Cheney, Pardoned Abrams Furious Libby Wasn't
Even in its last throes, the Bush administration remained an irony producing machine when it came to the PlameGate conviction of Scooter Libby. As the Daily News reported, Vice President Dick Cheney furiously lobbied President Bush to pardon his former chief of staff even hours before Barack Obama's inauguration. But for sheer humor value, Cheney's outrage over Libby's fate was exceeded by Eliot Abrams. Abrams, after all, was himself pardoned by George H.W. Bush over his Iran-Contra role.
Of course, Abrams' guilty plea while serving Bush the Father was no barrier to power under Bush the Son. Abrams was a former Assistant Secretary of State who pled guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra scandal. He had been sentenced to two years' probation and 100 hours of community service before Bush 41 offered him a clean slate for Christmas in 1992.
Under George W. Bush, Abrams rose to the number two spot on the National Security Council, snagging the title of special assistant to the President. (In December 2006 earned Newsweek's title of "last neocon standing.") Ironically, it was Abrams, along with Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, that White House press secretary Scott McClellan famously claimed on October 7, 2003 "they were not involved" in the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Still, his own checkered past did not get in the way of Eliot Abrams pleading Libby's case. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Abrams revealed he was shocked - shocked! - to learn about no Bush pardon for Libby:
"I think it was a serious mistake on the president's part not to have pardoned him."
If Abrams' brief statement will go down as an ironic footnote on the Libby affair, Cheney's intense campaign to pressure Bush will only add to his ham-handed legend.
Just two days after Barack Obama moved into the White House, Dick Cheney made his displeasure known that President Bush did not add a pardon to his July 2007 gift of commutation for Libby:
"He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision."
But as the New York Daily News detailed, Cheney "launched a last-ditch campaign to persuade his boss to pardon Lewis (Scooter) Libby - and was furious when President George W. Bush wouldn't budge." Apparently, Cheney's failed jihad on Libby's behalf was enough to sour relations between the President and his number two:
Several sources confirmed Cheney refused to take no for an answer. "He went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush," a Cheney defender said. "He was still trying the day before Obama was sworn in."
After repeatedly telling Cheney his mind was made up, Bush became so exasperated with Cheney's persistence he told aides he didn't want to discuss the matter any further.
The unsuccessful full-court press left Cheney bitter. "He's furious with Bush," a Cheney source told The News. "He's really angry about it and decided he's going to say what he believes."
For his part, Karl Rove (who himself narrowly averted a PlameGate indictment) on Tuesday called revelations of Cheney's indignation "overblown."
But what can't be overblown is the irony and hypocrisy of the Republicans' "criminalization of politics" defense of Libby and the Bush White House in the Plame Affair. After all, we heard it all before - when President George H.W. Bush pardoned Eliot Abrams, Caspar Weinberger and four other Iran-Contra figures in 1992:
Mr. Bush said today that the Walsh prosecution reflected "a profoundly troubling development in the political and legal climate of our country: the criminalization of policy differences."
Ironic, isn't it?