Me & Scooter

It seems shamefully late for me to put in my $.02 on Scooter Libby, but my wife said the oddest thing to me tonight, “so, what do you think of this whole Scooter Libby thing.”  (Odd because I wasn't even sure that Kim knew who Scooter Libby is– and since she's probably reading this, I do need to throw in it not that she's not plenty smart, but admittedly not all that interested in politics).

That long preamble aside, I think what any other open-minded, reality-based American thinks– the commutation is appalling and its justifications laughably pathetic.  Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in an effort to protect Dick Cheney and possibly Bush himself.  To then let him off from his real punishment is the worst form of political corruption.  Furthermore, the idea that because his sentence was excessive it should be reduced to 0 is absurd on its face.  If it was truly just a matter of an excessive sentence, make it 20 months, not 30.  Lastly, the justification thrown out that not all Clintons pardons were on the up-and-up makes this okay is likewise pathetic.  If Bill Clinton jumped off a bridge…

I think this nice column by Harlan J. Protass, a law professor, in Slate

What's stunning about President Bush's commutation of Scooter
Libby's sentence, if you're a criminal defense lawyer, isn't that it
was politically motivated. Or that it tramples on principles of equal
justice. Or even that it is the latest in a long string of Bush
administration assaults on the rule of law.

Rather, what's
astonishing is that the factors Bush relied on in commuting Libby's
sentence are the same ones that the administration has aggressively
sought to preclude judges from considering when imposing sentences on
everyone else…

Consider, in that light and in comparison to Libby, the case of United States v. Rita, which the Supreme Court decided two weeks ago. As Douglas Berman describes
at Sentencing Law and Policy, Victor Rita also got “caught up in a
criminal investigation and ultimately was indicted on five felony
counts based on allegations that”?like Libby?”he lied while giving
grand jury testimony.” Rita was convicted. At sentencing, he argued
that he should receive a sentence below the range in the federal
guidelines because he was elderly and sick, had served for 24 years as
a Marine, including tours in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, and was
vulnerable to abuse in prison because he'd worked in criminal justice
on behalf of the government.

After receiving a
within-the-guidelines sentence of 33 months, Rita appealed on the
ground that the sentence was unreasonable given the nature of his
offense and his personal circumstances. The Bush administration opposed
Rita's appeal. The government argued that 33 months was reasonable
simply because it complied with the federal guidelines. And the Supreme
Court agreed, affirming Rita's sentence. Berman lists other cases in
which Bush prosecutors demanded and got harsh sentences for minor
crimes committed by sometimes-sympathetic defendants. The point is that
this administration has steadfastly asserted its belief in uniform

Clearly, the only reason Libby's sentence was excessive is because any punishment must be excessive if it is given to someone loyal to the President.  Its not like this makes me, or many others, think worse of Bush– he'd pretty much have to start killing babies for that to happen.  Sadly, it was not the least bit surprising that he was again has demeaned the office he serves in.

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