President Bush’s recent commutation of “Scooter” Libby’s prison sentence was wrong, but by no means surprising. As I predicted in an article at the start of the trial, in spite of the headlines, accusations from the Left, and denials from the Right the case ultimately had no effect on the administration or the way it operates. Those who predicted that Bush would not intervene on Libby’s behalf because of the outcry it would cause don’t understand an important thing about George W. Bush: he doesn’t care what we think.
This is an Administration that has avoided responsibility for anything over the past seven years. No one lost their job over the intelligence failures prior to September 11th, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, and the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Hell, Alberto Gonzales still has his job. Certainly something as minor as “outing” a CIA agent isn’t keeping the President or his inner circle awake at night. They are too busy staying the course in Iraq to worry about little things like accountability to the people.
George W. Bush acted in a way completely consistent with what we have seen since January 2001. He takes care of his friends and ignores everyone and everything else, including the Constitution he swore to uphold. In commuting Libby’s prison sentence, he continued his protection of his number one advisor and hatchet man, Dick Cheney. There was obviously some fear, especially in the Vice President’s office, that after some time in a Federal prison Libby might decide that covering for his former boss just wasn’t worth it. In the culture of omerta so prized by this White House,Bush simply couldn’t take that risk.
We have seen the President’s disregard for the rule of law before, but in reverse, with regard to the men who have been held without charge, trial, or access to legal counsel in our prison at Guantanamo Bay. But in the President’s eyes it’s okay because they are enemy combatants, or so we’re told; we don’t know because they’ve never been charged. Even if they are, in fact, enemy combatants, most of them would likely welcome a trial, and even a conviction, if only so their lives wouldn’t be in limbo. We would be able to see justice done, and they probably wouldn’t even dream of asking Bush to commute their sentences.
As for Scooter Lobby, he played the part of the Administration’s fall guy to perfection, and I’m sure he’ll be richly rewarded for it. He paid the $250,000 fine imposed by the court with a check, so he may have already been richly rewarded for his silence. In the end, he’ll do a few years of probation, and then join Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, and Rumsfeld on lucrative lecture tours trying to influence the way history remembers them.