And Justice For Some

The hypocrisy inherent in President George W. Bush's decision Monday to commute the 30-month prison sentence for former White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby doesn't just reside in the fact that the current Justice Department-- President Bush's Justice Department-- has gleefully pursued similar or even longer sentences for other, less-connected felons who have committed obstruction of justice and/or perjury.

It is even more pronounced when you compare the President's expressed concern for Libby's "excessive" punishment with the utter lack of concern for "excessive" punishment the President displayed when he was Governor of Texas, Alberto R. Gonzales was his right-hand man, and the two rubber-stamped "no" on clemency requests with an appalling lack of regard for the facts and circumstances of the cases presented to them.

Back in Texas, in 1997, when the men in the dock were not the President's buddies or political wingmen, there was no "careful weighing" of the facts; there was no compassion; there was no moment of pause or offering of sympathy for the families of the defendants. There were just dull, merciless rejections that ensured that men would be executed even when their trials were patently unfair. No matter what you think of Libby, or the trial that made him a convict, or the investigation which begat the trial, or the President's unfettered ability to pardon or commute a conviction or sentence, there is no rational way to fairly and justly square that disparate treatment.

But first back to Hypocrisy No. 1-- the part about how the President saved his buddy while the rest of the Justice Department pushes for onerous sentences for people convicted of the very same crimes. Here is what the Los Angeles Times offered up: "Three-fourths of the 198 defendants sentenced in federal court last year for obstruction of justice -- one of four crimes Libby was found guilty of in March -- got some prison time. According to federal data, the average sentence defendants received for that charge alone was 70 months. Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld a 33-month prison sentence for a decorated Army veteran who was convicted of lying to a federal agent about buying a machine gun. The veteran had a record of public service -- fighting in Vietnam and the Gulf War -- and no criminal record. But Justice Department lawyers argued his prison term should stand because it fit within the federal sentencing guidelines."

Here is how the New York Times put it: "Mr. Bush repeated yesterday that he had found Mr. Libby's punishment to be too severe. But experts in federal sentencing law said a sentence of 30 months for lying and obstruction was consistent with the tough sentences routinely meted out by the federal system. 'On what legal basis could he have reached that result?' asked Frank O. Bowman III, an authority on federal sentencing who teaches law at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said of the commutation. 'There is no legal basis.' Nor is there a reason to think that the Justice Department has changed its position about the sentencing system generally. Indeed, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said last month that the department would push for legislation making federal sentences tougher and less flexible."

And now back to Hypocrisy No. 2-- the part about how the same man who showed enormous compassion for his convicted friend Libby showed none when asked for clemency by a man named Terry Washington, who was mentally retarded and whose capital trial in Texas was in many ways a farce. Here is how Alan Berlow put it in his famous Atlantic Monthly piece about the Texas clemency memos:

At the outset of his administration Governor Bush presented a
standard for clemency that all but ensured that few if any death
sentences would be seriously examined. 'In every case,' he
wrote in A Charge to Keep, 'I would ask: Is there any doubt about
this individual's guilt or innocence? And, have the courts had ample
opportunity to review all the legal issues in this case?' This is an
extraordinarily narrow notion of clemency review: it seems to leave
little, if any, room to consider mental illness or incompetence,
childhood physical or sexual abuse, remorse, rehabilitation, racial
discrimination in jury selection, the competence of the legal defense,
or disparities in sentences between co-defendants or among
defendants convicted of similar crimes. Neither compassion nor
'mercy,' which the Supreme Court as far back as 1855 saw as
central to the very idea of clemency, is acknowledged as being
of any account."

Not, at least, until it was Libby's turn to face the music.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 4, 2007; 5:19 PM ET
Previous: Libby, the President and a 1,000-Year-Old Song | Next: Another Justice Attorney Bashes Gonzo

Comments

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Libby should not have been convicted in the first place. Help me understand what, exactly, was the crime committed (since no charges were brought against anyone in the underlying Plame-Wilson case?)

If lying and perjury are jailable offenses in Libby's case, why didn't Clinton serve time over the Lewinsky lies?

Posted by: Richard | July 5, 2007 09:07 AM

Libby's lies obstructed the investigation into a possible crime in the leaking of a covert CIA agent's name.

Clinton's lies were regarding sex.

Leaking an agents name--possibly a crime.

Adultry--not a crime

Posted by: rcjh | July 5, 2007 09:24 AM

As usual, the liberal columnists are presenting a biased view of this event. Where were your comments, Mr. Cohen, when Clinton pardoned the many criminals right before the end of his presidential term? Your biases are sickening!

Posted by: Pat | July 5, 2007 09:46 AM

As usual, the liberal columnists are presenting a biased view of this event. Where were your comments, Mr. Cohen, when Clinton pardoned the many criminals right before the end of his presidential term? Your biases are sickening!

Posted by: Pat | July 5, 2007 09:46 AM

The president applied the commutation in exchange for purchasing Libby's silence. He becomes the first president in recent memory, and perhaps the only president in history to commute a sentence in which the convicted felony served ZERO time. And yes, even if we take into account the "mitigating" factors of Bush's past history on pardons and sentencing guidelines, this decision makes no sense. Not on the basis of principle, or precedent.

Impeach. Impeach. Impeach.

Posted by: JP2 | July 5, 2007 09:50 AM

Pat, the fact that you cite Clinton's pardons in relation to Bush tells me that you are intent on embarrassing yourself.

Ok, never mind that Clinton applied those pardons largely consistent with the principle--that you commute the sentences of strangers who have done their time--you show mercy.

Let's take the case of Susan McDougal, who was imprisoned in connection with the Whitewater scandal. She served 18 months including 6 weeks in solitary confinement. She served her time.

Remind me how many hours, minutes, or even seconds did Libby serve?

The Clinton standard in this case would be that Libby serves 18 months, including 6 weeks in solitary confinement. Bush's standard doesn't even come close to approximating that. And yet you have a problem with the Clinton standard?

Who's the hypocrite here?

Posted by: JP2 | July 5, 2007 09:56 AM

It just goes to show ya that W is always going to look out for his cronies and the hell with the rest of us. Libby was found guilty and he should pay for his crimes. But because he's a "friend of George's" he gets pardoned. How many other pardons is George Bush going to hand out unfairly. It's ridiculous to think he's going to be fair to the average American citizen who breaks the law, but his cronies need not worry about a thing.

Posted by: Vikki Harris-Dooley | July 5, 2007 10:00 AM

Richard appears to be new to this country -- he doesn't understand how the jury system works.

The crime committed is the crime Libby was convicted of committing.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | July 5, 2007 10:02 AM

Richard:

Your argument seems to be that we should go easy on Libby because his perjury and obsruction of justice was SUCCESSFUL. Make no mistake, but for Libby's obstruction, it may well have been Cheney at the defendant's table instead of Libby.

And Pat:

You have a selective memory. There was wide dissention among liberals for several of Clinton's last-minute pardons, especially Marc Rich (who, ironically, was represented by Scooter Libby). Tell me why you think we should hold Bush to an impossibly low standard of behavior simply because other Presidents have made similar mistakes. If that is indeed the standard you and the rest of the authoritarians hold for this administration, there is little wonder how and why we have a government that is both totally corrupt and completely incompetent.

Posted by: Nellie | July 5, 2007 10:20 AM

And one more thing, since Richard seems not to understand what perjury really is. Perjury is an intentional false statement made under oath that is material to the ultimate issue. In other words, not every lie under oath is perjury, but rather only those that are MATERIAL are perjurous.

Bill Clinton did not commit perjury. He made several statements under oath during a deposition that could fairly be classified as false. None of them, however, were material to any of the claims in the civil lawsuit against him. He was never charged with perjury because no prosecuting attorney could ever prove that his statements were material.

This is in stark contrast to the false statements Libby made to a grand jury during a criminal investigation. The prosecutor brought charges against him, and a jury convicted him. If you can't see the difference, then I've got to wonder what color the sky is in your world.

Posted by: Nellie | July 5, 2007 10:37 AM

Hopefully putting this issue of pardons in the spotlight will harm both Bush's political allies and Bill Clinton's wife. Then either President Obama, President Edwards, or President Biden will win the election.

Posted by: Dominick | July 5, 2007 10:46 AM

Thank you for mentioning GWB's hypocrisy concerning executions. I believe he approved 152 death warrants while governor of Texas, and commuted exactly one death sentence -- to life in prison.

Posted by: lisatann | July 5, 2007 10:51 AM

May GOD, who will have the final in His judgement of us all....HAVE MERCY!

