"I want to know the truth," President Bush once said concerning the Valerie Plame affair. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of." And today, the culmination of over three years of truth-finding ended when Bush commuted Lewis Libby's conviction. This means Judith Miller will spend more time in jail for honoring her sources than the person who obstructed justice and perjured himself in the investigation.
The pathetic move by the president does not surprise anyone. I don't find the move disturbing as much as the all the presidential rhetoric used at the outset, and the tactics used in the interim. The sense of outrage is palpable across the country. While the rest of us go to work, pay our taxes, and keep the country running, the president and his man gallivant around as war leaders while keeping the inner workings of their organization hidden behind a wall of obfuscation. To say nothing of accountability, the American people rarely even get an explanation for their government's incredibly inept results.
"I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive," Bush said in a statement. "Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."
This "excessive" prison sentence was handed down by a Republican appointed judge, after a three year, exhaustive investigation started by John Ashcroft, and prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald who was appointed by Ashcroft's office. The case went through so many conservative hands it is hard to imagine any verdict reached as "excessive." And, in what seems to be a fitting metaphor for the last six years, the truth found in that long investigation is immediately discarded by the Bush administration, which opted instead to honor loyalty. The mantra apparently is that this administration will claim deal with the truth inasmuch as the search for truth can be coerced for political gain. Any unfortunate findings can be quickly erased with the stroke of a pen--whether they are global warming facts, or members of the administration convicted of a felony.
No, Libby was no the leak. No, he was not the person the prosecution was originally looking for. Conservative pundits latched onto this and called the whole thing a witch-hunt. Which is to say it is just unfair to go after anyone who obstructs justice and/or commits perjury if the original trial was not about them. This notion stems from the party who claims to know something about family values.
Bush vowed to "take care" of the person involved in the leak. Both Dick Cheney and Karl Rove have been closely linked in the case yet Bush has shown no interest to expedite any investigation in those key members of the administration. Libby took the hit instead and is spared by the president. But, really, how much can expect from a man void of a realistic, cohesive long view? I do not find it surprising at all that today is the four year anniversary of another great Bush bloviation: bring 'em on. Bush once laid down the gauntlet with those choice words; and, as it turns out, everyone was ready for the challenge except the White House.
Bush was once heralded as a man of integrity. A decisive war-time president. A straight talking Texan. We now know none of those things are true. Like Libby, perhaps, we too have been set free. We now know the truth that Bush once claimed to seek. The Libby issue effectively blows away any hint of the former caricature that was the strong, post-9/11 president. All bad things can be blamed on partisan politics and witch-hunts but did such things shrink Bush? Or was it his own, indescribable contempt? Some horrors need no embellishment.