It was not that long ago when Republicans couldn’t wait to haul Bill Clinton in front of the US Senate to face articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice and for committing perjury. The claim then, no one – including the President of the United States was above the law. Of course, the concern Republican had had little to do with national security or cases of government corruption. Instead the issue involved a statement the President gave in a deposition hearing, on a privately initiated sexual harassment law suit, who’s the party only claimed injury was, then Governor Bill Clinton had skipped her when he was passing out flowers on Secretary’s day. But that did not matter. Bill Clinton violated his oath of office claimed the Republicans and he ought to be punished for what he had done.
I wonder where are those same virtuous Republicans now?
It really comes as no surprised that George W Bush, the successor to President Clinton did, what he had been unable to exercise after so many opportunities came up while he was Governor of the State of Texas and for what he has done so sparingly since arriving to the White House, more than six years ago. Tonight, he commuted the prison sentence of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, I Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
Before anyone takes issue, I will concede the point that the President had every right to commute the sentence of a person convicted of a federal crime. I will even concede the point that past Presidents, including Clinton had issued questionable pardons and commutations of prison sentences issued to friends and political allies. Although in these past cases, the President had the good graces of waiting until the end of their terms before exercising the most blatant round of favoritism. However one does need to wonder now, is exercising a presidential power an act of obstruction of justice?
Conservatives may disagree, but last March guilty verdict in the case of the United States versus I Lewis Libby was fair and just. The case was born out what had been obvious to some, of an effort by this White House to discredit political friends of the President when it became apparent they will not play ball and support some of the lunatic affairs committed by this White House. In this case, the issue went to the very heart for why we went into war in Iraq. Among the claims this President gave for justifying a war was alleged evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to secure “yellow cake” uranium, which could possibly be used for building a nuclear bomb.
“Not true,” said Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador to Iraq and an ally with the Bush Administration, who was sent to Niger to investigate the claim by the Central Intelligence Agency. Not long after Ambassador Wilson wrote an opinion piece on this very issue in the New York Times, word came out about Ambassador Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame, who was then a covert operative with the CIA and whose job it was, to monitor the development of weapons of mass destruction in Iran.
Federal law prohibits the disclosure of covert CIA operatives and for very good reason. If you want to discover what your enemies are doing, then you need covert CIA operatives to do the dirty work to find out. Exposure can mean the death of the operative and the loss of a vital source of intelligence, like truly finding ourselves one morning waking up with a mushroom cloud over one of America’s cities. By exposing Valerie Plame’s identity to the world, the United States loss a vital avenue of intelligence tracking the activities of the Iranian government and their quest to develop nuclear weapons; a government that this Administration stressed in 2002 as one of the members of the so-called “axis of evil,” and a country which this Administration is giving every strong indication of attacking within the next 567 days when this nightmare is finally through.
A two year long investigation followed the leak, which the neither the Administration nor the Press were overly willing to cooperate. It was evident from the testimony given during the Libby trial that had instigated the leak, which showed that the actual source came from Karl Rove and the Vice President Dick Cheney himself. It was also apparent that Libby was the preverbal fall guy, who was taking a bullet for the team. But, none-the-less, the evidence also showed that Libby had lied to prosecutors about his involvement in the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity and as a result of that leak, he had obstructed justice.
As a part of Libby’s punishment, he was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison, which is fair when considering what Libby had done. And today, Libby lost his appeal to stay out of prison, while his criminal conviction was appealed.
It was hoped that as reality finally sank in and Scooter Libby was about to share a prison bed with Kent Hovind, a young-earth creationist charlatan who decided that he did not need to pay taxes to the federal government and sentenced in 2007 to serve a 10 year prison term that Libby will finally give up his co-conspirators. You see this sort of thing on Law and Order all of the time. You go after the small fish, knowing they will lead you to the big fish on a promise on a reduce sentencing.
The real problem, this Administration has taken obstructing legitimate investigations into its behavior into a fine art form. Whether it is discovering who in this administration was actually responsible for the firing of eight US Attorney’s whose commitment to the law did not match with this Administration’s desire to suppress Democratic votes; or discovering the scope of warrantless domestic spy program that this administration was so determined to continue, they had to disturb the US Attorney General who was recovering in a Washington, DC intensive care unit; and a Vice President who claims on one day that he is a part of the Executive Branch of Government and therefore not obligated to disclose anything and the next day he is a member of the Legislative Branch and therefore not subject to disclose anything.
So here is a President who laughed on the day when he declined to issue clemency to Karla Fay Tucker as she was led to the Texas Death Chamber, despite appeals from Jerry Farwell, Pat Robertson and Pope John-Paul II. And here is a President who snickered when he refused to grant clemency to a great-grandmother who killed her husband after years of abusive treatment, as she too was lead to Texas Death Chamber. And here is a President who has detained American Citizens and Foreign Nationals incommunicado, denied them access to the writ of habeas corpus and whose solution to the detainees problem is to established kangaroo courts that does not make any pretenses to following the rule of law. And here is a President, who has issued fewer pardons than his predecessors, has found it in his heart to issue clemency on behalf of Scooter Libby.
I suppose it pays to be friends with this administration.
And so much too, for the moral authority asserted by Republicans as they sought to impeach the previous President of the United States.
Good night and good luck.