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Punishing Prevaricating Politicians & Parsing Partisan Perspectives

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Not a pardon, but a sentence commuted. For convicted felon Scooter Libby there will be no time served, but he will continue to carry the burden of a guilty verdict (assuming no subsequent pardon). The decision was granted not at the end of the President’s term, but now. Truth be told, I take no satisfaction in the President’s decision, nor am I gnashing my teeth. Last March, when the Libby verdict was read, DWSUWF offered this “Partisan Hypocrite Test” in the post “Looking Glass Liars” which I updated and excerpted here when the sentence was pronounced:

“The Test. One question. It is multiple choice.

Which of the following choices do you believe? Chose only one:

  1. It was right for both Clinton to be impeached and Libby to be prosecuted for lies under oath, even though there was no underlying crime.
  2. It was wrong for both Clinton to be impeached and Libby to be prosecuted for lies under oath, since there was no underlying crime.
  3. It was right for Clinton to be impeached but wrong for Libby to be prosecuted for lies under oath, even though there was no underlying crime.
  4. It was wrong for Clinton to be impeached but right for Libby to be prosecuted for lies under oath, even though there was no underlying crime.

If you answered “1” or “2” – Congratulations! You are not a partisan hypocrite.
If you answered “3” or “4” – there is no point in continuing to read this blog. You should go listen to podcasts of Anne Coulter or Bill Maher. Enjoy.

Full Disclosure: DWSUWF agreed with both prosecutors, both prosecutions, and chose “1”. I don’t care which political party they are in. If a high-ranking official lies under oath, you take that official to the wall. No one is above the law. No one has the option of lying under oath without paying the consequences.

An identical rationale was used for impeaching Bill Clinton and prosecuting Scooter Libby. Clinton lied under oath during an investigation. He was impeached for lying under oath in an investigation into a blowjob. Libby was tried and convicted for lying under oath in an investigation about the leak of the identity of a CIA operative. It is completely irrelevant if the underlying reason for the lie under oath was a crime or not a crime.”

Now the other shoe has dropped. George Bush commuted Libby’s sentence. His felony conviction remains on the record, his fine, and and consequent likely disbarment remains in force, but he will do no time. Not my preferred outcome, but by the standards of the Partisan Hypocrite Test, reasonable. In a comment to the excerpt here at Donklephant, Jimmy the Dhimmi asked the right question: “Do you think Clinton should have been found guilty of perjury… and put in jail for 10 months? “

Bill Clinton lied under oath. As a consequence he suffered the humiliation of being impeached and tried in the Senate. He narrowly avoided being the first President in history to be removed from office as a result of an impeachment. Although he was disbarred and precluded from practicing law, he did not face a criminal trial and potential incarceration. His partisan supporters have largely absolved him of all guilt, his reputation is intact in their eyes, and he has profited handsomely since leaving office.

Scooter Libby lied under oath. As a consequence he was tried and convicted of a felony and forced out of office. Although his sentence was commuted, his felony conviction stands and he is likely to be disbarred and precluded from practicing law. He has extensive legal bills and was fined $250,000 but is unlikely to suffer financially. His partisan supporters have largely absolved him of all guilt, his reputation is intact in their eyes, and they will continue to support him. Quite probably, his loyalty in politically protecting the uber-rich Cheney will not be forgotten.

I would have preferred to see Libby do some time, but fully expected to see him pardoned before Bush left office. On balance, I am not going to cry out in lamentations or rend my garments over this outcome. In my mind, in both cases, the extenuating consideration is motivation. I ascribe an understandable motivation to both Clinton and Libby. Clinton lied to protect his reputation, his marriage, and his family from a perceived partisan witch-hunt. Libby lied to protect Dick Cheney (and probably others in the administration) out of a misplaced sense of loyalty and misguided sense of patriotism from a perceived partisan witch-hunt. He is not a bad guy. Neither is Clinton. Both suffered consequences from their actions, but jail time was not required for the integrity of legal system to be preserved.

Now Dick Cheney is another matter altogether …

x-posted from Divided We Stand United We Fall.