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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pardon me?

It would be positively hilarious to watch the Republican Party fall all over itself in defense of a convicted felon -- if it weren't for the fact that the law & order party is aiming to yet again soil the Constitution.

Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor, and Fred Thompson, who plays one on TV, are leading the cheers for a pardon of Scooter Libby, the Dick Cheney worker bee who lied to investigators looking into the probe who outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative.

The standard rationalization is that Libby's 30-month sentence doesn't fit the crime, if there even was one. But let's travel back down memory lane, when Thompson, the a United State Senator, spoke about about the rule of law in another high profile case, this one involving oral sex.

At that point Republicans thought making false statements during legal proceedings were very definitely a federal crime. Thompson voted as a senator to convict Clinton for obstruction of justice, though he voted to find Clinton not guilty of the perjury charge.
In explaining his vote to convict, Thompson at the time underscored the seriousness of the obstruction charge. "In the context of a federal court proceeding, that does violence to the rule of law," he told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal shortly after casting his vote. "It causes people to lose respect. That to me was the kind of thing the founding fathers would have said rises to the level of removable conduct."
Let's also consider the high level deliberations of George W. Bush, who roundly condemned last-minute Clinton pardons, particularly the rather nausea-inducing reprieve of businessman Mark Rich.

The White House, which proclaims its interest in democracy and the rule of law around the world (if not in hospital rooms or private homes) is said to be mulling its options over a Libby pardon. The path would seem clear, according to someone who spoke to the New York Times:
A former senior administration official with his own ties to the case said Mr. Libby had failed to meet the general standard for a pardon by not showing contrition or serving any time. This official also noted that Mr. Libby had also been found guilty of lying to investigators, the same offense that led to the impeachment of Mr. Clinton.

The former official, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the president, said: “It would show a deep disregard for the rule of law if he was to do it right now, when there has been no remorse shown by a convicted felon and no time has been served. How’s this going to fit in his long-term legacy?”

Ah, but sometimes a pardon is not a pardon. Just ask George H.W. Bush, who pardoned Caspar Weinberger and Elliott Abrams over Iran-Contra crimes as he was getting ready to walk out the door. And you know that just another third rate assault on the Constitution, much like the White House's outing of a CIA operative who sent her husband on a junket to Niger.

But for Libby's backers, it's not about the rule of law. It's about rewarding loyalty. The man fell on his sword to protect W. and Darth Cheney from winding up in their own deep doo-doo over contempt for the law.

And in this administration, loyalty tops every thing. Particularly the Constitution. It's not a question of it. It's a question of when. Because George W. Bush is the controlling legal authority.

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