Sunday, July 08, 2007

It didn't take long for the wingnuts and the administration to resort to bashing Bill Clinton as a means to deflect from the Libby decision. Bush has offered no details as to why he chose to free a guilty man who was obstructing justice in a national security case that led back to the White House. The very weak the-sentence-was-"too harsh" excuse just doesn't cut it and has been explained away not just by Fitzgerald but by anyone who cares to dig a little to discover that the 30 month ruling was completely fair.

Dan Froomkin wrote:
Rather than address the most weighty criticism of President Bush's decision to commute former vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby's prison sentence -- that it was part and parcel of a longtime cover-up of White House misdeeds -- press secretary Tony Snow lashed out at former President Bill Clinton and his would-be president wife for actions that date back more than six years.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has been among the foremost critics accusing Bush of commuting Libby's sentence in order to avoid further inquiry into his own behavior. The commutation "was clearly an effort to protect the White House," she told the Associated Press earlier this week. "There isn't any doubt now, what we know is that Libby was carrying out the implicit or explicit wishes of the vice president, or maybe the president as well, in the further effort to stifle dissent."
It's certainly hard to argue that President Clinton didn't abuse the pardon process. But Bush's pledge back in 2000 was to restore ethics to the White House -- not engage in he-did-it-too defense of his own misconduct.

And furthermore, there is an ethical chasm between Clinton's pardons -- unseemly as they were -- and Bush's decision to grant clemency to someone involved in an investigation of his own White House.

As it happens, the previous granting of clemency that is most analogous to what Bush did dates back neither to the Clinton or even the Nixon era, but to Bush's father's presidency.

In 1992, on the eve of his last Christmas in the White House, George H.W. Bush pardoned former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others for their conduct related to the Iran-Contra affair, in which he himself was also loosely implicated.

As David Johnston reported in the New York Times at the time, independent prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh was livid. "Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President's action, charging that 'the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.'"

Added Walsh: "In light of President Bush's own misconduct, we are gravely concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress and obstructed official investigations."
Like father, like son. Oh, and it's worth repeating that Bush spent much of his 2000 campaign making the case that Bill Clinton was scum and Bush would return glistening ethics and respect for the law to Washington, and now the best the right-wingers can do is compare their man Bush to the guy he was supposed to tower above ethically -- truly pathetic. It went from Bush will put the ethical lapses of Clinton behind us to now whining about how Clinton did it too. Only in his two terms Bush has managed to make Clinton (and Nixon for that matter) look saintly.

Also, Keith Olbermann rattled off at least four reasons why Clinton's pardons differ from Bush's decision to free Libby:
  • Unlike Bush, Clinton was "consistently generous with clemency rather than reserving it exclusively for friends."
  • Clinton typically waited until after sentences were served.
  • Clinton did not use it to obtain cover in ongoing investigations.
  • Regarding Marc Rich, some prominent Republicans argued Rich was innocent and deserved the pardon, including one Scooter Libby, Rich's lawyer at the time.
  • Finally, Paul Krugman wrote:
    Back when the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity began, Mr. Bush insisted that if anyone in his administration had violated the law, “that person will be taken care of.” Now we know what he meant. Mr. Bush hasn’t challenged the verdict in the Libby case, and other people convicted of similar offenses have spent substantial periods of time in prison. But Mr. Libby goes free.
    Mr. Bush says that Mr. Libby’s punishment remains “harsh” because his reputation is “forever damaged.” Meanwhile, Mr. Bush employs, as a deputy national security adviser, none other than Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair. Mr. Abrams was one of six Iran-contra defendants pardoned by Mr. Bush’s father, who was himself a subject of the special prosecutor’s investigation of the scandal.

    In other words, obstruction of justice when it gets too close to home is a family tradition.
    It's what they do, and GW has learned quite well from daddy Bush. Thanks to this craven cabal, Washington has never been more of a sewer.

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