Posted by: mary | July 5, 2007 10:55 AM

It was frustrating to read the the last post and to listen to the Republican pundits on cable news try for so long to spin the conviction of Libby as wrong because "no underlying crime was comitted" and to equate Libby's actions with those of then-President Clinton. But this reasoning is flawed because of one essential point - we know exactly what happened in the Lewinsky case (we may not want to know, but we do), but we probably will never know the facts which Scooter Libby lied and obstructed so well. Clinton did lie concerning his private life, but when it became clear that this lie was not going to stay buried, he told the truth, and his lawyers also amended his answers and the pleadings. This is the prudent thing to do to stay out of jail. Think Carl Rove - why is he not in the same position as Scooter Libby, with felony convictions and an embarrassing pardon, I mean, commutation. Because when he knew he had been caught in a lie, he went back to the Grand Jury and fixed it ....again, and again and again. Which brings me to my final point - Bush commuted, rather than pardoned, Libby for 2 reasons" 1) he thought it would be easier to sell, and 2) Libby can still refuse to tell Congress what happened because he still has 5th amendment rights (gone with a pardon). We will never know Cheney's role in all this and that is a crime!

Posted by: Gail Brown | July 5, 2007 10:57 AM

As presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has commented, cronyism has replaced the rule of law in the Bush administration.
The important question is what are the public ramifications for this latest, bold use of presidential power?
No one has been prosecuted for revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent. Vice President Dick Cheney has abused presidential power with his refusal to be considered a part of the executive branch. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales continues in office despite documented incompetence and widening lack of confidence of Congress. Congress has yet been able to curb President Bush's esculated war in Iraq nor prosecuted Bush cronies who have misused government contracts to fatten their bank accounts.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney appear to be getting off scot-free for their violations of federal law and constitutional oaths as well as lying to the American people.

Posted by: Jonathan R. Seaver | July 5, 2007 11:22 AM

I agree the great injustice here is that we will never know Cheney's role and the role of the entire administration. Just as we will never know the content of all those missing Republican Party emails. It is unfathomable that our government can find incriminating evidence on others computers dating back many years but cannot find emails that are supposed to be kept and made available for public scrutiny.

Posted by: yw | July 5, 2007 11:29 AM

Hypocrisy? Our president? Bush the Compassionate? Bush the Conservative? Bush the Christian? Bush the Exporter of Democracy? Bush, the Harvard MBA Competent Manager? Why, how could anyone think that he, of all people, is a hypocrite? What cynicism, Mr. Cohen. Tsk. Tsk.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | July 5, 2007 12:12 PM

Dominick why so baldly prejudiced against Hillary to put her in the same clause as the current administration? I don't want her to win- I have problems with many of her choices- but I don't understand your prejudice in hoping for harm to her.

Posted by: Franz | July 5, 2007 02:42 PM

The White House routinely murders civil rights leaders. Many of them are proponents of nonviolence. The smirking laughter in the White House is at its most celebratory when a proponent of nonviolence brutally passes away. The only language Bush understands is brute force. He will not concede an inch of ground that his critics lack the Strength and determination to take from him. The lesson of Libby is that consensus matters no more to Bush today than when he was at his apex. He still responds to power, not argument. Watching Bush shrug off the outrage over domestic assassinations ought to show other uneasy Republicans how much their softer words will affect the president -- unless they command his attention with a sharp slap of repudiation in the votes that should soon consume Congress.

Posted by: Ronald Brownstein | July 5, 2007 06:25 PM

FOR THOSE THAT SAY THAT CLINTON's LIES ARE OVER A SEXUAL ACT IS A BUNCH OF BULL!!!!
IT WAS FOR LYING TO A GRAND JURY IN REGARDS WHITEWATER THAT HE WAS IMPEACHED ON!!!
HERE IS SOME OF THE NAMES THAT CLINTON
PARDONED:
MARC RICH INTERNATIONALLY A KNOWN
FELON!!!!

SANDY BERGER WALKED OUT WITH CLASSIFIED
DOCUMENTS FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT!!!!!

SUSAN MCGOUGAL SHE WAS INVOLVED WITH CLINTON IN THE WHITEWATER AFFAIR!!!

SO DON'T GIVE ME THAT CRAP ABOUT THIS NOT BEING "PAYBACK" TIME. WHEN BUSH WAS FIRST ELECTED THE SUBJECT CAME UP FROM DEMOCRATS!!! AND NO HE DIDN'T STEAL THE
ELECTION. GORE LOST BECAUSE DEMOCRATS ARE TOO STUPIDTO FOLLOW VOTING INSTRUCTIONS!!! HOW COME THOSE THAT VOTE FOR REPUBLICANS DID!!!! AND NO THERE WAS NO "FIXING" THE ELECTION!!!! WHEN MOST OF THE COUNTRY WAS USING THE OLD TECH VOTING MACHINES, THERE WAS NO WAY TO TELL WHO VOTED FOR WHO, AND IF SOMEONE "MISSED" A VOTE FOR ONE OR MORE OFFICIALS. IN THE BACK OF THOSE MACHINES ARE DIALS WITH THE RECORDED VOTES. THAT IS IT!!!! TOO BAD
ALL YOU DEMOCRATS ARE SO STUPID!!!

SUSAN MCGOUGAL SHE WAS INVOLVED WITH CLINTON IN THE WHITEWATER AFFAIR!!!

SANDY BERGER WALKED OUT WITH CLASSIFIED
DOCUMENTS FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT

Posted by: PAUL E TAYLOR JR | July 5, 2007 08:10 PM

Paul E. Taylor, let's try a novel experiment here and work from a concept called "first principles".

You say Clinton is the worst--far worse than Bush. Well, let's abstract those ideas out into a standard which we can apply uniformly.

Category: Abuses of the Executive pardon power.

I would define the following as serious abuses of that authority:

First principle: It is wrong for the president to commute a criminal sentence of one of his subordinates to protect himself.

First principle corollary: It is wrong--and perhaps illegal--for a president to commute a sentence in exchange for a subordinate's silence.

None of the examples that you cite--which run the gamut from post Clinton presidency back to the Clinton presidency--fit that standard.

Susan "McGougal" (sic) served 18 months including 6 weeks in solitary confinement. She expressed remorse for her actions.

How many months has Libby served of his 30 month sentence? When did Libby own up to his crime and express remorse for his actions? Answers: he didn't and he hasn't.

Yet Bush found it appropriate to commute his sentence. He fails even on the basis of the Clinton standard.

Rich was not a subordinate. In exchange for his pardon he had to pay a $100 million dollar fine. I would also invite you to read the statements made by Rich's former attorney, and one of the lobbyist's for his pardon, who gave testimony about the matter on the Hill in 2000.

If you're troubled by the Rich pardon, as many Americans rightfully are, maybe you should ask why his attorney and lobbyist was appointed to a position of responsibility WITHIN this administration. (Hint that lobbyist/lawyer's name is Scooter Libby).

Perhaps you could ask the same question of another convicted felon in this administration--Elliot Abrams--who also has been put in a position of public trust. Clearly this administration operates by a different standard from the one's that proceeded it, and it is not an especially high one.

That's what you discover when your brain allows you to analyze problems from the perspective of first principles.

Another sad side note: George W. Bush may well be THE ONLY president in U.S. history to pardon a subordinate who was convicted of a felony before that subordinate served a minute of his sentence.

Just TWO weeks before this commutation George W. Bush's own DoJ was arguing in a parallel case that 33 months for perjury and obstruction of justice was a highly appropriate sentence for a retired military vet--reference Rita v. U.S.--but when it comes to one of his own that penalty is "excessive".

How is that not rank hypocrisy?

You can't say that Clinton DID it here, because he didn't. Not unless the mental categories in your confused mind somehow associate the actions of George W. Bush with Bill Clinton.

In the meantime, fix that CAPS lock.

Posted by: JP2 | July 5, 2007 09:53 PM

Reading propaganda like that of Paul E Taylor's submission makes me sad for the future of America.

Posted by: Laura S.Steel | July 6, 2007 12:57 AM

Clinton was wrong, Libby was wrong, and now Bush too is wrong.

The conservative wing of the Republican Party should grimmus at Bush's decision to offer clemency to Libby not applaud it. To the majority of moderates in the US, they have lost whatever "moral high ground" they claimed about the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. Americans in general can learn to forgive a scoundrel, they are less forgiving to hypocrites...

Overall, this act will not hurt or help Bush; he isn't running again and his legacy is completely wrapped up in the war. However, it will surely harm the Republican Party in the next election - voters hate hypocritical parties more that than individual hypocritics, and Bush's action and the upswell of Republican Party support for commuting/ pardoning Libby in this case is the ultimate in party hypocrisy!

