Bully For Him

by digby

Tim Noah says Bush did the right thing. In fact, he says "bully for him." His reasoning is that Walton did give poor Scooter an excessive sentence and that was wrong because he, Tim Noah, believes that Clinton committed perjury and he got away with it.

That whole impeachment trial acquittal thing in the Senate and that whole guilty beyond a reasonable doubt thing in Walton's courtroom are irrelevant because Noah just knows Clinton committed perjury over a couple of furtive blow-jobs in a hallway which means Scooter Libby and his pals should be able to lie to federal prosecutors. If not, well then, life would just. not. be. fair.

Here's what I wonder. Noah thinks that the sentence was too harsh and Walton was irritated by all those death threats and smarmy character tributes and whatnot. Let's say that's correct. Is there any reason that Bush could not have let Libby serve, say 15 months --- half of what he got --- before commuting his sentence? How about six months? Two months? If it really was a matter of a "too harsh" sentence, is it really reasonable to say that he should not get any jail time at all?

Apparently so. You see, even though Libby was convicted in a court of law, he can't serve even a day in jail, because Clinton was ... acquitted. Noah writes:

No fair-minded person can deny that the previous president committed perjury about Monica Lewinsky while serving in the Oval Office. The country knew it, and it let him get away with it. Does that mean no government official should ever again be prosecuted for perjury? Of course not. But it does mean Walton should have wondered whether he was imposing a double standard in treating Libby more harshly because Libby worked in the White House. Is it really fair to treat White House aides more harshly than presidents?

The country backed Bill Clinton because it was obvious that he was being pursued by a shrieking band of harpies over an inconsequential, sexual indiscretion, which anyone in his right mind would have lied about in that perjury trap of a deposition for that pathetic set-up lawsuit. The reason Clinton was supported by most Americans was because most of them understood exactly what had happened and they didn't think he merited the punishment of being forced from office. (They also didn't like the fact that the Republicans were trying to say their votes and support for this president were irrelevant. )

The Libby matter, on the other hand, was a national security investigation in the wake of the worst terrorist attack in history. Libby lied repeatedly and blatantly to the FBI and Federal prosecutors when the stakes were very high and the entire Department of Justice was on high alert. Telling the truth about spilling the names of CIA agents could have real consequences.

Clinton was impeached and he faced the music. He was tried and acquitted according to the rules of the constitution. Bush, on the other hand, just used his plenary power to commute a sentence to cover his own bad deeds and keep one of his own aides from having to pay the price for his crimes. He has used his power for this one man when he has been the stingiest president in history for pardons and commutations. When he was governor, a woman who had completely reformed in prison was mocked when she begged for her life. He had no compassion for her or any of the 152 people whose death warrants he signed without even giving more than five minutes consideration. He said those people were all guilty --- no mitigating factors even entered his mind. Lord knows how many pleas for commutation and pardons he's ignored since he's been president.

But poor little Scooter can't even spend a month in jail. He can't even spend a day in jail.

And apparently, as predicted, that's just fine with a good portion of the DC establishment. The oh-so-jaded political observers like Tim Noah see this whole thing as some sort of partisan game of tag. Let the plebes natter on about the following the rules --- we'll call the play by play and let the little people know who's "winning." From their perches atop the commentariat they smugly dismiss the concerns of average Americans who are enraged that these people keep cheating and getting away with things that ordinary citizens and even powerful Democrats could never dream of getting away with --- they relentlessly smear their opponents with the filthiest lies, they stage partisan impeachments, they steal elections, they illegally start wars and make up novel authoritarian theories of governance --- and then they use their powers to excuse their minions from the consequences of these actions if they happen to get sloppy and get caught. None of them ever pay. Ever.

Update: For a real treat, read David Brooks' take on it. Everybody's a clown but him --- Republicans and Dick Cheney and dirty hippies alike. The only answer is to put this foolishness behind us. Again. Like always.