(And let’s not get into jokes about pickles being in Libby after he arrives at the big house!)
Last night the subject of pardoning Scooter Libby was brought up at the GOP debate. All the conservatives said they would. Sam Brownback went as far as to say that Clinton only had his law license revoked for perjury. How quickly we forget the entire impeachment thing. (Oh and one other thing Sen. Brownback. If perjury was the only charge, Libby may have received a lighter sentence. There were 3 other charges and they all involved obstructing justice into a criminal investigation regarding our national security. Maybe to Republicans blow jobs are far more important than national security, but the Democrats feel national security trumps marital indiscretion.)
So now we have all the wingnuts beating their pardon chests harder and louder. From the National Review to William Kristol, the calls for pardon are getting louder. As matter of fact, today’s Washington Post says that “pardon is a topic to sensitive to mention” in the West Wing:
The sentence imposed on former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby yesterday put President Bush in the position of making a decision he has tried to avoid for months: Trigger a fresh political storm by pardoning a convicted perjurer or let one of the early architects of his administration head to prison.
The prospect of a pardon has become so sensitive inside the West Wing that top aides have been kept out of the loop, and even Bush friends have been told not to bring it up with the president. In any debate, officials expect Vice President Cheney to favor a pardon, while other aides worry about the political consequences of stepping into a case that stems from the origins of the Iraq war and renewing questions about the truthfulness of the Bush administration.
The White House publicly sought to defer the matter again yesterday, saying that Bush is “not going to intervene” for now. But U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton indicated that he is not inclined to let Libby remain free pending appeals, which means the issue could confront Bush in a matter of weeks when, barring a judicial change of heart, Cheney’s former chief of staff will have to trade his business suit for prison garb. Republicans inside and outside the administration said that would be the moment when Bush has to decide.
That is pretty much already known, but a few more paragraphs down we get into something really interesting. The fact that Bush is already so hated that he might just do it anyway’s:
At the same time, some White House advisers said the president’s political troubles are already so deep that a pardon might not be so damaging. Those most upset by the CIA leak case that led to the Libby conviction already oppose Bush, they noted. “You can’t hang a man twice for the same crime,” a Republican close to the White House said.
So we now have a White House who constantly echoes the old meme that polls and public opinion don’t matter, to one that is going to use that same public opinion to free a person who is convicted of obstructing justice into a national security case. That is pretty intense.
The other thing that sticks out at me here is what the message of a pardon would send. I believe it will say to a lot of Americans that what Scooter Libby did wasn’t wrong, and that loyalty also trumps national security in this White House.
The fact is simple – pardoning Libby won’t help the GOP in 2008. If anything, it will hurt them more. The people who are calling for a pardon will vote Republican in 2008 no matter what – even if the candidate is Ron Paul. A lot of moderate Republicans and Republican leaning independents will look at this as further contempt for the law by the GOP and that will further push them to vote Democratic or not at all.
So go ahead Bush – please pardon Libby. That gives the Democrats a great new talking point; “My Republican opponent favored pardoning someone for obstructing justice into an investigation involving national security”. Oh and let’s also remember how much the Republicans were beating their chests last night about Iran. Now what was it Valerie Plame worked on? Oh yeah – Iran and nuclear weapons.