Posted by: GS in Idaho | July 6, 2007 05:05 AM

Yo, Paul, what cave did you crawl out of? You might try backing up your bald conjecture with a few facts. You know, those inconvenient little pieces of truth you dicided to ignore when the CAPS LOCK key on your keyboard got stuck.

This is off topic, but since you raised it, tell me in 2000 how many Democratic voters did Jeb Bush purge from the rolls in Florida because their names were similar to those of convicted felons -- not actual felons, but simply having similar names? Try nearly 50,000. Do you think Gore might have made up 526 votes from those Democrats? How many Democratic voters were removed from the rolls in 2004 through illegal "caging" conducted by Tim Griffin, then GOP director of opposition research (and now at the center of the U.S. Attorney scandal)? The spread sheets he mistakenly emailed to georgewbush.org are massive. Did you know that the career DOJ lawyers refused to sign off on Tom DeLay's redistricting plan in Texas as unconstitutional and were overruled by the political hacks and sycophants appointed by the President? No? You just have to get out more often.

These are actual FACTS you might want to look up before you open your fat mouth again. Rush's talking points may pass as intelligent conversation in your circles, but there is a higher standard here.

Posted by: Nellie | July 6, 2007 07:12 AM

I agree with the widely held opinion that Libby was a "fall-guy" and as such, was reasonably the recipient of clemency. His serving a prison sentence wouldn't help the other victims of Bush's narrow- mindedness, laziness or just plain incompetence. (This broad category includes people he denied clemency in Texas as well as the many many victims of the Iraq war.)
But above, I read many carefully thought-out arguments for a diffent point of view on Libby's sentence.
I also read the conditions for posting a comment, so I find it interesting that Paul E Taylor, jr.'s comment passed muster.

Posted by: Pamela | July 6, 2007 09:45 AM

I agree with the widely held opinion that Libby was a "fall-guy" and as such, was reasonably the recipient of clemency. His serving a prison sentence wouldn't help the other victims of Bush's narrow- mindedness, laziness or just plain incompetence. (This broad category includes people he denied clemency in Texas as well as the many many victims of the Iraq war.)
But above, I read many carefully thought-out arguments for a diffent point of view on Libby's sentence.
I also read the conditions for posting a comment, so I find it interesting that Paul E Taylor, jr.'s comment passed muster.

Posted by: Pamela | July 6, 2007 09:45 AM

Bush the sleezer rolls on.

Posted by: mepree | July 6, 2007 10:50 AM

Does Mr. Brownstein care to elaborate for the ignorant? "The White House murders civil rights leaders"? No fan at all of the current administration, but what do you mean?

Posted by: Rex tremendae | July 6, 2007 11:15 AM

Wasn't Irving Libby himself a big supporter of the criminal Marc Rich? Didn't he say from the first that the charges against Rich had been misconstrued & blown all out of proportion? Anyone who was "outraged" about the Rich pardon ought to go ballistic about communting Libby's sentence. Perjury & obstruction of justice is what Alger Hiss was bagged on. Libby - "Spooky," "Skater," "Sprung" - deserved far worse than 30 mos for complicity in a conspiracy to ought an American intelligence agent in wartime.

Posted by: storybrown | July 6, 2007 11:17 AM

You know, I have a general thought on the election process. I'm a little disturbed that many people seem to make their voting decision on patently dubious bases or misinformation (of course this isn't new in the US). Freedom for the people, and entitlement just because one was born here and exists and all that, but when a significant number of people do this, it can have a major influence on the election result and the course of the country. What is thought about the, admittedly, crazy idea of having a preliminary test just on comprehension of the facts of the major issues and of the various candidates'stated and historical positions on them, and requiring one to get at least 80% or more right before one is allowed to vote (not to be confused with Southern poll tests whose purpose was racist)?

Posted by: Duke of Hazard | July 6, 2007 11:36 AM

I add, I wouldn't think such a test need be too difficult to make, could easily be short answer/multiple choice.

Posted by: Duke | July 6, 2007 11:39 AM

Uhhh, since when did being against the policies and actions of the moron-in-chief mean that we are supporters of Bill Clinton's actions? They both lied. Let's remember first, what the consequences of their actions are/were, second, who was actually convicted and sentenced, and third the context of the two instances of perjury. There's a big difference between being set up and being hung out to dry knowing you're ass is covered. It's also pretty clear by approval ratings of Clinton, post Monica, and the disapproval of Bush's actions regarding Libby, that the majority of people do seem to get it. Impeac the M*****F***ers now! Sign the Kucinich and MoveOn petitions.

Posted by: Joe Hammons | July 6, 2007 01:32 PM

I couldn`t express it any better, Joe Hammons

Posted by: otis hale | July 6, 2007 01:55 PM

I don't see how anyone can have pity on Libby as a "Fall Guy" when he's falling on his own sword, and willfully at that. He's no victim, he's just a very disciplined conspirator.

Posted by: AC | July 6, 2007 03:17 PM

For those who are lamenting the "Clinton standard" and the Marc Rich pardon, it's ironic that their Lord & Saviors George W. Bush/Vice Cheney will have a chance to measure up once again in just a week.

When the Rich pardon came before the House Committee on Government Reform in the early years of the Bush administration Clinton waived Executive privilege so that subordinates could testify openly in reference to the matter. Will Bush apply the same standard, or his substantially lower obstructionist one?

"Clinton did it," in this case means that he let his people speak before the House without any restrictions. Will Bush live by the same rules?

I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: JP2 | July 6, 2007 09:52 PM

CALL ME CRAZY: Many thoughtful comments here. I'll add a comment/prediction that is thoughtful but will probably be considered outrageous. I've been predicting this for 3+ years. Bush has surrounded himself with sychophants, people who are loyal only to him, and people who, like Bush himself, have no respect for the constitution. Bush himself is psychotic (delusional and unable to distinguish reality from fantasy) and a psychopath (has no empathy for others and no conscience). He's demonstrated these mental disorders over and over again. Bush doesn't lie about torture or wiretapping--he doesn't understand what the truth is. Torture of the detainees would not trouble him because he simply can't empathize with those who suffer.

Expect Bush to declare martial law just before or after the 2008 elections for "national security" reasons. He believes that he and only he can save us from terrorists and other boogymen. He believes that he is the "chosen one" to lead the U.S. It appears that the most decent people at the DOJ and other Depts. and Agencies have already jumped ship out of frustration. So, we're left with people like Gonzales at the DOJ and in other Depts. Expect the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Support Bush in this power grab. SCOTUS is in Bush's hands.

The great American experiment in democracy will have failed just as so many people have predicted...from within. We're rotten to the core, a nation of sheep being herded about by imbeciles, and what few decent people are left in Federal-elected positions lack the backbone to impeach Bush even now. Don't expect them to stand up for you when the Bush power grab takes place.

Posted by: maddog56 | July 7, 2007 02:35 AM

How come this candidate and the media never mention that he is half white?

Posted by: Sweetie | July 7, 2007 08:41 AM

Damn! Where's that lunatic-fringe filter when you need it?

Posted by: Dave | July 7, 2007 11:37 AM

I always appreciate the well-reasoned and informative postings by JP2, along with many others. It's always so disheartening when I hear that Bush/Cheney have ANY approval rating, but you all give me hope for our future. Thanks.

Posted by: Gardenia | July 7, 2007 06:06 PM

Oh, and thanks to you, too, Andrew. As usual, this was a good Bench Conference to attend.

Posted by: Gardenia | July 7, 2007 06:07 PM

My God people, why get so worked up about all this. This is from the Washington Post not some unbiased paper. All the words thrown about are from people with a prejudiced view anyway. Let the adults continue to try to run the country, and let the propaganda machines like the Washington Compost continue their diatribe. No one of any intelligence truly gives them more than passing credit for the ink they waste. In fact, I rather enjoy the fiction. It makes for fun reading and I get to use the paper to line the litter box.

Posted by: C Snyder | July 7, 2007 11:47 PM

Always nice to see intelligent comments by people like Nellie and JP who attempt to refute the reich-wingers. It's for rational discourse like that that I read these comments.

But have you ever noticed that the fascists never seem to have any facts on their side? All they can say is "Clinton did it" or "You're just deranged because you hate George Bush." It's rare to see any apologist for this rule-by-decree mob who can offer a rational defence. They're not worth the time it takes you to write cogent, logical counterpoints, JP and Nellie.

Have you ever talked to a Moonie, a LaRouchian or other member of a cult? Because that's what loyal Bushies are, cultists. They have signed on mentally with a man they think is a noble leader, just as the Peoples Temple followers did with Jim Jones. As a psychiatric nurse, I've talked to many diagnosed delusional patients. When I try to give them reality orientation (i.e. "I am not beaming evil thoughts into your body that are giving you a heart attack") they change the subject, get angry or just walk away. They exhibit the same characteristics as Bush cultists.

