Neither Right Nor Legal: Bush Commutes Libby's Sentence
As expected, President Bush chose loyalty over the rule of law and commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby. While Vice President Cheney's former chief-of-staff still must face a two year probation and a $250,000 fine, the President sent a clear but cowardly message that breaking the law in the service of his agenda is the expectation in the Bush White House:
"I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."
Bush's statement today is, of course, a far cry from the sterling ethical standard he promised to uphold in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election. As you'll recall, candidate Bush presented himself as the ethical antidote to the misdeeds real and imagined of the Clinton administration. At the Republican National Convention in August 2000, Bush pompously declared:
"So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God."
"In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal but what is right. Not just what the lawyers allow, but what the public deserves."
But by 2003, President Bush made it abundantly clear that his "right, not legal" approach was merely a electoral device for his 2000 campaign. As the scandal over the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame began to unfold in the summer of 2003, Bush quickly backtracked from his promise to fire anyone involved in the leak. During his October 7, 2003 cabinet meeting, President Bus brushed aside the scandal:
"I mean this town is a -- is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers."
Now, of course, we do know the administration officials - Libby, Rove, Armitage - who revealed the identity of a CIA agent, endangering her and her network. One of them, Scooter Libby, committed perjury and obstructed justice and was convicted for it. But thanks to President Bush, he won't spend a day in jail. And thanks to deep-pocketed friends like Fred Thompson over at the Libby Legal Defense Fund, Libby won't have to cough up one thin dime for his crimes.
So much for what is legal and what is right. But then again, that's what passes for the rule of law in Bush administration.