By: E&P Staff
Many conservative pundits applauded President Bush’s commutation of “Scooter” Libby’s 30-month prison sentence. Some of them declared it didn’t go far enough — and the man deserved a full pardon. But Ron Dreher, the well-known conservative columnist for the Dallas Morning News, disagrees.
Writing on his “Crunchy Con” blog at Beliefnet.com, Dreher contributes a post titled, “Consistency? Wuzzat?.”
Here is an excerpt.
From “A Charge to Keep,” Bush’s 1999 campaign biography, on commuting the sentences or pardoning:
“I don’t believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair.”
President Bush, yesterday:
“I respect the jury?s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby?s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.”
OK, so it’s not technically replacing a jury’s verdict, but that’s a distinction without much of a difference here. Does Bush think the trial was “somehow unfair”? Or is he simply a hypocrite?
If only Scooter Libby had lied under oath about sex, or in service to a Democratic president, we would have been compelled to outrage by a high government official’s perjury! Yes?
From today’s NYTimes story about the commutation, these quotes from and about Patrick Fitzgerald:
?In this case an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws,? Mr. Fitzgerald said in a statement. ?It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals.?
…In pursuing criminal charges, Mr. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for Chicago, said Mr. Libby had subverted the justice system by lying to investigators. In urging a strong sentence in May, Mr. Fitzgerald called Mr. Libby ?a high-ranking government official whose falsehoods were central to issues in a significant criminal investigation.?
I agree with Fitzgerald. I concede that it is possible that this prosecution ought not to have gone forward. But it did go forward, and Scooter Libby, in the judgment of the jury, deliberately lied under oath in an effort to obstruct justice. Perjury is always wrong, and deserving of punishment. But it is especially wrong when committed by a high-ranking government official.
This is why I supported, and do support, the Clinton impeachment. And this is why I believe that Bush letting Libby off with a lighter sentence is corrosive and cynicism-producing: the president has said that lies under oath under these circumstances don’t really matter. Once again, we see that President Bush doesn’t really believe that accountability to the law or moral principles applies to his people. As a conservative, I find this dispiriting … but at this point, not the least bit surprising.
We already knew from the Clinton saga that many Democrats did not believe that standards making it a crime to lie under oath should apply to Their Bill. Now we know that many Republicans hold similar views about perjury when their political ox is being gored. I find it hard to believe that America, and the national character, is made stronger by this bipartisan moral relativism in high places.