It's a waste of time to interact with anyone who hasn't gotten it by now. If their minds were open to the truth, it would have sunk in. Mentally ill people cling to their delusions. They repeat them compulsively because the mere act of voicing the delusions affirms that they're right, in their own head.

In these internet chats, I ignore them or tell them to STFU. On a psych unit, I can give them Zyprexa, or if they're physically violent, a syringe of Haldol and Ativan. (Works wonders!)

Fortunately, they are a minority in America. Unfortunately, they are the only ones whose opinions count to the criminals who run the country. And like Maddog, I fear what might happen as their bitter end plays out. At least I have the luxury of watching it from a safe distance.

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | July 8, 2007 02:26 AM

Liberals are funny. lol

Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

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Posted by: Keglera | July 8, 2007 02:57 AM

Well where do we start with all of this? First, I am not a Bush supporter and I do not agree with commuting Libby's sentence. He was convicted and he should do his time even if he is falling on his sword. Personally I have no problem with that either. Every president has such a situation and almost always someone takes it on the chin for the boss (with the exception of William Felt who frankly I see as a traitor).

As far as Clinton. Yeah he's a hypocryte. 140 pardons on his last day of office including people convicted of terrorism (16 of them to be exact), child pornography, child molestation, obstruction of justice, perjury, the list goes on. To make it worse Hillary's brothers received large sums of money from many of those people prior to their pardons including Marc Rich who made massive donations to Hillary's election campaign, Carlos Vignali and Almon Braswell who forked over $200,000 each, and Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory who paid over $100,000 just to name a few. When the news of all this broke the Clinton's returned the money and claimed they were loans they were simply repaying. Yeah ok. The truth is they were selling pardons and while there was slight media coverage there was nothing near the outrage Libby's situation has created.

Next Clinton wasn't impeached for lying about Monica. He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Paula Jones case. He was convicted by the House of Representatives and essentially pardoned by the Senate who refused to remove him from office.

There is hypocrisy aplenty both both sides here. The Republicans show inconsistency by suggesting that Libby's conviction should be pardoned while they showed no mercy to Clinton and the Democrats show inconsistency by suggesting that Libby should have the book thrown at him while they overlook Bill's Clinton's conviction by the House of Representatives for the exact same thing.

So what I have finally concluded with all of this is two things. #1 Both parties love the rule of law when it suits their agenda and ignore it when it doesn't. #2 There's a whole lot of selective memory about Clinton in society today. #3 Bush is an idiot.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 8, 2007 03:28 AM

Oh yeah...and to JP2. Clinton may have waived executive privilege in regards to Marc Rich but he cowered behind it in regards to the pardons given to the FALN terrorist group and refused to turn over documents that Congress demanded and he used the Juistice Department to prevent testimony by FBI agents on the matter.

I hate to tell you but in regards to these specific matters Clinton was just as shady as Bush is...perhaps even moreso.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 8, 2007 03:40 AM

now first let me say, that if there is one set of rules for one it should be for all. Not that I am a Bush fan or anything, by no means. I think that if the court ruling is set for one standard it should be for all no matter what the crime, one sentence for everyone not just the poor. When it comes to Clinton and his decissions well, they speak for themselves. Even though, I do not see the harm in lying about sex, all men and women do it, so what was the big deal with that one.

Posted by: peggy in alabama | July 8, 2007 05:11 AM

now first let me say, that if there is one set of rules for one it should be for all. Not that I am a Bush fan or anything, by no means. I think that if the court ruling is set for one standard it should be for all no matter what the crime, one sentence for everyone not just the poor. When it comes to Clinton and his decissions well, they speak for themselves. Even though, I do not see the harm in lying about sex, all men and women do it, so what was the big deal with that one.

Posted by: peggy in alabama | July 8, 2007 05:11 AM

Peggy writes....

When it comes to Clinton and his decissions well, they speak for themselves. Even though, I do not see the harm in lying about sex, all men and women do it, so what was the big deal with that one.<<<<

So it's ok to lie as long as it's about sex, huh? Is it the liberal belief then that there should be the rule of law except when it has to do with something of a sexual nature? Clinton lied to a grand jury during a sexual harassment case. That's perjury and obstruction of justice. I thought it was the liberals who championed sexual harassment. I mean they had Anita Hill raise all hell but when it's Bill Clinton then the opinion is "oh it's just sex".

The Republicans are no better but that IS funny.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 8, 2007 12:45 PM

Scott in AZ, I suspect we probably agree on this issue more than we disagree.

A few points:
1. Clinton issued fewer pardons in 8 years than Carter did in 4 (409 to 570); one-third of the Nixon/Ford number (1,331); half the Johnson number (850); half the Kennedy number (909); almost a third the Eisenhower's number (1,143); one half the Truman number (997); and one-12th the number of FDR (5020).

2. Looking at aggregate numbers is always misleading. To do these real justice we need to look at each pardon on a case by case basis. Fundamentally, I think the Framers were wise to put the pardon authority into the Constitution--there are certainly occasions were clemency is merited.

3. The FALN commutations are a case in point.
--None of those pardoned were implicated in the 8 murders committed by their organization.
--Most of these folks had served at least 19 years--a number that was consistent with the Federal sentencing guidelines.
--Not all of the members had sentences commuted; one in particular refused to renounce violence, and is still serving his term.

I share your reservation in the refusal of Clinton's DoJ to let the FBI testify in 1999. I think this would have been appropriate.

I still don't see the parallels here to the Libby case.

I have not been able to find a single case during the Clinton years or before where a president has commuted a sentence in which a subordinate has served ZERO time in connection with a felony conviction.

The fact that the president himself, as well as his VP may be implicated in the violation of the IIPA introduces a conflict of interest here that you don't find in prior cases.

The closest parallel in recent times would be the McDougal Whitewater case. However, it still stands that McDougal did time--18 months, including 6 weeks in solitary confinement.

George W. Bush's actions in reference to stiff sentencing laws for ordinary defendants, and his parsimony with pardons of ordinary folks--whose cases may merit review--only put his actions in reference to the Libby commutation in bolder relief: One rule for friends of this president; another rule for ordinary Americans. That standard is not, never has been, and never should be acceptable to a free people.

So what is the appropriate remedy here?

Posted by: JP2 | July 8, 2007 09:39 PM

Scott in AZ--after reading your post again, I suspect we also have a couple other areas of disagreement.

1. "Taking one on the chin for a boss [who has engaged in criminal activity]." Strikes me as a pretty pathetic value. Personal loyalty should never trump civic virtue (respect for the law, because the law is applied uniformly--i.e. justly).

2. Mark Felt. I agree that he should have been imprisoned for the crimes for which he was convicted in the 1980 (pardoned by law and order Reagan when his case was on appeal--maybe a few echoes with the Libby move). In reference to Felt's actions against Nixon, I'm not quite sure how his behavior was "traitorous". His actions may have been self-interested, but balanced against national interests it's hard to see where his actions worked against the interests of the public at large.

There's more than a little inconsistency there.

If you believe that a president should have dictatorial powers--as your examples seem to imply--then there aren't any circumstances where a pardon would be objectionable. The Will of the Dictator is supreme and beyond question. I would agree with T.R. that that attitude is base and servile:

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

"Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star",
May 7, 1918

Posted by: JP2 | July 9, 2007 12:09 AM

to Scott in AZ:

Maybe you should go back and read the Starr Report or the Articles of Impeachment filed against Clinton. There was no grand jury in the Paula Jones case. It was a civil lawsuit. Grand Juries only come into play in criminal cases. The role of the Grand Jury is to hear the evidence against the accused to determine whether it is sufficient to charge the accused with a crime. The Grand Jury is one of our Fifth Amendment protections against a totalitarian state.

Clinton did not commit perjury in the Jones case. He lied in a deposition (which he later corrected) about an extramarital affair that occurred 15 or 20 years after the alleged sexual harrassment in the Jones case. That false statement was totally irrelevant to the issue of whether Jones was harrassed when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas. That evidence would be excluded by any court hearing the case, and would be reversible error if it were admitted. His false statement was the epitomy of "immaterial."

And this is what you want to equate with Scooter Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice? It is like taking a ball bearing and saying that it is as big as shot put. You've been drinking the Rush kool-aid far too long.

Posted by: Nellie | July 9, 2007 07:20 AM

And one more thing, Scott. You have a fundamental misunderstanding of the impeachment process. It is laid out in Art. I of the Constitution. Add it to your reading list.

