Tuesday, July 3, 2007


In America, everyone is equal before the law -- everyone, that is, except members of the Bush administration. They get the ultimate special treatment. They're not before the law; they're above it, as the President showed yesterday by commuting the sentence of vice presidential aide Lewis Libby.

In case you were wondering whether the President has any vestige of shame -- whether he even hears that little voice saying that maybe it would be better if his administration's corruption were not completely exposed to public view -- the answer is no. The strategy is clear: seek every possible political advantage, even if you have to commit crimes to do so, then use the pardon power to keep the criminals out of jail.

There's so much hypocrisy in this commutation (it's not quite a pardon) that it's hard to know where to start. Of course, the Republicans now praising the President's action (or even suggesting that it should have been a full pardon) weren't exactly showing similar concern for the harsh treatment that another fine public servant, President Clinton, received at the hands of a zealous prosecutor when he, too, was accused of lying in a case in which the underlying charge never really went anywhere. I don't recall anyone's calling for the President to pardon Martha Stewart, or even commute her jail sentence.

And of course President Bush has used the pardon power less than any other recent President. It's not a priority for him.

But I think my favorite bit of flummery in connection with this shameful action is the suggestion by vice president Cheney's spokeswoman that she doesn't know what the vice president advised. Obviously this thing has Cheney's fingerprints all over it. We know what Cheney advised: he advised that Bush give Libby a full pardon, a promotion, and a Presidential medal of honor.

It's just too shameful. The Administration goes to every length to smear its opponents and cover up its corrupt buildup to the Iraq war, no blinking at crime where necessary, and then uses clemency to keep the criminals out of jail.


Anonymous said...

Any thoughts whether the power delegated to the special prosecutor was actually constitutional? Seems similar to Morrison v. Olson, except that the Independent Counsel Act has expired.

Jon Siegel said...

As I understand it, this was a voluntary delegation by the Attorney General. The Attorney General is certainly empowered to assign prosecutorial tasks to prosecutors at the Justice Department and to choose to give them autonomy to make individual prosecutorial decisions, even in the absence of an independent counsel statute.