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."


Bush Should Have Gone All the Way and Pardoned Libby (Sorry, Tom)

Mr. Van Dyke thinks the president’s Libby commutation is the end of the Bush presidency as we know it (see July 2 post). He cites very low poll numbers for a commutation or pardon, as if anything Bush did now would make him even more unpopular with the American people. The Iraq war, Katrina, immigration and other failures large and small have already brought him just about as low as he can go.

The problem with TVD’s assessment is that it isn’t with Democrats and Independents that Bush is losing support. He never had much Democrat support once the glow of 9/11 wore off, and Independents have been going south for quite some time. And there is nothing he can do at this point to win back any of these people. No, it is shrinking support among Republicans and the conservative base that has brought his approval ratings to historic lows.

To let Mr. Libby go to prison would not only not win back Democrats and Independents, it would have put another nail in the coffin for conservatives. Yet as Robert Novak argues (here and here), commuting Libby’s sentence doesn’t completely satisfy his conservative supporters and still drives Democrats mad. He may as well have gone all the way and just pardoned him now. But Novak makes a very interesting case for what he calls this “strange administration.”

This whole sorry episode gets at the personality of this president, which Novak does a good job of capturing.

That (the commuting of the sentence) might be described as a Solomonic decision, but only if King Solomon actually split the baby and distributed halves to rival mothers. Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called the president's conduct "disgraceful," would not have been any more upset by an outright pardon. While friends of Libby toasted champagne Monday night, they complained there was no pardon. It was an unsatisfying performance as an unhappy presidency nears its end, with Bush again standing aloof from the passion he has stirred.

Fierce Democratic critics seeking to criminalize Bush's military intervention three years ago seized on the Valerie Plame case. In his harsh reaction Monday, Reid described Libby as part of "White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war." The president and his political advisers always have seemed oblivious to this intense campaign against him. The White House attitude that what we don't know won't hurt us resulted in Bush pointing with pride to the appointment as special counsel of Patrick Fitzgerald, the non-partisan U.S. attorney in Chicago. At that point, Bush lost control of a case that his enemies seized on as a serious threat to his presidency.

What this points out, contrary to the left’s demonizing of Bush, is that he is just not a partisan guy. Liberals think he is the devil himself, a right-wing zealot bent on destroying America as we know it. But liberals have been divorced from reality for a long time. If the president had been a movement conservative and philosophically grounded in the principles that it represents, many of the problems that brought him down would have never happened. (Of course, he may never have gotten elected either, so this is very much an academic discussion.)

We all remember the “new tone” Bush tried to bring to Washington way back when. It didn’t work, as we can see, but that attempt reflects Bush’s penchant for believing that he could transcend partisan politics. You can see him thinking, “If only people will realize that my intentions are good, that I’m an honorable person, they will surely give me credit for . . .” Wrong. This is probably why, as Novak points out, that the president was oblivious to what his enemies were really trying to do to him and his administration. He was going to stand above it all. Wrong again.

So he lets a special prosecutor be appointed to basically harass his own administration. It was a travesty, and all the while Bush thinks he’s getting political points for allowing Fitzgerald almost unlimited power to uncover a crime he knew never happened. You think Bill Clinton would have ever allowed this to happen? I may despise the man and his politics, but he had the game down pat. But it’s just not in Bush’s nature, and he is suffering for it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Countdown to Ecstasy

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hillary In the Tall Grass

Well, now, I see that many of the Dems are condemning the commutation by El Presidente W of Scooter's sentence. I cannot remember what these particular Beltway blowhards said when Slick Willie handed out a bunch of pardons while helping himself to some White House knickknacks in January of 2000; but I'm willing to bet a lot that the ineffable Hillary won't have much to say about the commutation of Libby. Not today and not tomorrow. I wonder if the other Dems will call her on it during their next debate/forum; they cannot lose by doing so. And during the general election, I cannot see her saying a word about it. And so it seems to me that all this puffery in the papers today about the problems created by the Libby commutation for the eventual Republican nominee is a lot of crap. But what do you expect from the New York Times?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Libby Freed, Bush Administration Cooked

Previous objections to a Libby pardon here, along with objections to the objections.

Libby's motion to remain free on bail pending appeal was rejected today by a 3-judge panel that included a Reagan, a Bush41, and a Clinton appointee. Since I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was therefore headed directly to jail (no passing Go, no $200), President Bush promptly commuted his sentence.

All that can be said at this point is that with a Libby pardon (technically a commutation) polling at 18%, all the administration has going for it is a bit of surprise, as the pundits didn't get in gear punditing on the prospect, and that July 4 falls on Wednesday this year, disrupting the 24/7 newscycle.

But I don't think we've heard the end of this by a long shot, and even if prosecutor Fitzgerald and the jury were wrong wrong wrong, it will be difficult to call this panel biased. I think today marks the end of the Bush Administration for all practical purposes. The lame duck just died, and the next 18 months will be spent on autopsies and cremations, if not barbecuing.

Looks yummy, and this is just too delicious for anyone to pass up what with the "rule of law," etc. at stake. With the 2008 primaries and general election coming up (and the question will be asked), the Democrats will dig in, although Mrs. Clinton has a few bones at the bottom of her own closet as a result of the closing days of her last co-presidency. And don't rule out the GOP turning into the Donner Party, either, although the undeclared candidate won't.