Thursday, March 08, 2007

You Gotta Be Kidding, Right?

I realize that Bush is almost certainly going to pardon Libby when his two years are up. Fine. That's the way the game works.

That said, why on earth is there even a debate over whether he should pardon him now?

If some people imagined a verdict in the criminal trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. would calm the political passions surrounding his fate, they may have forgotten two words with a combustible history: presidential pardon.

The 11 jurors had barely pronounced Mr. Libby guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury on Tuesday when a new donnybrook broke out.

“Now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct,” declared Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, taking a stance echoed by other Congressional Democrats, some editorial writers and bloggers on the left.

From the right came a Wednesday editorial in The Wall Street Journal, which thundered that “the time for a pardon is now,” a point of view shared by The Weekly Standard, National Review and conservative admirers and friends of Mr. Libby. Many of the calls for his pardon demanded immediate action, instead of a wait for appeals to wend their way through the courts.
Of course he shouldn't be pardoned. There no question of his guilt, and this "underlying crime" stuff is absolutely meaningless, as the whole point of having perjury as a crime is because perjury irretrievably muddies the waters on that count. Getting away with crime would be trivial if people could lie with impunity, as you could easily compel witnesses to lie their faces off for your benefit.

Besides, the question about an underlying "crime" is unimportant compared to the question of whether there was an underlying act that could have led to criminal prosecution were there not perjury involved. After all, no act is technically a crime until you are convicted of it. That's the distinction between Clinton and Libby- Clinton lied about an entirely legal act (getting a hummer at the office) whereas Libby lied about endangering the entire extended espionage network of someone under non-official cover.

(And it's not even clear that Clinton perjured himself. He mainly split hairs over the definition of "sex".)

I know that the conservatives want to stand by their man. I also know that the right to pardon rests with a president for good reason. Still, this is just ludicrous. There's no grounds for pardon either legally, morally or politically. If the case was decided poorly, that may be grounds for an appeal, but if Bush simply scoops up Libby and says "nah, I don't like that result", then why bother with the whole thing? Might as well just parade the accused in front of him, and decide whether they live or die by a thumbs up/thumbs down system.

Then again, conservatives seem awfully fond of Rome. Maybe there's a connection there?

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