The Administration

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.

The GOP Double-Standard on Executive Privilege — But Dems Need to Be Careful Too

It never ceases to amaze me how some Republicans partisans and conservative talk show hosts manage a straight face when they can apply such patently partisan double-standards when it comes to reacting to the Bush White House versus similar conduct by the Clinton White House.

But Democrats have to worry, too, about overly aggressive investigations of the Bush White House, despite their protestations during the Clinton years of such conduct by the Republican-led Congress. That may be one of the reasons for the current Democratic Congress's  low approval ratings — and will set another precedent for abuse if (and hopefully when) the Democrats next regain the White House and are faced with a Republican Congress. 

Cheney's Absolute Power-grab

Lord Acton said it best: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." We have been bombarded this week with Washington Post stories describing just that when it comes to Dick Cheney.

The "power ranger" insists on redefining the executive branch (or the legislative branch) and pursues policies from the vantage point of a modern dictator, with little regard for the law. What he has done has not only had severe negative consequences for all manner of foreign and domestic policy. It has redefined government, at least for the moment.

Some would suggest that he deserves impeachment for his acts. At the very least it is time for a full-scale congressional investigation of his attempt at absolute power. And the Democrats should call for it, now.

Distorting Light

Vice President Cheney is not the only one. In fact, rare is the official, particularly the elected one, who embraces unfettered media access to the way he or she conducts the public's business. Not so rare is the official who holds the media and its reporters in contempt.

It's not hard to understand. Having one's foot held to the fire by brilliant reporting like the current Washington Post series on Cheney or the Walter Reed exposés is an altogether unpleasant experience, and the knee-jerk reaction to such stories is to blame the messengers, meaning the media, for such exceptional journalism. 

The Untouchable

That is one creative legal argument Vice President Cheney advances, arguing he does not have to comply with the order requiring members of the executive branch, the Bush administration, to account for the way they handle classified material.

Why? Because the vice president of the United States, under the Constitution, is president of the Senate and casts tie-breaking votes.

Since the Constitution also specifies that only Congress can determine how it operates, Cheney is not bound by the executive order.

In effect, he is claiming that he is eligible for both executive and legislative privilege. Hybrid privilege, as it were.