Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scooter gets out of jail free

I have one rule for US political commentary that I have, more or less, obeyed since January of 2001. It has served me well.

It's how I knew, well in advance of the war, that Iraq had no WMDs and Bush was lying about that.

It's how I knew that Bush had been warned about the levees failing in New Orleans.

It's how I knew that Bush would engage in an abuse of power to further his ongoing obstruction of justice in a Federal crime.

The rule is this: You will never, ever lose money betting on the worst possible interpretation of the Bush Administration.

Wingnut welfare -- that vast network of obliging think tanks who never fail to employ convicted Republican criminals -- will happily take care of Scooter Libby for the rest of his life. Republican agents have probably already raised enough money to pay his $250,000 fine. Scooter Libby -- the only White House employee the jury could convict beyond a reasonable doubt, almost certainly not the only to commit a crime -- will be well cared for.

In every comment thread in the known universe, you'll inevitably see some wingnut claim that "Clinton did the same thing" when he pardoned Marc Rich. Marc Rich was indicted -- not convicted, nor even tried in court, because he fled to Switzerland -- for illegally trading with Iran, a temptation he, like Dick Cheney, was unable to resist. So by Bush's own statement yesterday -- where he claims to "respect the jury process" -- these matters are totally different. Moreover, there was genuine doubt as to whether or not Marc Rich would have even been convicted of the crime he was accused of. (Fleeing the country would have, deservedly so, been a lock.)

Moreover, there's the obvious point that Marc Rich was not accused of conspiring to perpetrate a crime at the behest of the White House. So the accurate comparison is not Bill Clinton (sorry, Republicans) but Bush I's pardons of the Iran-Contra felons.

I think John Rogers has it best when he writes:
Our representatives -- and to a great degree we as a culture -- are completely buffaloed by shamelessness. You reveal a man's corrupt, or lying, or incompetent, and what does he do? He resigns. He attempts to escape attention, often to aid in his escape of legal pursuit. Public shame has up to now been the silver bullet of American political life. But people who are willing to just do the wrong thing and wait you out, to be publicly guilty ... dammmnnnn.

We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying "You don't have the balls to take down a government. You don't have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvabitches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don't. What's beyond that abyss -- what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation -- terrifies you too much. So get the fuck out of our way."

And to a great degree, the White House is right. You peel this back, and you reveal that the greatest country in the world has been run, for the last six and a half years, by men who do not give a shit about the Constitution, or fair play, or honesty. No, not just run by corrupt men, or bribe-takers, or adulterers or whatever, we could handle that --no we'd be admitting It Went Wrong.
And Digby is almost certainly correct when she writes that the only, single reason Libby wasn't pardoned already is to maintain is 5th amendment rights when he is inevitably called before Congress. Bush hasn't ended this -- he's continued, deepened his involvement in a criminal conspiracy.

When Ford died, I wrote that the biggest problem with pardoning Nixon was that it robbed America of the chance to write the proper ending to Nixon's story: that he rotted in jail for a few years, and emerged as a broken, ruined man -- just like any other criminal. More than that, it prevented the Republican party from ever learning the appropriate lesson about lawbreaking: so long as you can guarantee a Republican successor, or work for the man himself, you never need worry about jail time.

We're seeing the legacy of Ford at work today. More than that, though, we're seeing the modern GOP at work -- absolute contempt for the law, for justice, for even the appearance of equality before the law. Why, pray tell, should Scooter Libby spend zero days in jail, when Paris Hilton spent weeks? What if Scooter has been a black man holding crack cocaine on his person? Oh, wait, we know.

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