Monday, July 02, 2007

The Libby outrage

We were in the last ten minutes of the show today when the news flashed across CNN's breaking news bar that Bush had commuted Scotter Libby's sentence. There was nothing about it yet on the web, the wires or the blogs. But I knew enough about a "commutation" vs. a "pardon," based on some of the scenarios put forth by legal experts in recent weeks, to know that Bush had just given the middle finger to all Americans and to the justice system, once again. I was outraged, and was glad I had ten minutes to vent, but we'll certainly be talking all about this tomorrow.

Bush's arrogance and bravado of course mask the opposite: He is a sniveling coward. He didn't have the guts to pardon Libby outright, and thought he was fashioning some sort of compromise. This decision, however, is immensely dishonest, even by Bush/Cheney standards -- and is already being seen that way by legal analysts, like CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, who called it astonishing -- because he claims to respect the jury's decision but just believes the judge's sentence is "excessive." The sentence is within federal guidelines for the crime committed, was recommended by the special prosecutor appointed by Bush and was handed down by a conservative Reagan/Bush/Bush-appointed judge.

Politically, however, Bush couldn't afford to do nothing because he is a trapped, weak president beholden to all the partners in crime all around him. Forget all the crap about "loyalty" that you will hear from the media again. Bush did this for the same reason that he can't get rid of Gonzales and why he held on to Rumsfeld until the last possible moment: They all know where all the bodies are buried, and Bush and Cheney can't have them talking.

I don't agree with those (mostly among the media blatherers) who think that this could help Bush with his base and help him gain some support, because there was pressure on him re: a Libby pardon. That pressure was mostly from the Beltway conservative (and media) crowd, not the rank and file conservatives out in the country. With Bush's presidency in a shambles, and his numbers sinking lower, if Democrats loudly and persistently point to the brazen disregard for the law here it could be another Harriet Miers moment on right: Bush doing something for a crony, and for himself, while mocking the federal courts and the justice system in the process.