"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Friday, July 06, 2007

Retrieved from Down the Memory Hole

Lost in the, may I say, euphoria of the end of the Clinton presidency was his deal cut with federal prosecutor Robert Ray. I think it has probative value as we consider the justice of the Libby commutation. (Libby was fined 10 times as much, and will lose his license to practice law permanently):

Clinton admits misleading testimony, avoids charges in Lewinsky probe
President's law license suspended for 5 years

January 19, 2001

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton will leave office free of the prospect of criminal charges after he admitted Friday that he knowingly gave misleading testimony about his affair with Monica Lewinsky in a 1998 lawsuit.

Under an agreement with Independent Counsel Robert Ray, Clinton's law license will be suspended for five years and he will pay a $25,000 fine to Arkansas bar officials. He also gave up any claim to repayment of his legal fees in the matter. In return, Ray will end the 7-year-old Whitewater probe that has shadowed most of Clinton's two terms.

"I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely, but I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish this goal and am certain my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false," Clinton said in a written statement released Friday by the White House.

The admission, which came on the president's last full day in office, stems from the same allegations that led to Clinton's 1998 impeachment by the House of Representatives, and the later acquittal by the Senate.

In a statement minutes later, Ray said "the nation's interest has been served" by Clinton's admission.

"This matter is now concluded," Ray said. "May history and the American people judge that it has been concluded justly."



James F. Elliott said...

Isn't it fundamentally an exercise in intellectual dishonesty and, at best, the worst kind of moral equivalency for you to keep trotting some sort of comparison between Clinton and Libby? The situations aren't even the same.

Tom Van Dyke said...

No, it's not, James, and yes, they are.

Both sought to cover their asses, first, last and foremost. In fact, had Libby told the truth and not technically violated the process of law, he could not have been found guilty of the underlying crime, because there was no underlying crime. As for Bill Clinton, he was also guilty of a technical violation of the process of law, and admitted as such.

That was the reason for this latest post.

We cannot ignore such violations, but neither should we extract our pound of flesh after the point has been made. In my view, justice was done in both cases in the criminal law sphere. May I add that impeaching Clinton over his false testimony in the Lewinsky affair was, in my view, contrary to the best interest of the republic.

But we cannot stir this into an undifferentiated soup. You can either argue this legalistically, for which I have expressed some sympathy, or morally, for which there is no real brief against Libby.

The true moral culprit here is Joe Wilson, who did a crap job in Niger and then splashed it on the editorial page of the NYT to undermine the war effort and injure the administration. It was a political move, and it was his political opportunism that exposed his wife and her work to further scrutiny.

Morally, legally, and to punish intentional harm to the republic, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was passed to deal with traitors like Aldrich Ames. There is no equivalency in Libby's case, although Wilson's depraved indifference comes closer. He thought he could hide behind his wife's not-so-covert skirts, but I have no moral problem with the administration defending itself against his half-truths.

Had actual harm been done by the revelation of Plame's CIA work, I would think differently. But we can fairly say that the sudden concern for the nuances of national security exhibited by the administration's opponents is, um, out of character.

In principle, I agree with you and have said so. But to ignore the reality that no harm was actually done, and pretend that there is no partisan component to this affair (the same was true of the Clinton impeachment) is disingenuous.

Evanston2 said...

Common point: they both were found guilty of lying under oath.

Clinton lied in order to protect himself from a sexual harassment lawsuit.

If Libby lied (debatable), he did so while doing his job.
I'm fine with Bush commuting his sentence because the conduct of the prosecutor shows that the underlying crime (if any) wasn't very important.
Why? The real leaker was Richard Armitage and Fitzgerald saw fit to give him immunity. Fitzgerald let the big fish go in order to get a little fish. Kinda backwards, eh?

And as we all know, the whole Plame thing is fishy when you consider that her "covert" status was never clearly established during the prosecution of Libby. Fitzgerald waited until sentencing to make that assertion. Talk about inconsistency in a legal proceeding...sure, Fitzgerald's assertions are not "under oath" but he changed his tune radically. Fitzgerald is Nifong II.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Evanston2: the whole Plame thing is fishy when you consider that her "covert" status was never clearly established during the prosecution of Libby. Fitzgerald waited until sentencing to make that assertion. Talk about inconsistency in a legal proceeding...sure, Fitzgerald's assertions are not "under oath" but he changed his tune radically.

Um, as far as I know, that's fact.
No wonder we're all so confused, especially our friends on the left with their newfound outrage at perceived breaches of nat'l security.

Thx for straightening us all out, E2.

Evanston2 said...

Summary of "documentation" of Plame's supposed covert status, including how and when presented, is at:

Yes, the sudden concern for confidential national secrets by the Democrats and MSM (particularly the NYT) is heartwarming. Oh, and when is Plame going to be prosecuted by lying to Congress about how her husband got the job to check out things in Niger? Just wondering, since honesty is so-o important to the Democrats.

David S. Bloch said...

I'm not entirely sure on this point, but I believe disbarment is mandatory for convictions involving fraud or dishonesty (and certainly for perjury convictions). Strictly speaking, the judge in the Libby case didn't (and probably couldn't) disbar him. That would instead be the responsibility of the Bars of which Libby's a member. (D.C., certainly; any others?) He'll have the right to petition for reinstatement at any time, however, and if his conviction is overturned on appeal I suspect he'd win reinstatement without difficulty. The more interesting theological question is whether he'd be able to convince the D.C. Bar to give him back his license if the President ultimately issues a full pardon. (N.b. I think the President ultimately will pardon Libby in early 2009, if Libby hasn't prevailed on appeal by then.)

Pres. Clinton's a little different, in that he voluntarily relinquished his law license as part of a plea agreement. I think we can fairly view that as an admission of guilt on Clinton's part, and I suspect Clinton's prosecutors insisted on a voluntary relinquishment for precisely that reason.

I do think the cases bear some strong similarities; they are closer than James F. Elliott allows, and also perhaps closer than Evanston2 suggests. In reality, and if you accept the jury's verdict in the Libby case, both Libby and Clinton lied in order to shift blame and avoid negative fallout that would harm them politically.

Evanston2 is quite right, though, in arguing that no underlying crime occurred. Had Fitzgerald been supplied with sufficient proof of Plame's covert status, he'd certainly have gone after Richard Armitage. That he didn't is sufficient proof in my mind that Plame was not in fact a covert agent when the whole Wilson mess erupted.

Evanston2 said...

David, good to read your comments. One admittedly picky correction: you said "theological question" when you probably meant "legal question."

David S. Bloch said...

Hi, Evanston:

Thanks for the kind words.

Yes, I was using "theological" loosely, to suggest "academic" or "abstruse" [not even "legal," exactly; I was trying to imply that this is an angels-on-pins kind of question] . . . but I can't find any support for that usage in Fowler's, so you're quite right: Bad word choice on my part. Sorry 'bout that, and--seriously--I appreciate the correction. I've used the phrase before, and won't again.