Monday, June 18, 2007

Saving Scooter

William Kristol, he of the Orvill Reddenbacherish neoconservative ilk, has made no secret his desire to see I Lewis "Scooter" Libby receive a presidential pardon. But Bush does not appear to be listening, and so in the latest edition of "The Weekly Standard" Kristol advises the president, again, to go for it.

It's always dicey when one petitions for a convicted felon to be pardoned by the president. One does not simply go about such a thing lightly. There are many factors to consider. How does someone like Kristol, who represents the party of family values and ethics, also take the side of someone who perjured himself, obstructed justice, and made false statements during an investigation?

Typically the spin-control involves pointing out a similar grievance from the opposite party. For example, when Mark Foley was found to be courting under-age congressional page boys and House Speaker Dennis Hastert knew about it all along, the Republicans immediately recalled the Gary Studds scandal in-which the Democratic congressman had sex with a 17 year-old page. That scandal had its day in court 25 years ago and invokes little contemporary outrage.

Still, Kristol tries a similar move in his attempt to save Scooter.

"Of course, Sandy Berger, national security adviser to Bill Clinton, hid original documents on his person, took them out of the National Archives, destroyed them, and lied to investigators. One might think of this as 'creating a problem.' But Berger got no prison time and a fine one-fifth that imposed on Libby."

You know you're hurting when your first line of defense is "hey, they do it too." It's also pathetic to see such a high-powered Republican mouth-piece once again dragging out the bogyman Clinton administration. No one cares about Bill Clinton anymore, and who can even tell you who Sandy Berger was (National Security Advisor) except these neoconservatives? Clinton is gone. Propping him up as a straw man only to beat him down was at its climax ten years ago. The world has moved on, neoconservatives have not, which is why, perhaps, they seem so completely lost these days.

Kristol goes on to say that "Libby's sentence--to say nothing of the original prosecution--is unfair and vindictive." This echoes a very popular conservative line of thinking, one that strikes a deep vein of paranoia and fearfulness.

Erik on the blog Redstate echoes the vibe when he says, "To me, Scooter Libby was the victim of a partisan witch hunt. He, at most, got his timeline mixed up when he went before the grand jury and was inconsistent with his prior statements to the FBI. To Mr. Lindorff, it was intentional."

A witch-hunt? A political circus perpetuated by an over zealous attorney and an activist judge and probably, carefully concealed communists? Maybe they're right. Maybe Libby has been made an unfair example, the sacrificial lamb for a sinful administration. He did his duty and took the fall. He got pinched for his more powerful brethren. A patriot, maybe the man deserves not jail time, but a pardon.

I dearly hope the president succumbs to this line of "reasoning." A pardon of Libby would be such an obnoxious display of loyalty over values that whatever is left of the paper-thin, self-righteous atmosphere around the president will be blown away by a public outrage with the power of corona discharge. And why not? What brought this presidency down was a level of arrogance that bordered on blindness. This was an administration, and a political party, which sought to consolidate its power and run itself like the mafia. Except the mafia actually gets things done rather than masquerade around.

And so, I predict there will be no pardon for Libby. Forget all the logic that says this president, with his hobbled administration, abysmal approval ratings, and crippled foreign and domestic policy cannot afford the political capital to pardon Libby. There is another reason: a complete vacuum of leadership at the White House. To pardon Libby would require a certain amount of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. I have never seen this president play it that way. When the going gets tough he sticks every time. This is George W. Bush, the leader who rubber-stamped for a Republican congress; the guy who has propped up bloated and inept government institutions; the man who could not even fire Donald Rumsfeld before the 2006 elections. He is a self-serving, unimaginative heir. His time will now be spent salvaging a mangled legacy with missile defense or immigration reform and Libby can go to jail as the tip of the vast and corrupt White House iceberg.

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