Posted by: Nellie | July 9, 2007 07:28 AM

Bukko, your analogy from your first hand experience with mental patients has a lot of applicability (if not of course, total) to the administration. Lucky you to be "at a safe distance" (unfortunately I don't think the US will implode given its willingness to lie and contradict itself once disaster is visible, but it makes for a lot more extraneous volatility and discomfort than I feel like accepting as par for the course). Any major downsides to moving as an American to Australia?

Posted by: Ben K. | July 9, 2007 11:44 AM

Nellie said, within a typically apt answer, "...the standards are higher here." Yes, but not that they are that high in themselves! Maybe in the sense that a cat is "higher" up than a caterpillar.

Posted by: Dan | July 9, 2007 11:50 AM

C Snyder, sure, let's just let the intelligent people keep running the country as they have been, not bothering with such prejudiced things as facts/information reported in the newspaper. If as you say it's all prejudiced, are these "intelligent" people who, as you imply, are the ones who have to do the nuts and bolts work the prejudiced ones or not?

Posted by: Astro | July 9, 2007 01:28 PM

C Snyder, sure, let's just let the intelligent people keep running the country as they have been, not bothering with such prejudiced things as facts/information reported in the newspaper. If as you say it's all prejudiced, are these "intelligent" people who, as you imply, are the ones who have to do the nuts and bolts work the prejudiced ones or not?

Posted by: Astro Jetson | July 9, 2007 01:28 PM

Nellie writes.....

There was no grand jury in the Paula Jones case. It was a civil lawsuit...Clinton did not commit perjury in the Jones case. He lied in a deposition (which he later corrected) about an extramarital affair that occurred 15 or 20 years after the alleged sexual harrassment in the Jones case.<<<<

I stand corrected with the grand jury. You are correct. However lying during a sworn deposition, which that was, still constitutes perjury just as if you were on the witness stand...hence the term "sworn". By your own admission he lied in that instance and later "corrected it" with the famous line "that depends on what your definition of the word 'is' is." LMAO. Give me a break. He got nabbed and was weaseling his way out of it. And yes such things DO have impact on a sexual harrassment case as it establishes a history of character and conduct.

And this is what you want to equate with Scooter Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice? It is like taking a ball bearing and saying that it is as big as shot put.<<<

It's exactly the same. Perjury is perjury, obstruction of justice is obstruction of justice whether it's regarding a fraud case or a parking ticket. It was certainly significant enough for Askansas to disbar Clinton as a result.

You've been drinking the Rush kool-aid far too long.<<<

LOL. Actually I don't align myself with either party as I have concluded that 90% of them are corrupt whether they are republican or democrat. In truth I agree with the GOP about 60% of the time and the democrats about 40% of the time. The difference between you and I dear Nellie is that I will freely admit the republicans are just as corrupt as the democrats while you apparently have no problem finding justification for the evils the democrats do. I also notice that all those who have responded conveniently forget to address the payoffs to Hillary in exchange for pardons.

BTW...Rush is a propagandist who exists to sway the minds of those who don't have the intelligence to think for themselves and there's plenty on the left that do the exact same thing.


Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 9, 2007 04:03 PM

JP2 writes....

1. Clinton issued fewer pardons in 8 years than Carter did in 4......<<<

Personally I don't care about the number. There are good pardons and then there are "payoff" pardons. It's the latter that concerns me. Was Libby "paid off" for silence? Probably. Logic suggests that is a realistic conclusion. Was Clinton selling pardons? Probably. Again it's a realistic and logical conclusion. In no way am I attempting to justify either one. I am simply amused when both liberals and conservatives try to condemn one and justify the other. It's laughable.


2. Looking at aggregate numbers is always misleading. To do these real justice we need to look at each pardon on a case by case basis. Fundamentally, I think the Framers were wise to put the pardon authority into the Constitution--there are certainly occasions were clemency is merited. <<<

Agreed

3. The FALN commutations are a case in point.
--None of those pardoned were implicated in the 8 murders committed by their organization.
--Most of these folks had served at least 19 years--a number that was consistent with the Federal sentencing guidelines.
--Not all of the members had sentences commuted; one in particular refused to renounce violence, and is still serving his term.<<<<

Oh come on man. Giving a pardon to a terrorist because they "renounce violence" is like giving someone a $10 gift certificate to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. It means nothing.

I still don't see the parallels here to the Libby case.<<<

The parallels are simple. They're BS. $400,000 "loans" to Hillary's brothers from drug dealers and such and they're pardoned a couple days later?!?!? What's that? It's a payoff just like Libby's probably was. The parallel is that neither are examples of what pardons are suppossed to be about. They're both abuses of that ability.

The closest parallel in recent times would be the McDougal Whitewater case. However, it still stands that McDougal did time--18 months, including 6 weeks in solitary confinement.<<<

As well she should have and as Libby should have.


George W. Bush's actions in reference to stiff sentencing laws for ordinary defendants, ...That standard is not, never has been, and never should be acceptable to a free people.<<<

And selling pardons shouldn't be either. Look I am not defending Bush in any way. I am simply pointing out that the democrats are just as shady and it's laughable that either side has the gall to present themselves as so superior and holier than thou. As I said in a pervious post I am about 60% conservative and 40% liberal. I don't try to justify anything for either side and I put it to both conservatives and liberals to look at the actions of their own party before displaying such outrage at the actions of the other.

So what is the appropriate remedy here?<<<

Well we could go on for hours here but my above statement sums it up pretty well. There is a feeling in society that "my party can do no wrong and the opposition can do no right". Because of that good ideas and policies get shut down simply because the other side came up with it. There will always be differences of opinion and that's fine. The ability to voice those differences is what makes our country great. However every day I see people pass judgement on something and they really don't know anything about it. They simply say "it's my party's idea so I am all gung ho for it" or "it's the other party's idea so it sucks". The controversy we are seeing now over Libby is a perfect example of that.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 9, 2007 04:54 PM

Scott in AZ,

In reference to Libby, how does destroying a CIA employee's career, and compromising operations overseas benefit the American public? Perhaps you have a problem with the IIPA? Maybe we should take it off the books?

When a president lies he should be able to destroy professional careers of whistle blowers who call him on his B.S.?

How does that serve the public interest? How is that "faithfully executing" the laws?

The Bush's commutation protects him from possible legal jeopardy as well. It rewards an obstruction of justice committed by one of his own while in a position of public trust.

I don't really see how the Libby commutation/pardon represents a "great idea" from any perspective. It lowers the standard considerably.

Posted by: JP2 | July 9, 2007 09:21 PM

Heya, Ben K. I don't want to get too far off the topic, because this is Cohen's legal blog, not my soapbox. But as for disadvantages to being an American in Oz, it's not too bad. Australia is a first-world country; I work in a modern hospital and Americans are still respected here, as long as they're not ignorant Bush defenders. The biggest drawback for my wife and me was having to sell our great house and leaving behind everything we couldn't pack into a 20-foot overseas shipping container. And the feeling that we're witnessing the death of what used to be a great country...

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | July 9, 2007 10:02 PM

JP writes....

In reference to Libby, how does destroying a CIA employee's career...How does that serve the public interest? How is that "faithfully executing" the laws?...I don't really see how the Libby commutation/pardon represents a "great idea" from any perspective. It lowers the standard considerably.<<<

I think you misunderstood the point I was making or I expressed it poorly. As I have said many times I do not support Bush's decision in this matter. Libby should have served his time. The "great ideas" I was referring to in my previous post were not in regards to this but in regards to anything. The repubicans have come up with some great ideas historically that could have benefitted the American people. So have the democrats. But because of partisan politics many of those ideas have been shot down and opportunities lost simply because of the "us vs. them" mentality. I don't mean regarding Libby specifically I mean in regards to anything.

You asked before what the solution was. The solution is to quit the bickering over stupid crap. The government spends so much time, money, and energy trying to make a polical point that we lose the opportunity to focus opn those things where there is a true fundamental disagreement. In their heart of hearts republicans know the Libby situation is BS. In their heart of hearts democrats know that Clinton taking $200,000 a pop for a pardon is BS. But God forbid anyone admits "my party is wrong" so they continue to hammer the line and frustration builds and each side continues to point fingers at the other for the most insignificant things.

