President George W. Bush possesses a quality scarce in the world of politics. That quality is unyielding loyalty to his friends and to his convictions.
The President’s over-reliance on that core value has resulted in catastrophic personnel misjudgments — the names Michael Brown, Harriet Miers, and Alberto Gonzales spring to mind — and an anemic effort to communicate his “vision thing” to the American people on issues both foreign and domestic.
However, that same moral certitude has also been at the heart of Bush’s successes including his defeat of two effete, elitist liberals for the Presidency.
Bush’s courage to do what is right in the face of popular opinion was on display at its best on Monday with his decision to commute the 30-month prison sentence of former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
Not only was the punishment meted out for Libby’s perjury conviction “excessive” as Bush so described, the prosecution of Libby by Chicago’s very own Patrick Fitzgerald, who served as special prosecutor in the case, was a politicized star chamber proceeding.
Fitzgerald sailed into Washington on the tailwinds of liberal, anti-war bloviations about an illegal Bush administration conspiracy to blow the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame for the alleged purpose of discrediting Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, a vocal, if not accurate, critic of the War on Terror in Iraq.
After hauling one journalist to jail and intimidating others into divulging their sources (I thought liberals were categorical defenders of a free press?) what Fitzgerald found instead was that Libby was not the leaker, that no such conspiracy was afoot, and, most importantly, that no law was broken relative to the disclosure of Ms. Plame’s identity.
Got all that?
Here’s the bottom line: Libby was about to be sent to the federal hoosegow for 2.5 years for lying about how he had learned about Plame’s identity, even though said lies were not in furtherance of any criminal act and — since he was not the leak in the first place — even though his lies ultimately had nothing to do with the stated purpose of the investigation in the first place.
Our justice system relies on persons to abide their oath to tell the truth and perjury requires punishment in proportion to the offense. Our justice system also relies on the good faith that prosecutors, backed by the virtually limitless power of the state, will resist the temptation to venture on political witch hunts.
Bush struck the proper balance of these competing public goods in response to this twisted affair with his commutation of Libby’s prison sentence while allowing the conviction, probation and $250,000 fine to stand.
For Americans tempted to use this as one more reason to capitulate to Democrat ascendancy in 2008, you might think twice.
Hillary Clinton wailed that the Bush decision “sends the clear signal that…cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.” This from one half of a tandem that spent their last days in the White House selling Presidential pardons to the highest felonious bidders to finance the Yosemite Sam wing of the Clinton Library in Little Rock.
And in case you thought Barack Obama was prepared to take off his training wheels, Obama referred to Libby as a “man who compromised our national security.”
Senator Obama is either confused as to the established facts of this case or he has committed political perjury in promising voters to lead the nation with his “new kind of politics” where such rhetorical excesses and ad hominem attacks were no longer a part of our national discourse.
Luckily for Obama, Fitzgerald has not yet devised a way to make campaign promises subject to legal sanction.
Bush’s action does not represent a failure to believe in our justice system, as his political opponents and certain corporate editorial boards around the nation suggest.
Rather, Bush’s decision reflects his recognition of the limitations of our justice system, particularly when partisan politics is the driver of an investigation.
If this argument as to the limitations of our fallible justice system sounds familiar, it should. It is the same argument used by the same liberals caterwauling about Libby to defend their opposition to the death penalty — and, incidentally, I agree with them on that matter.
I guess Libby is not the only one in Washington who can’t get his story straight.