The Administration

All In

The administration is down to its last two poker chips and has decided to go all in over this fight over executive privilege. It’s a good bet for the president.

With approval ratings stuck in the very low 30s, the president doesn’t have much to lose in betting it all against the congressional Democrats on this hand.

The facts surrounding this fight are on the side of the White House. The president has the power to fire any U.S. attorney that he wants to fire, for any reason he wants.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) are going on a fishing expedition, and everybody knows it.

Scooter Libby: It's All About Bill

With all due respect to my friends on the right and to the conservative writers I admire, stop arguing the legal details of Scooter Libby’s conviction. Enough already.  Who cares? What’s done is done. Libby was convicted, his sentence was commuted, Democrats have gone from bitter to bitterer. So let’s take this opportunity to put the story of Scooter into greater context. A context of the present and the future, not just the past.

Clemency for Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff can only be bad news for Hillary Clinton. Witness how her husband just couldn’t help from weighing in on a topic that reminds Republicans just why we found the Clinton dual presidency so abhorrent. I confess, I’d almost forgotten how distasteful Bill and Hill were until President Bush’s commutation got me thinking about the slimy cast of characters that distinguished the Clinton presidency. 

Pardoning the Clintons

I thought for a moment yesterday that I had been in the sun too long enjoying the Fourth of July festivities when I heard the former president's and Sen. Clinton’s comments surrounding President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence. In case you missed the exchange, former President Clinton offered the following during a radio interview earlier in the week comparing the 140 pardons he issued on his last day in office to President Bush’s commutation of Libby:

"I think there are guidelines for what happens when somebody is convicted," Clinton told a radio interviewer Tuesday. "You've got to understand, this is consistent with their philosophy; they believe that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle." 

Bush Rules Out Pardon — Or Does It Depend On the Definition of 'Long-Lasting'?

Yesterday, the president of the United States, in putting out a written statement concerning his decision to commute the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to zero-time-served, reminded the American people that Scooter Libby, despite not having to go to prison, still would suffer in the future.

President Bush stated that Mr. Libby had been convicted of the “serious” charge of lying under oath; he expressed respect for Independent Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald; and he noted that Mr. Libby would still have to pay a fine of $250,000. And then he stated, clearly in the context of his statement’s emphasis, that commutation did not mean Mr. Libby would be granted a clean slate in the future:

“The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.” (My emphasis.)


On His Last Day in Office, Bush Will Pardon Himself and Cheney

Congress should devise a set of subpoenas that would call the president and vice president to testify about actions that could constitute violations of law and set the stage for a historic Supreme Court decision that would determine whether any president is above the law.

George H. W. Bush charged that those who disclose the identities of covert operatives are committing the equivalent of treason, while George W. Bush believes that those who lie under oath about such matters should receive less jail time than Paris Hilton.

When the president stated he would not intervene in this case until all appeals had been heard, the president was lying.

A majority of Americans believes George W. Bush does not tell the truth. An overwhelming majority of Americans has come to disrespect and disapprove of this president. Throughout the free world there is revulsion and disgust about what this man has done.

D.C. Commuting

I've been taught by the master, my fellow Pundits Blogger and old friend Lanny Davis, in the art of the "Friday Night Dump." Those of us covering all the public relations disasters of the Clinton presidency, finessed so often by Lanny, never made plans for Friday night.

So I was surprised the White House made this a MONDAY night dump instead of waiting one day to make sure EVERYONE was somewhere else for the Fourth.

But that should be the only surprise. Forget the political analysis that President Bush needs to keep intact what little support he has left. There are actually some arguments for his commuting Scooter Libby, based on the merits, of all things.

The strongest, of course, is the nature of the crime committed. Lying. Hey folks, politicians lie. As former Washington Mayor Marion Barry said in another context, "Get over it." You don't send someone from the White House to the Big House for lying, or even for getting caught, which is a much bigger offense here. 

Commutation is Bittersweet

I am grateful President Bush decided to spare my mentor and friend Lewis “Scooter” Libby from serving one day in jail. As I have said repeatedly, the Justice Department bowed to political pressure from Capitol Hill to empanel a special counsel to investigate whether Valerie Plame’s name was improperly disclosed as being a former CIA operative.

Never mind that the Justice Department knew that the individual who disclosed Ms. Plame’s name to columnist Robert Novak was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Never mind that Ms. Plame did not meet the criteria for being an undercover operative in the first place — special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald pursued his quest to ascertain whether there was a White House conspiracy to disclose the identity of a woman when the counsel knew no crime had been committed. 

Random Thoughts Before the Holiday

For a recess week, there is a lot in the news that deserves commentary, but not a lot of time to write in my blog before I go on vacation. So here are some random thoughts:

•    Richard Cohen wrote a good piece in The Washington Post today about the Supreme Court decision on segregation and education. That follows a similar piece by Juan Williams in The New York Times last week. They both point out that big-city school systems have been resegregated for years, and it has nothing to do with Supreme Court and little to do with spending. It has to do with school quality. By and large, white parents don’t send their kids to big-city schools. They move to the suburbs or they send their kids to private schools. Why? Because the school systems are horrible, and have been horrible for a while. The Bush administration has tried hard to reverse this race to the bottom by insisting on higher quality and higher expectations, but the teacher’s unions and the corrupt bureaucracies have resisted. But it is not just the schools that fail the students. Cohen quotes Barack Obama, who has pointed out that parents deserve some of the blame. It is about time to have a real discussion on school reform and bring parents into the discussion. Perhaps this Supreme Court decision will spark such a debate. 

Pressure and Principle

OK, so I don't really know what President Bush is thinking. It was only 10 days ago that I said it would be a long time before he made a decision on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby because I believed, no matter the pressure, he didn't want to make one at all. Ha!

Bush released a tortured statement about how perjuring is wrong after all, and how Libby will and must pay his price for lying, but he still went over the head of his own appointed judge and removed a 30-month sentence to prison that loomed for the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. I find it rich that the news broke on the night when Bill Clinton was making his debut on the '08 trail, not to raise money, but to raise the votes for his wife who stood by him when he was impeached for lying under oath. I find it poignant that it was the same day the Washington Post wrote at length about Bush's secret consultations with historians about his legacy, intimate sessions in which he has asked people why the world hates America and why everybody hates him.