This isn't a "can't we all just get along" speech. There are fundamental differences in opinion but it's those things that need to be the focus of government not petty crap that exist to tryo to make the other party look bad....and both parties are completely guilty of this and those institutions that propogate it are guilty of being part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

You see I WANT that difference of opinion. I am GLAD you and I disagree. Thank God for it in fact because I have always thought Utopia must be a really boring place with very little sense of accomplishment to offer. Without disagreement we have no choice. Indeed the price of Utopia is your freedom of choice because you cannot choose something that does not exist within your environment. Without conflict we have no opportunity to grow and achieve. We become complacent and then we lose the spirit that leads us to new levels of greatness. I believe THIS is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. A government where fundamental differences of opinion could be discussed and freely debated in order to fully enchance the state of society. Not this ridiculous "we vs. them" partisan gridlock trash that government has become. It like a bunch of children pointing fingers and telling the teacher "he said the F word" just to get someone else in trouble.

I apologize as I find myself lecturing you. Sometimes I get going and it's tough to stop. LOL. But I believe the problem with our political system is that it's become "political". It not about a true exchange of ideas and an exploration of fundamental differences of opinion anymore. It's about party A taking any opportunity to make party B look bad (and vice versa) and issues that have impact are lost in the squabbling.

I mean honestly...what effect does the Libby situation really have on any of our lives? Little if anything. Now what effect does an estimated $10-$14 billion in pork barrel spending (depending on who you ask and just as an isolated example) have on our lives? Quite a bit actually. What is society and the media on both sides of the aisle focusing on? Well the former of course. And which side of the aisle is right? NEITHER.

It's maddness.

I'm sorry for getting on my soapbox JP. I'm just disgusted by it all.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 10, 2007 03:50 AM

To Scott:

I agree with you about a number of things, particularly that the state of politics in this nation is disgraceful.

Regarding perjury, you missed my earlier point that there are particular legal elements that must be proved before one can be convicted of perjury, and a prosecutor will never bring a case that he or she doesn't believe can be proved. Based on your posts, I have the impression that you are not a lawyer (please correct me if I am wrong), so some of these concepts that are second nature to me and other memebrs of the Bar may not make sense initially to someone who is not.

In a perjury case, materiality is an essential element of perjury that must be proved beyond a reasonable douby by the prosecution. A fact is material if it inculpates or exculpates the defendant. But where you are off base is that character evidence is specifically excluded under the Federal Rules of Evidence. In other words, the reason you say the Lewinsky deposition testimony is material -- that it goes to character -- is the very reason it would be excluded. Therefore, it cannot be material because it would never be heard by a jury.

The second area on which you are misinformed is that every deponent has the opportunity to correct his or her deposition testimony before trial. The transcript does not become "official" until the witness has signed it, and before signing, the witness may correct or change the transcript through the use of errata sheets. And finally, throught the use of affidavits and sworn interrogatory answers, a witness may attest to changes in deposition testimony to correct misstatements (intentional or unintentional) before trial.

Like it or not, that is how civil litigation works.

Criminal proceedings are different (a slight qualification here -- I am not a criminal attorney and my knowledge is based solely on my law school classes, which are no substitute for actual experience). The discovery process is quite limited, so there are few opportunities to correct "misstatements." Yet Karl Rove managed to correct his misstatements before the Grand Jury and avoided being charged.

Finally, I owe you an apology. It is easy to get carried away with uncivil language on a blog in which the participants are essentially anonymous.

Posted by: Nellie | July 10, 2007 08:40 AM

To Bukko: Sorry to say, there are A LOT of delusional, mental-patient like people (with memorized normal reactions and scripted appearance)out there; I'm not as sure as you that they ARE a minority!Maybe they've increased since you left, quite possible with the influence of movies as life-styles and role-playing,for instance.

Scott in Arizona: I know one of your main points is that discussion was intended by the original designers and essential to the health of the country, with which I wholly agree. With the well said statements in
"without disagreement...complacent..greatness", I respectfully dissent from that view of reality.

Posted by: Dino Flintstone | July 10, 2007 12:18 PM

Nellie writes...

I agree with you about a number of things, particularly that the state of politics in this nation is disgraceful.<<<

Well then we have hope. LOL.

Based on your posts, I have the impression that you are not a lawyer (please correct me if I am wrong), so some of these concepts that are second nature to me and other memebrs of the Bar may not make sense initially to someone who is not...Like it or not, that is how civil litigation works.

No I am not a lawyer and as such you have the advantage over me in terms of legal procedure and technicalities. I have to admit that I find myself guilty of a faulty memory here and I had to go back and re-read the articles of impeachment against Clinton and refresh my memory on the entire thing. A couple things....

According to those articles of impeachment Clinton was accused on four counts. Perjury in the Paula Jones case that was dismissed by the House of Representatives likely for the exact reasons you cite. Perjury before Ken Starr's grand jury on which he was impeached. Obstruction of justice related to the Paula Jones case for which he was impeached, and obstruction of justice and abuse of power in regards to his answers to a Congressional questionnaire which was dismissed.

So the two that stuck was perjury before a grand jury (meaning I was right the first time but regarding the wrong part of it all) and obstruction of justice regarding Paula Jones. My apologies for getting things mixed up.

Now despite not being an attorney my understanding of the impeachment process is pretty good. The House of Representatives has sole authority in impeachment as provided by Article I, section 2 if I am not mistaken. I understand that in layman's terms all this means is that the House essentially acts as a grand jury to determine whether it's worth a trial and that the burden of evidence is lower in that capacity. Clinton WAS impeached and I understand that does not mean "guilty" from a legal standpoint. It's the Senate's job to try the case and while previously I used the word "pardoned" in regards to the result I should have said "acquitted" as it would be a far more accurate term for what happened.

The political atmosphere was highly partisan as it is today and in my personal opinion you will never see a president convicted by the senate in an impeachment hearing unless one party holds a 2/3rd majority and the president is of the other party simply because no Senator is going to vote to oust a member of their own party in today's political environment. During the Senate trial the democrats even made this point by calling for an immediate vote without even hearing testimony citing the fact that the republicans were 20 seats short of the two thirds they needed for a conviction and no democrat was going to cross over anyhow.

Now look we could battle back and forth on technicalities of this and that regarding this situation but I think we're gonna be digressing from the point if we do. As I see it here are the main things we SHOULD be discussing.

#1 What has happened to our state of government that they spend time bickering over stuff that in the grand scheme of things is largely irrelevant while other issues of relevency are ignored?

#2 What has happened to our state of society that people blindly defend and justify actions that they know to be unethical and even illegal simply because of party affiliations while they throw stones from the driveway of their glass house at the other party who is doing the exact same thing? You and I will likely have a fundamental disagreement on this issue because you will view it from a legal perspective (i.e. "the jury said he is innocent so he is innocent") where I will look at it from the perspective of "guilty men sometimes go free and innocent men sometimes go to jail". As an attorney you know this to be true as well and what that means is that there's a big difference between legal guilt or innocence and true guilt or innocence. It's the latter that concerns me. This is the point I made previously when I said both parties embrace legal technicalities when it serves their purposes but when legal technicalities run contrary to their agenda they are suddenly far more interested in setting that aside and focusing on the truth. As I see it if you had no problem with Clinton's pardoning of convicted drug dealers and child pornographers who contributed $200,000 a pop to his presidential library and Hillary's campaign fund (which people are STILL refusing to respond to) then you how can you have a problem with Libby? And if you screamed about those pardons by Clinton how can you NOT scream about Libby having his sentence commuted? Yet people on both sides of the aisle apparently have no problem finding a way to do just that. Is it simply because American love a good scandal and a good fight? You tell me.

Finally, I owe you an apology. It is easy to get carried away with uncivil language on a blog in which the participants are essentially anonymous.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 10, 2007 02:20 PM

Oh and no apology necessary Nellie. You are passionate as am I and it's easy to get animated. I took no offense.

To Dino: I guess we will have to agree to disagree then. God bless America for our ability to do so.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 10, 2007 02:23 PM

Agreed and on your further point on the subsidiary importance of party affiliation, though I find Democrats less automatically prone to that,(I'm positive Nellie doesn't believe that guilt/innocence is necessarily reflected by a jury's result, but she can speak for herself)Scott, just don't think America is that noteworthy in the world context in that (and there is quite likely more contingency to disagreement with the status quo here depending on where one is in the US and circumstance, than in some other places and environments)

Posted by: Dino | July 10, 2007 03:08 PM

Scott in AZ, no problem in reference to the soapbox. I share some of your disappointment with political Washington generally--it's also worth noting that are some good representatives here on both sides of the aisle. (Except perhaps for the House Judiciary--all of the GOP members there are compromised. Too many free dinners at Signatures, Abramoff's restaurant, perhaps.)

As far as the Libby commutation goes, it has very real implications for the way that the Executive branch and the Federal government operate. Insofar as the operation of the federal government effects my life, this commutation matters.

So yeah, I'm a little ticked off about this.

