Sunday, July 8, 2007

Scooter Pardon Musings

I have mixed feelings about how the Plame-Wilson-Libby affair has played out. The Libby pardon is hardly a surprise. GWB and Co. have done much worse in the past, and with the current 26% approval rating no longer have much of a reputation to protect. And one good shield deserves another. They owe it to their henchman to shield him from the consequences of shielding them from exposure.

I think about four aspects of the case.

First, it's about those who lash out at Bill Clinton for deploring the pardon because of his own rash of pardons near the end of his presidency. The two acts are different because Clinton didn't pardon anyone who was covering up for him or his administration.

Second, despite my occasional digs at Republicans it shows there are plenty of decent and straight ones around. Special prosecutor Fitzgerald and federal judge Walton are both Republicans and proved they're no hatchet men. Fitzgerald probably gave VP Cheney a break by not compelling damaging testimony from him under oath, but has been upstanding on the whole. Judge Walton didn't give Libby any undue breaks and it can even be said his sentence was on the harsher side.

Third, Libby may not be that bad a guy and one can empathise with his situation. He was put on the spot and lied or obstructed the investigation to protect the boss out of a sense of loyalty. He sacrificed himself knowing he could go to prison and no one would bail him out. (Oh, wait. )

Lastly, just like in that Clinton impeachment drama, probably too much has been made out of this case. The motive in exposing Plame wasn't revenge as much as an attempt to discredit Wilson's revelations by painting him and his wife as anti-GWB partisans. What was the damage done by outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent? Probably only that she could never do a covert job again.

So can't it go this way: the Administration and the CIA say to Plame "oops, we're so sorry about goofing up on this. Here's $5 million (or $10 million) and a promotion to compensate you for our gaffe." End of story. Valerie's quite a babe and will improve the image of the CIA, so to speak. Those who feel taxpayers shouldn't pay so much for the Administration's mistakes should look at the billions of dollars of overspend on no-bid Iraq / Katrina contracts and other wastages inherent in the government. Also the special prosecutor's activities have cost more than this amount.

So in sum, while the Plame leak and Libby pardon affair confirms the seamy side of GWB-Vice politics, it's not that big a deal as to unduly exercise us.


Anonymous said...

Sandip, The trial of Libby was, in part, about whether the identity of Plame was exposed because she and her husband opposed the war. Well, it turns out Libby didn't do the exposing because Richard Armitage said he did it. So he's on trial for something he didn't commit and then prosecutor Fritzgerald says he perjured.

When I was in North Point someone played a gag on the teacher. Fr. Nunn(the ultimate oxymoron:)) called me in to find out if I'd done it. After determining I hadn't, he scolds me seeing me at the forbidden eatery, Buddies.

Libby is in the same shoes. He's being charged with a crime he didn't commit even though he perjured himself in an unrelated matter. Am I wrong?

Sandip Madan said...

Jadra, as I understand it Scooter's lies and omissions were related to the Plame affair because they thwarted the investigation that could have exposed and punished the guilty. Armitage revealed the identity but couldn't be prosecuted unless there was proof he knew it was a crime to do so. Anyone conspiring to reveal Plame's identity (say, Cheney asking Armitage to do so) could also not be exposed because of Libby's actions.

Here's some good (but dated) commentary that I saw about the length of his original sentence:

kenrod said...

I am surprised the Special Prosecutor provision still exists. These people become zealots with unlimited budgets. Ken Starr hounded Bill Clinton to the point of absurdity. Fritzgerald took these hearing ridiculous levels even after Libby was found not to be the leaker.

Yes, Clinton did not pardon anyone that worked for him. But he did pardon Marc Rich, one of the biggest contributors to his campaign.

And this pardon provision has also become ridiculous. It's now become a personal favor tool of the executive branch. It was originally intended to pardon enemy combatants. Like Lincoln pardoning Southern soldiers.

Sandip Madan said...

Yes, Kenrod, I agree that special prosecutors can become a royal pain. If they go though, there should be an alternative mechanism to ensure a proper and impartial enquiry of allegations against people in or close to the top political office.

I also agree that unfettered Presidential pardons are subject to too much abuse. Devising some oversight or reversal mechanism may be a good idea, e.g., a senate resolution supported by 60 or 66 votes. (Though Libby would still have gotten away with this mechanism. :-) )