    You all act suprised! Knaw on this. The year is 1942 Hitler is in power, England is under attack and a gentleman named Prescott Bush is bieng investigated for improper banking practices with the Third Reich. Skip ahead to 1979 president Ronald Reagan is trapped in the middle of an investigation dealing with the U.S. Military selling arms to our enemies with money from drug sales.
    His Vice President becomes President(George H.W.Bush) and on the way out pardons 5 key people who have not even been charged yet. Now comes WWIII and the ass puppet we have for a Commander in Chief puts the supposed chaufer for the man who started it in solitary confinement for 3 1/2 years without an attorney, while he and his father(mentioned above) dine with the father of Osama Bin Laden,a close friend of the Bush Crime Family. They refer
    to him as "Bandar Bush". And you have pause to even be surprised what this clown will do?
  • American (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:09 PM
    In America, lying under oath is NOT a crime for some.
  • Brent (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:22 PM
    Comparing the Libby case to Clinton is absurd.

    Clinton lied because he didn't want to talk about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It's impossible to convict Clinton of perjury in this regard because the federal statute requires that "the lie be about something material to the case." The judge ruled that Clinton's statements were not material to the case and prohibited any evidence regarding Lewinsky to be put forth in the suit. As a result, Clinton was never tried or convicted of perjury.

    Libby, on the other hand, was CONVICTED of four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements, all of which were more than likely carried out to protect those above him (ie Cheney). Saying that what Libby did is the same as Clinton lying about his sexual encounters is preposterous.

    Aside from all of that, why even compare it to Clinton? Libby lied, under oath, about matters that pertained to national security. By pardoning him, Bush flagrantly pushed aside our judicial system in order to protect one of his own.
  • John (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:47 PM
    Great Title and header!

    >>The "Scooter" Libby cakewalk
    >>President's decision shows
    >>governmental hypocrisy.

    I love it. What else will they do before 2008 finally rolls around?
  • American (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:48 PM
    Has anyone heard the story that this guy is in the Mossad?
  • RICHARD ROMANO (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:50 PM
    You got it exactly right. As a lawyer for 40 years I am embarassed that those in the legal system have not all expressed their outrage. Keep up your good work
  • john capra (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:57 PM
    time to impeach the whole bunch of scum bags out of office. this is the worst bunch of people ever to run the country this a disgrace io the people of our country---- clean house
  • Horace W. Hill (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 9:58 PM
    I don't see a mention of the 256 pardons President Clinton gave in his two terms of office. 140 of them on his last day as President. If you will print them in your online newspaper, I will gladly send you the list and what they were pardoned for. You might be surprised, I doubt however that you would print them. As a student newspaper you should have listed the most egregious and why they needed to be pardoned.

    Horace W. Hill
    101st. Airborne
  • Mark Ferraretto (View Email) on July 7, 2007 at 11:37 PM
    Funny how republicans hold up Clinton as an example of excusing Bush's behaviour. I thought Bush was meant to above all that?
  • Ronald L. Berman (View Email) on July 8, 2007 at 12:17 AM
    Coming from an inept president, like Bush is. what more can one expect.
  • G.Franklin (View Email) on July 8, 2007 at 1:14 AM
    You gotta LOVE how "progressives" froth at Libby (or any other non liberal in the scandal spotlight) yet always have amnesia regarding their own scoundrels. Or course, Clinton was the Horn Dog in Chief, accused of multiple rapes, lied himself, had his wife lie, had his entire cabinet lie and showed how the feminist movement how is 100% hypocritical. This is all just to good. Oh, and by the way, there was no underlying crime regarding the "outing" of Plame - she was already out. Let's talk about Sandy Berger or the Loral/Chinese technology transfer.
    Hopefully, but sadly unlikely, this high school journalism project is teaching more than the "Progressive" view on life. If this perspective is any indication there will soon be another graduating class of mind-numb, non critical thinkers thrust into society.
  • Dave (View Email) on July 8, 2007 at 1:33 AM
    Does this really suprise anyone. . . well maybe the suprise is that Libby did not have all punishment removed with a complete pardon. (maybe there is another reason why people call him "scooter") Comparing this obfuscation of justice to Clinton's escapades still does not make it ok. . . sooo lame to even try to make that comparison! Get a life. Bush has abused his power, abused our precious military, lied, and continued to make inept judgements one after another; thereby showing how totally incapable he is to be in the office of president. To question the president's performance is a citizen's duty, and is patriotic. To stand by passively letting our system of government continue to be bastardized and prevaricated by dishonest, incompetent politicans is not patriotic. How does this behavior look to the rest of the people in the world? What about the countries where we are trying to promote "democracy". . . what kind of an example are we setting for them? Time to put away the toys and give self-goverment some serious consideration.
  • Bryan Shafer (View Email) on July 8, 2007 at 2:06 AM
    Good point on the commutation vs. pardon issue. The commutation preserves Mr. Libby's rights against self-incrimination (he can still 'plead the 5th amendment') whereas a pardon does not. Therefore, he cannot be compelled at tell all he knows as to his role in the CIA identity leak affair, offering the President & Vice-President some very nice legal protection. And, Mr. Bush could still issue a pardon to Mr. Libby the last day of his term, once again giving us poor taxpayers the worst of both worlds.