Here are a couple examples:

1. The commutation sends a message that career civil servants (MY employees) will be punished if they do their job, tell the truth, and keep their noses clean; while subordinates (also MY employees) will be rewarded if they violate the law and assist corrupt bosses in violating the law.

That's a pretty screwed up message to send to public servants.

2. The pardoning of a subordinate who has lied to protect his bosses ensures that there will be less transparency and more corruption at the top. If you're worried about that pork barrel spending--as you should be--you want to create an environment where leaders are taken to account when they throw up smoke screens and make government less transparent.

I don't think that it's any accident that two of the biggest corruption scandals in U.S. history have implicated this administration and occurred at a time when there was less transparency on the Hill and over at the White House than in recent decades (e.g. the MZM, ADCS Dusty "Foggo" scandal, and of course, Abramoff).

The Libby standard provides an administration with a tool that actively works against the interests of the public at large. That tool needs to be taken off the table, and put back with the monarchist silverware.

I suspect there are those in Washington who actually relish this current precedent--because the next president--Democrat, Republican, or Independent--will be able to exercise his or her actions in an even more self-serving manner.

I would also agree that Libby is not the ONLY player in this. His commutation is just as much a symptom of the current corruption as it is a catalyst.

So we come back to the question of the appropriate remedy:

On one level there's a pretty good chance that there will be more than a little rumbling in the 2008 election. Hopefully our fellow citizens will step up to the plate in '08 and recruit and elect higher quality public servants. I will do my part.

In the near term, I think impeachment of Cheney at a bare minimum would establish the kind of red line that needs to be set here (the Libby commutation being on aspect of a much bigger problem). It would establish an even more clearly defined red line for future presidents of both parties if that message is sent in a clear bipartisan fashion--as it should be. There are institutional issues at stake here--perhaps even more so than partisan ones. The Libby commutation may not highlight this issue in the boldest relief, but it is certainly one aspect of a much larger story.

Posted by: JP2 | July 10, 2007 03:18 PM

JP...

I am going to do my best to crub my long winded tendencies and be brief...an effort in which I am likely to fail. LOL. Look, I understand the point you are making. The line has to be drawn lest we send the message that such actions are acceptable. You have a point and to some degree...to a large degree actually I am in agreement with you. But I wonder. Would the point REALLY be made? See even if Cheney was impeach he'll never be removed for reasons I previously said. So at the end of the day it turns into more effort to make a point. That's fine as long as the point sticks. It could be argued that the republicans tried to make that point by impeaching Clinton. The point clearly didn't stick.

You know I talk to people about this and many other issues and I always ask "what impact does this have on your daily life?" and the frequent answer I get from democrats is that it's the PRINCIPLE of the issue that is important. You KIND of said the same thing...or at least I interpreted it that way. I asked the same thing of republicans during Clinton's impeachment: "does it really have impact on your life that Clinton took a hummer in the Oval Office?" and they said the same thing. "Ah but it's the PRINCIPLE of the matter."

Well now the roles are reversed and so are the opinions and I am forced to look at this and say to the democrats "Well where have these PRINCIPLES suddenly come from? Seven years ago when a democrat was the target of political manuvering and selling pardons PRINCIPLES were the furthest thing from your minds but now it's so important." And I say to the republicans "So if seven years ago it was all important where the heck have all your PRINCIPLES gone?"

To some degree this ties in with what Dino said to me. I would respond to him that a person's opinion as to whether the Republicans are more likely than the Democrats to ignore the big picture and turn on the party blinders is largely based upon whether that person is a Republican or a Democrat and that makes a lot of sense. It's a defect in human nature to overlook your own shortcomings and focus on those of others. God knows I have been guilty of that myself.

So does the point need to be made? Sure. Absolutely. But why now suddenly and will it really stick the point or just fan the flames by giving the Republicans another axe to grind so they can exact revenge in the future? In my opinion the latter is all that will be accomplished and the cycle will continue.

As far as electing the right people. I will do my part as well but let me share something with you (which will al but certainly destroy my attempt at brevity). My brother was a campaign manager for a candidate in New Mexico. I won't tell you for which party but suffice it to say my brother and I also have some significant "fundamental differences of opinion". In preparation for the campaign the party he was representing sent a strategist to help him and here's what the stratagist pointed out. I don't recall the specific figures but you'll get the gist of it.

He asked my brother what percentage of the population had to vote for his candidate to win the election. My brother's answer was of course 50% plus one vote. "Wrong" the strategist said. "65% of the public doesn't bother to vote so we couldn't care less what they think. Now what percentage do you need?" My brother replied "Well that leaves 35% so the answer would be 17.5% plus one vote". Again the strategist said "Wrong because 15% will vote democrat regardless of our platform and 15% will vote republican regardless of our platform so we don't care a bit about what they think either. They are either in the bag or we'll never get them no matter what. NOW what do we need?" My brother's answer was "2.5% plus one vote." "Correct" the strategist said "and those are the only people we care about." My brother asked "so how do we get them?" and the answer was "Any way we can."

Let me give you an example. My brother was told "In television ads you have to tell the truth but you don't have to tell the WHOLE truth. For example you can run an ad saying how your opponent voted against providing school lunches to underprivliged children. You omit that part about him doing so in order to introduce another bill that doubled the benefit to them. All the public will hear is what a heartless rat your opponent is."

Now this is a stratagist for one of the parties. THIS is what politics have become.

Well as I have failed to be brief I will get off my high horse now. LOL. I think everyone realizes the system is severely messed up. The question is what to do about it now?

Posted by: | July 10, 2007 06:25 PM

By the way I wrote the above post. I just forgot to sign it.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 10, 2007 06:32 PM

Just to clarify (seeing that my syntax might have been ambiguous), what I was disagreeing with Scott (and by the way I emphatically don't think that when one doesn't include the relevant parts of the truth, that it remotely be called true, because the thing becomes a different animal then) is that the US is so special in people being able to disagree; and this is anonymously via a computer screen, someone with access to the web in a totalitarian country could do the same thing. In public, and depending on what part of the US and circumstances, I'm not sure how secure disagreement with the status quo always would be, and anyway I'm not particularly appreciative or thankful for the supposed privilege.

Posted by: Dino | July 10, 2007 07:02 PM

Scott in AZ, I suspect that we agree on a number of things here--even though these lengthy post may suggest otherwise.

Putting aside the areas of agreement for a moment, as far as principle is concerned, in my view, you are conflating two different standards in reference to Clinton and Bush.

The principle at work in the Clinton impeachment centered around a matter that involved a sexual indiscretion. If we were to apply that same principle to George W. Bush, perhaps there would be a clamor for his impeachment on that basis; however, I suspect the greatest clamor might come from within his own party. It's hard to say. Either way, that particular principle is not being put to the test here, so it's hard to argue about partisan double-standards.

At best we might argue that the party faithful have a different set of principles. I think it's far to say that that is the case. Given the poll numbers in reference to the impeachment question --25% for Clinton in '98 versus 36% for Bush, and 52% for Cheney at present--I suspect it's fair to say there are factors at work here that go beyond a strictly partisan standard (less in the case of Bush than Cheney).

When I talk about "principle" as it relates to the Bush administration, I would state that the principle relates to transparent, accountable, and faithful operation of the bureaucracy. Clinton complied with the Presidential Records Act of 1978. His people did not set up an alternate email system outside of the official channels to conduct government business. He did not claim to be a 4th branch of the government. His people testified on Capitol Hill; they provided privilege logs in response to congressional subpoenas from an adversarial Congress. He largely administered the Executive branch in a manner that was consistent with precedents set by George H.W., Reagan, Carter, and Ford.

Yes there are exceptions in the Clinton case; however in the Bush case, cooperation on any level seems to be the exception. Several degrees of difference at work here. We are much closer to Nixon territory.

Obviously, the Iraq War looms in the background for many as well as a matter that colors their trust of this administration's faithful execution of its responsibilities.

As far as it relates to Libby vis a vis the Clinton pardons the gap here is more narrow. Still the "selling" standard in one situation was perhaps remunerative (cash in the bank); whereas the other involved buying silence from a public official in a case where another public official benefited directly from the official's obstruction. The "selling" of the pardons in both cases is wrong. However, the consequences of both these actions I do not see as equivalent (as I outlined in my previous post).

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 01:06 AM

A final point on the pardon/commutation issue. In reference to reactions by House members, it's worth spending time reading how Democrats treated the officials involved in the Rich pardon--some fairly harsh lines of questioning in 2002. I'll be curious to see what the response is based on partisan affiliation in reference to the upcoming House committee hearings on the Libby commutation. My guess is that things will go down along party lines, which would be a sad statement about the Republicans on the House judiciary committee (the Democrats this time have the luxury of being on the right side of the issue).

