Scooting Justice

It’s the hypocrisy that’s most upsetting about the commuting of Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s 30 month prison sentence for lying and obstruction of justice:

The hypocrisy of a president who rose to power as a law & order conservative who promised to restore integrity to the White House. Bush appointed the judge who handed down Scooter’s harsh sentence. Bush appointed the judge because he hangsá ’em high, Texas style justice. Do the crime, get walloped with time, no mercy. That’s Bush’s mantra.

Yet when the same standards that he applies to everyone else are applied to him or someone close to him, well now, all of a sudden a few new words are added to Bush’s vocabulary, such as fairness, leniency and justice. Bush claims his bottom-line best quality is consistency, but I’m afraid that like nearly everything else Bush has claimed as noble and worthy about himself, this is another fallacy for the cameras. Another myth fed us by the image makers in Rove’s office.

Scooter’s original sentence was too harsh, in my opinion.á Thirty months in prison is too much for a first time offender with an exemplary record of public service. I don’t like the guy’s politics and despise the evil coward he worked for, but I think a short prison sentence with a hefty fine would have been punishment enough to fit the crime. For a truly fitting punishment the judge should have sentenced Libby to 30 months of manning a .50 cal in the back of a Humvee in Iraq, but that option is unfortunately not available.

Compare the time to the crime. Scooter lied to federal investigators to protect the source of the CIA agent leak, his boss Dick.á But something has bothered me from the beginning about what exactly happened. To me it seems like the enormity of the crime that Libby was convicted of falls short of what Libby was supposed to be covering up. If he concocted a story to hide himself as source of the leak, it seems to me that Libby is not a very good lawyer. You save the big lies for the big crimes, not to cover up for something that was legal — albeit dubious and underhanded — like the leak.

If the leaking itself was illegal and it was shown that Libby obstructed investigators to hide a deeper crime, then hell yeah, send the weasel away. But the original crime investigated by the prosecutor — leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame — turned out not to be a crime. No one got accused, charged or prosecuted. So then what exactly was Scooter trying to hide?

There are many possible answers to that question which I won’t go into. Let’s get back to the original point. Going by the evidence presented in court and the circumstances of the case that are known and proven, Scooter got a harsh sentence. Personally, it doesn’t bother me that the man was spared a harsh jail sentence, because I think prison is reserved for those who truly deserve it, a last resort, and a first-time convict should be given every opportunity for leniency.

However….Scooter should also serve every day of his sentence, because the president he worked for would have wanted it that way. Scooter should tell Bush, thank you, but when I signed up for the job that got me into trouble I knew I was working for a presidentá who spares no one. No one on death row was spared by Bush during his eight years of governor of Texas. No one on Federal Death Row has been spared. Bush convicted Saddam of having WMD and lying about it, and sent in the executioners. This is a president who says the world is black and white, good or evil, with us or against us, and his administration should be held to that standard.

A crime is a crime, and as they say in the joint: Do the crime, be prepared to do the time.

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