Today, President Bush whipped out the courage I thought he had mothballed forever. In a statement of Executive Clemency, he commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff. Libby had been convicted in March of perjury and obstruction in the investigation of who “leaked” the identity of former CIA employee Valerie Plame. In a clever political move, the President left intact Libby’s $250,000 fine and two years’ probation, thereby neutralizing the inevitable gnashing of teeth by the liberals in the Congress and media. For once, the President fought for his people and outmaneuvered his opponents instead of folding like a cheap suit.
Libby wasn’t the actual story, of course. The real story was the concerted campaign by enemies of the administration (the CIA and Ambassador Joe Wilson first among them) to attack its aggressive approach to fighting Islamic terror and, of course, the war in Iraq. The president and vice president knew they were getting played, so they tried to get the truth out. Libby, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and others fanned out to alert members of the media that Wilson et al. were spinning lies about the prewar intelligence and how the administration used it. And they tried to encourage the press to look into the real story — that there was no manipulation of that intelligence, no “misleading” by the president, and that those directly involved in this story (Wilson, the CIA, and others) were the ones spinning the great fabrications.
The administration’s big mistake was, of course, trusting the press. They should have known better. Without the liberal mainstream media, which has relentlessly attacked the president, vice president, and their foreign policies day in and day out since January 2001, this story wouldn’t have gotten very far. The media egged it on. The media became the story, and at the same time, they created the story. They created it by deliberately NOT reporting the truth about this president all along — and certainly in THIS case, failing to cover the real story because it would have been truthful about the president.
So members of the media ignored the truth, spun stories, went off on tangents that didn’t matter, and did wholesale speculation that was wild, unfounded, and irresponsible. That continues today. I’ve heard anchors and pundits on almost every major television network saying completely unsubstantiated things, such as, “Well, obviously Libby was covering up for Cheney.” And, “Clearly, Libby lied to protect Rove.” And, “The administration manipulated the Iraq war intelligence.” And, “This case was really about the administration trying to smear war critics.”
Well, no, no, no, and no. There was absolutely NO evidence presented in this case to prove ANY of those things. Nothing was presented in court to support ANY of these statements. And no evidence was presented because it doesn’t exist. Believe me, if it existed, you would’ve heard it. The witnesses (ie. NBC’s Tim Russert) didn’t have any evidence and neither did the prosecution.
But that didn’t stop any of these same “journalists” from making these outrageously false statements about the Vice President, Rove, Libby, etc. This is the corruption of journalism.
Many conservatives condemned the original conviction of Libby as “the criminalization of politics.” I agree. But there is something else: it’s the politicization of journalism. That’s been happening since the birth of the republic, 231 years ago this week. But the abuses in this case make it abundantly clear that our “mainstream journalists” aren’t interested at all in the truth, as they so sanctimoniously claim they are. They are only interested in perpetuating a story that dovetails with their political agenda. They aren’t supposed to wildly speculate or condemn without evidence, and yet that’s what so many of them have done to Scooter Libby.
And there’s another tragedy here: what happened to Libby is yet another cautionary tale for any decent, smart person who is thinking about public service. Today, politics and media are gangs, led by gladiators, fighting for money, resources, turf, and power. If you happen to be in the way of these things, your opponents and their allies will do whatever they can to discredit, marginalize, or destroy you, including lying, cheating, and stealing. It is the highest of high-stakes games — and only the hardiest and most brutal survive it. And even when you survive, chances are you have gotten beaten up and bloodied along the way. This is why so many decent, smart people don’t want to get into public service — because they ARE decent and smart.
So hat’s off to the president for showing a little backbone. (And Libby didn’t even need Hugh Rodham!) Human justice is far from perfect (Paging, Sandy Berger!). But at least this decent and smart man got some justice before he had to go to the clink for having a faulty memory (Paging Tim Russert!). Come January, 2009, the departing president will have a stack of final paperwork on his desk. In there somewhere should be a pardon with Libby’s name on it.