    By the way, you have to figure folks are really running out of arguments for defending the current President when they start citing pardons from ex-President Clinton as apparent justification for Mr. Bush commuting the sentence of a subordinate in the Executive Branch. It's seems a lot like trying to justify stealing a car by saying lots of other people do it too.

    Bryan Shafer
    (A conservative getting very tired looking for any significant signs of morality in our current White House)
  • Davie Blain (View Email) on July 8, 2007 at 2:15 AM
    They are all criminals, the Dems and the Repubs. But the real crime is that our news media is covering none of it.

    It appears the the freedoms that the press holds dear is the freedom to report issues for their own benefit, while not reporting the corruptions that have grown to outrageous levels within out government ranks. Nice job, watchdog press. You are bought and paid for.
  • Robert Clark (View Email) on July 8, 2007 at 4:17 AM
    Dear Lucas:

    I am a retired lawyer living in Palm Springs, CA.

    And I was pleased to see an opinion piece of the quality of this one written by a high school student. Many college journalism majors would do a far less cogent job of op-ed.

    I have one substantive comment, and one stylistic suggestion.

    First, as a Bush watcher, I am unconvinced that, although he demands loyalty of his staff, his loyalty to others goes beyond a self-serving facade.

    I think your second assumption, that Bush was afraid Libby might disclose the violations of law which have thus far not reached the President, is far more compelling. One obvious case is: who outed CIA operative Valerie Plame? Or why was George Tenet forced to resign as CIA Director and then awarded The Medal of Freedom? Or, what did Colin Powell actually know when he made the case for war against Iraq before the United Nations Security Council? And a final example, is it plausible to assume in a regime so fixated on lack of transparency that no one higher than a gate keeper made all the decisions relating to the firing of 8 (the number oscilates a bit) U.S. Attorneys?

    Secondly, in the polishing process, I have found reading test aloud slows down the process sufficiently to allow one to catch errors which will never show up in spell check and maybe not even in grammar check. Never assume you know enough about the English language and look out for mixed metaphors. They can turn an otherwise powerful sentence into a subject of titillation.

    With your editorial bent, you might subscribe to www.tomgrams.com (free). They are closely linked to the Nation and a print marquee publishing many of the books which are well reasoned and not liberal rabid propaganda. Tom teaches a journalism class at Berkeley once a year and you might find a way to attend, which I believe would be worth your while.

    Regards, Robert Clark
  • musafir (View Email) on July 8, 2007 at 12:57 PM
    An impressive piece. Better than some one comes across in major newspapers.
  • firmamentalfalcon on July 10, 2007 at 9:18 AM
    "On August 11, 1999, Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of FALN, a violent Puerto Rican nationalist group that set off 120 bombs in the United States mostly in New York City and Chicago, convicted for conspiracies to commit robbery, bomb-making, and sedition, as well as for firearms and explosives violations." -Wikipedia

    "By handing out a "get out of jail free" card to [the terrorists], he is sending a message that [killing] the American people is not a serious crime."

    Alas, the Founding Fathers must have flipped around twice in their graves. And thrice with the pardoning of Libby. What ended up in the constitution back then must have not been editted properly. We must, therefore, prevent President Bush from using this power. (And prevent Congress from passing legislation) (And stop the Supreme Court from meeting)


    And since when has this been hypocrisy? President Bush, unlike his Democrat predecessor, wish to give harsher sentences to the men who try to kill Americans. This is for the good of national security. President Bush wish to pardon a great government worker who has served this nation for 25 years. This is not even related to national security. There's nothing here that's hypocrisy.

    This would only be national security hypocrisy if Bush pardoned Libby after Libby was charged with releasing the identity of Valerie Plame. Unfortunately for this article's title, this did not happen. The crime of perjury is not a danger to national security; Clinton's lying about his affairs was not a danger to national security. The only harm caused by Libby's lying was to the United States justice system, which his service to his country most definitely cancels out. President Bush was correct to pardon Libby.
  • Someone on July 10, 2007 at 4:09 PM
    No one is justifying what President Bush did by saying that since President Clinton did too, it's fine. However, for Clinton to say what Bush did was completely unethical makes him a hypocrite. How is commutating your Vice President's ex-Chief Of Staff's sentence any worse, or any better, than pardoning your brothern and brother-in-law and countless others 24 hours before you leave office? And for the record, I don't believe what Bush or Clinton did was right.
  • grace on July 12, 2007 at 1:29 AM
    wow lucas, check out all of the attention your article is getting, and well deserved too. good work.

    by the way G.Franklin, i don't think it's very fair for you to criticize our newspaper and our entire graduating class just for disagreeing with you. i'm not going to deny that there are many blind liberals in montgomery county, but silver chips is a fair and balanced paper with very well informed writers. i would hardly call this article an example of the work of a "mind numb" student.
  • Henry Scher (View Email) on August 13, 2007 at 1:57 PM
    firmamentalfalcon - are you for real?

    "The only harm caused by Libby's lying was to the United States Justice system"? You do realize that his charges were for obstructing justice in a case that would have led to issues of national security. Nothing "cancels out" a crime. Ever.

    And to all those comparing this to Clinton - Fine. Clinton sucks. Now, will you admit Bush does too?
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