This issue can also be looked at on the punditry level in 2001 versus the present. Commentators such as the Post's left leaning columnist E.J. Dionne came down hard on Clinton's pardon decisions--especially relating to Rich--he was not alone.

In reference to the Libby commutation, on the right I've heard the sound of crickets chirping.

On the Federal level I don't think there's any question that Republicans are by and large much more corrupt and corruptible than the Democrats are (notable exceptions Rep. Jefferson, perhaps, and Rep. Murtha). It's possible that this is simply a function of the GOP controlling two branches of government for the better part of six years. However, even despite some fits and starts with ethics reforms--we have not yet seen the kind of hardball tactics employed with the K Street lobby that people like DeLay administered when the GOP first came to power. In a few years we can revisit this issue.

As far as local politics are concerned--whenever one party has a vice grip lock on the political system, it tends to be more corrupt. Rhode Island is a not so distinguished example for Democrats. However, at the federal level--at least in the Senate--they have two high level representatives in Whitehouse and Reed. Among the best one-two tandem that any state has in terms of clean politicians. Hopefully it stays that way.

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 01:53 AM

The Republican defense of President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence in the main has been based on "Clinton did it first", focusing specifically on President Clinton's pardon of his friend, financier Mark Rich, and secondarily on the 140-odd other individuals pardoned in the last hours of the first Clinton presidency.
All of these strident voices are ignoring the vital difference between the two presidents. Unlike Bush, President Clinton did not pardon anyone who was accused of covering up his own, Clinton's, crimes in taking this country into an unnecessary and unjust war based upon a great lie. The reason President Clinton did not is because he did not commit such crimes in the first place, and consequently had nothing to hide.
President Bush, who has committed and continues to commit these crimes to this day, is still in need of protection from the consequences of his actions. That is why Scooter Libby is free today, and was in fact never in any real danger of incarceration.

Posted by: Michael J. Lombardi | July 11, 2007 09:54 PM

Dino writes...

Just to clarify...what I was disagreeing with Scott.....is that the US is so special in people being able to disagree; and this is anonymously via a computer screen, someone with access to the web in a totalitarian country could do the same thing.<<<<

True but this is also the reason why oppressive forms of government and policies of the same ilk ultimately fail. You cannot legislate morality. Sure it's cliche but it's true. You can impose penalties for actions and even words but policy cannot touch the way a person thinks or feels (although admittedly it can sometimes influence it). Chief Justice John Roberts made a great example of this when he said (paraphrased) that the way to stop acting racially is to stop acting racially. At the end of the day I agree with him. The question is whether or not the state of American society has evolved to the point where we are ready to self-monitor. But that's a different argument.

In public, and depending on what part of the US and circumstances, I'm not sure how secure disagreement with the status quo always would be,<<<

Well do we REALLY have freedom of speech in today's politically correct society? Not in the true sense of the phrase. Say the wrong thing and you will face consequences so in my opinion we don't always have freedom of speech but we have a lot more than many other countries.


and anyway I'm not particularly appreciative or thankful for the supposed privilege.<<<

Am I reading this correctly? Are you saying that people should NOT have the freedom of speech and expression?

Posted by: | July 12, 2007 02:20 PM

JP writes...

>>>Scott in AZ, I suspect that we agree on a number of things here--even though these lengthy post may suggest otherwise.>>Given the poll numbers in reference to the impeachment question --25% for Clinton in '98 versus 36% for Bush, and 52% for Cheney at present--I suspect it's fair to say there are factors at work here that go beyond a strictly partisan standard (less in the case of Bush than Cheney).>>When I talk about "principle" as it relates to the Bush administration...(Clinton) did not claim to be a 4th branch of the government.>>His people testified on Capitol Hill; they provided privilege logs in response to congressional subpoenas from an adversarial Congress.>>Yes there are exceptions in the Clinton case; however in the Bush case, cooperation on any level seems to be the exception. Several degrees of difference at work here. We are much closer to Nixon territory.>>Obviously, the Iraq War looms in the background for many as well as a matter that colors their trust of this administration's faithful execution of its responsibilities.>>the "selling" standard in one situation was perhaps remunerative (cash in the bank); whereas the other involved buying silence from a public official in a case where another public official benefited directly from the official's obstruction. The "selling" of the pardons in both cases is wrong. However, the consequences of both these actions I do not see as equivalent (as I outlined in my previous post).>>I'll be curious to see what the response is based on partisan affiliation in reference to the upcoming House committee hearings on the Libby commutation. My guess is that things will go down along party lines, which would be a sad statement about the Republicans on the House judiciary committee (the Democrats this time have the luxury of being on the right side of the issue).>>In reference to the Libby commutation, on the right I've heard the sound of crickets chirping.>>On the Federal level I don't think there's any question that Republicans are by and large much more corrupt and corruptible than the Democrats are>>As far as local politics are concerned--whenever one party has a vice grip lock on the political system, it tends to be more corrupt.<<<

I agree with this statement and would extend it to the federal level as well. I don't believe republicans are by nature any more or less corrupt than democrats but republicans have had the power for quite a while and history proves that power corrupts. Give the power to the democrats and it will corrupt them too.

One last note. I have to give you a lot of credit JP. You argue respectfully and strongly and are willing to concede quite a bit that many hardcore democrats will simply never admit to. I am impressed and while we may disagree on certain nuances of this or that you have earned my respect for your opinions.

Posted by: Scott in Arizona | July 12, 2007 03:08 PM

Scott--agreed. Good discussion--and thanks to you as well for making well-considered claims and counter-arguments. Your points helped me to refine my thinking and gain some additional clarity on the Libby commutation issue. You earned my respect as well for putting forward several new ideas and for being willing to offer further defenses when merited. Nothing more frustrating than trying to engage someone whose opinions are transparently the product of someone else's mind (e.g. your typical Fox News dittohead, or the Prez himself -- at least on issues such as this one).

Posted by: JP2 | July 12, 2007 10:29 PM

Scott, I definitely don't believe we shouldn't have freedom of speech. I couldn't agree with you more that to a point morality shouldn't be legislated, and much of political correctness, even if some is well-intentioned, unacceptably curtails freedom. I certainly wouldn't want morality to be presumptuously legislated (however I do believe in a "social contract" idea of the system, a civilized society does require some ethical guidelines rather than complete laissez-faire, so what principles are considered beneficial to have as a society should be stated upfront; this is part of why I have some problem with the extent of unregulatedness of the entertainement industries, for it enables almost subliminal projection and influence of a certain script/agenda without stating the principles up front so that they can be considered).
Also, Freedom of speech is unnecessarily curtailed not only by aspects of political correctness, but I also meant by existing prejudice in different parts of the country, both against minority groups and by those who presume themselves as patriots, not to mention the influence and interests of those with the capital.

I don't feel like patting the US on the back for freedom of speech (and as I said it isn't as if it is all that sacrosanct here either, depending on what one says and in what society in the US), nor am I sure that governments which somehow restrict it, necessarily fail. I don't know that one faces consequences for speech in a lot of countries (sure, influentially criticizing the government in some dictatorship, Burundi, Colombia, but I hope that's not the standard for self-congratulatory Americans); a little similar to what you say that legislation can't touch what people think, even in the severest dictatorship, people still have that same freedom of mind and feeling (not to mention that now in this country, suspicion, and possibly harrassment/punishment by appearance alone, are quite widely sanctioned privately and officially, which sort of disrupts this freedom of mind as long as one doesn't say something controversial publicly).

Posted by: Dino Flintstone | July 13, 2007 12:20 PM

"Let the adults continue to try to run the country...."
*gag*
D***! I thought that fallacy had been put to bed . This outfit behaves like the the most spoiled,vindictive , self-centered 5yr-old imaginable . Can we please drop that "adult" line of bs, once-and-for-all?(Please?)

As to the topic of this column, "rank hypocrisy" , is that any surprise? It was a central plank (or 3) in the platform they ran on. Just wasn't stated that plainly .

"Justice for some.." ? Standard practice among the powerful and well-connected ,....forever . The only surprise is how soon it happened , and the exact means of Libby's deliverance . For once this administration accomplished something in an inspired, and competent fashion . Allowing Libby to escape his sentence , while preserving his ability to cover their a****, was sheer (evil) genius. If only they would apply themselves that way to solving problems for the country ! Too much to hope for, but I can always imagine.

Posted by: mikeinpc | July 14, 2007 02:51 PM

JP....

I am going to take off from this blog, brother. Take care. If you ever wish to debate Iraq feel free to email me at Chef919@aol.com. Take it easy.

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