Bush prudent to Commute With Scooter

By: Robert E. Meyer

Recently a local newspaper published a syndicated editorial cartoon, that if not entirely truthful, at least broached important issues regarding the Scooter Libby commutation. Unfortunately, these were issues which were neglected in their earlier staff editorial referencing the same topic.

The featured cartoon consisted of four frames, each with a separate portrait that contained a caption beneath as follows; Richard Armitage, leaker; Joe Wilson, liar; Valerie Plame, liar; Scooter Libby, felon.

Many sources report that the prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, knew Armitage was the leaker of Plame’s identity before the investigation was started. If so, why did Fitzgerald continue with the investigative process? Such conduct offers the appearance of constructive entrapment.

In addition, it seems similar in principle to the situation you might see at your place of employment, where a group of efficiency experts walk around armed with clipboards and coffee cups while observing work processes. They can’t very well go back to headquarters and say they found nothing wrong–if they want to keep their jobs, anyway. Maybe Fitzgerald was under the weight of the same inertia.

Only days before this writing, a civil lawsuit for damages brought by Plame, which named Vice-President Cheney, Scooter Libby, and also Deputy Secretary Armitage as defendants, was dismissed by the presiding judge. But the real question is why was there never an outcry to indict Armitage of criminal misconduct, particularly when this “leak” expedition was the stew on the front burner of the media’s stove for years. We might ask whether Armitage is big Bush supporter?

Attorney Victoria Toensing ,who was an author of the Intelligence Identity Protections Act, stated that Valerie Plame did not qualify as a “covert agent” under the definition of the statute.

The trial judge, Reggie Walton, admitted that he didn’t know if Libby had violated the statute (that is, if Plame was covert), so he instructed the jury not to consider such information germane in their deliberations about Libby’s guilt or innocence. The publicity surrounding the Plame case for the past few years, coupled with the ambiguity of the trial judge, may have given the impression Libby was technically guilty unless proven innocent.

My paper’s editorial staff may not have confused apples and oranges, but did compare McIntosh’s with Granny Smith’s, when they offered statistics concerning the numbers incarcerated for Obstruction of Justice (75% of defendants who were convicted). They should have compared statistics for those who were convicted of “process crimes” (criminal activity which occurs after the alleged crime being investigated). President Clinton himself was cited for giving misleading testimony under oath in federal court, yet was acquitted of impeachment when members of his party decided that there was no underlying crime that he lied to cover up–ironically, just like Libby.

The editorial staff also excoriated those sending letters who wanted to bring up some of the unconscionable Clinton Administration pardons, saying that such mention was hypocritical unless they had also supported the Clinton pardons. But the reasons for the comparisons were actually to show that the newspaper staff was itself inconsistent in its condemnation of both presidents.

From my vantage point, the comparison issue is moot, since Bush has not yet pardoned Libby in the first place.

And how can we justify Sandy Berger’s lenient sentence, when we consider the documents he destroyed likely showed that the Clinton administration’s laxity on terrorism contributed to 9-11. How do we explain that there was little or no interest in partisan recrimination against Berger?

The president, weighing the factors above, probably concluded that Libby’s prosecution was motivated more by politics (we didn’t get the trophy catch, so let’s crucify the small pan fish), then any quest for justice. If people think Bush circumvented justice in pardoning Libby, then they need to answer the questions I asked above, because justice is not selective.

It may well be that Libby did lie in his statements before Grand Jury. If so, it does warrant punishment. Unfortunately, his conviction didn’t occur in a vacuum, but in a wind tunnel that appears to criminalize given political positions.

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