It's getaway day for everyone including Scooter Libby, whose sentence was commuted by President Bush.
I Am Shocked, Shocked: Was anyone surprised by this result? When William Otis, who had advised Bush I on the Caspar Weinberger pardon, floated the idea in the WaPo, was it hard to figure Bush II was getting a message?
If It Was Done When 'Twere Done: As an ex post genius, I can now declare the timing to be obvious - if Bush had let conservatives howl for a few days following the appeals court denial of bail for Libby pending appeal, when (if?) he eventually gave in his action would have been denounced as a craven collapse to political pressure. Instead, he can pretend this was a sensible, principled compromise.
Love The Jury (Hate The Judge): The commutation is a slick straddle - Bush claims to respect the jury's verdict but disses the judge's sentencing decision.
Congressional Democrats rushed out statements lambasting the president’s move. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, called the commutation “disgraceful.”
“Libby’s conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq War,” Mr. Reid said. “Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone.”
Silly Harry. Dems are on somewhat sound footing when they scream about respect for the rule of law, and equality thereof (please ignore Sandy Berger's non-jail time). But the idea that Libby should go to jail because Bush mis-led us into war and mismanaged the post-liberation administration of Iraq? I have no doubt plenty of Dems believe just that, but it is ridiculous - accountability ought to start nearer the top, if the Dems can rally themselves to hold hearings, impeach Bush, or whatever. Helpful hint - the Vice President's chief of staff is normally neither a household name nor the Commander in Chief.
Better Late Than Never: The latest headline is that Bush won't rule out a subsequent pardon, so now I am an ex-ante genius. It seems like only yesterday I wrote:
As has been discussed previously, Bush has other options than a full pardon available to him. For example, Bush could commute Libby's sentence to a fine and probation; that would allow Libby to continue his legal appeals without going to jail (and keep open the possibility of an end-of-term full pardon).
Advantage Obama - this is from Reuters:
Many at the White House found criticism from New York Sen. Hillary Clinton particularly ironic. Aside from the Rich pardon, her husband's former national security adviser, Sandy Berger, reached a plea deal in 2005 and avoided a jail sentence for illegally removing classified documents from the National Archives and destroying some of them.
Yes, it is tough for Hillary to carry the flag on this one.
MORE: The End Of The Long And Dusty Trail: I am confident I could find fantasists who think that this commutation somehow will discourage Liby from cooperating with Fitzgerald and telling "the truth". As an antidote, let me wave in a Bush-bashing former Federal prosecutor:
Equally unlikely is the idea that Fitzgerald would want Scooter Libby to cooperate. Not only is Scooter Libby a convicted felon - a fact that juries are entitled to take into account when assessing a witness's testimony - he is a felon who was convicted of perjury and making false statements. For a prosecutor, trying to make a case based on the testimony of a convicted perjuror is akin to a would-be suitor showing up on a first date wearing a wedding ring: it creates serious credibility hurdles. As if that weren't enough of a problem, Libby would be testifying as a cooperating witness regarding the very matters about which a jury has already found that he lied. As to those, Libby has made extensive prior statements chock-full of inconsistencies, fodder for days of devastating cross-examination. And then, to top it all off, there would be the pesky fact that Libby's entire defense at trial was based on an attempt to prove that the man has a terrible memory. A convicted perjuror with a memory problem may be a great premise for a bad joke, but it is a terrible premise for a criminal case against the vice president of the United States.
That is from Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in the Nation magazine, the Los Angeles Times and Salon. She writes regularly for Tomdispatch.com. She is the author of United States v. George W. Bush et al..."