Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Presidential leniency for "Scooter" Libby

FT reports:

President George W. Bush on Monday commuted the 30-month prison sentence handed to Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney, for lying and obstructing justice.

.... ..“I respect the jury’s verdict,” said Mr Bush, in a two-page statement explaining his decision. “But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr Libby is excessive.”

...Mr Bush declined to pardon Mr Libby, leaving intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation – a move that legal experts described as highly unusual.

....Mr Libby was convicted in March of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of a CIA operative’s identity by a Bush administration official in the run up to the war in Iraq.

Mr Bush is not the first US president to exercise his power of clemency in a questionable way- Bill Clinton earned notoriety by doing the same in several cases just before he demitted office. Ford had similarly pardoned Nixon.

Here in India, we complain about how the judicial process simply cannot deal with the rich and the powerful. In the US, the judiciary does its bit but the executive can swiftly undo the good work of the judiciary. I don't know which is worse. I guess this ties up with my post yesterday on Indian politics not being as bad as it is made out to be.


Abi said...

Um, 'pardon' is not quite the right word.

Libby's jail sentence has been commuted, but his conviction stands. Thus, he may still be referred to as a "convicted criminal."

I admit that it makes very little difference ...

T T Ram Mohan said...

Abi, a small but important distinction. Thanks for pointing it out.


Krishnan said...

Bush can pardon Libby later (if he wants) - and wipe out the conviction. I have never been a fan of Cheney and often found myself on the other side of this Bush - but on the issue of Libby, I am convinced that Libby should be pardoned for the sins of his Boss, Cheney (whose Boss is technically the President himself - but I am not so sure if Cheney runs his own operation - The Washington Post had a remarkable 4 part series on Cheney recently).

Prosecutor Fitzgerald used questionable tactics - during the trial and sentencing phases - e.g. asking the Judge to use evidence never presented in the trial to impose a harsh sentence (which he did).

As to issues of rotten politics, I tell people that - No one has a monopoly on stupidity - and I am convinced that in this world there are men, women and politicians (who are just barely above the hyenas/snakes/parasites in the pecking order!)

Krishnan said...

This does offer a way for future administrations to do a Cheney on the Voting Public. When someone has to be discredited, the President/VP can tell someone on their staff to leak some information that may have been classified at one time - and if caught, can always be given clemency/pardons/commutation of sentence. I have no doubt that Libby was asked/ordered/told by Cheney to leak/confirm/whatever ... Armitage was the original leaker, but got off scot free ...

I can imagine Libby's book in the near future - and what he will reveal.

If the US Congress is truly outraged at the exercise of Presidential Power (pardons/commutations - without oversight from anyone) - then they ought to go after the VP/President's Office - as they seem to be doing now - with subpoenas related to the firing of attorneys.

I am however doubtful if the Congress will really pursue anything. After all, many seem convinced that the Democrats will occupy the White House and Cheney/Bush are very useful to raise money and frighten the voters into voting Democratic. So, there will be some saber rattling - but am sure Senator Leahy and others will back down from pursuing the truth/expressing their outrage since they know that soon they will also be able to exercise arbitrary power, unchecked by anyone.

Tom Delay/Cheney did it to the Democrats for many years, Nancy Pelosi/Jack Murtha are now doing it to the Republicans and am sure cannot wait till the elections of 2008 to consolidate their positions.
The US opinion of the Congress AND the Presidency is close to historic lows - am sure they will go even lower as the two parties jockey for power/money.