Monday, July 2, 2007

GW Bush and "Law and Order?"

It was just announced that Bush has commuted "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence for stonewalling it for Cheney and the administration during his recent trial. According to the initial reports Scooter will still have to pay his $250,000 fine (not a problem since he is rich) and be on probation(so he may not be able to engage in dirty tricks during the 2008 campaign).

There are a number of ways to look a this development. Scooter will not join the more than two million people in U.S. jails and prisons, thus providing a few less dollars (very few) for the prison industrial complex. After seven years of shelving its pledge to give the nation "compassionate conservatism", the administration has finally applied that old bromide to one of its own. Bush has certainly shown compassion for those who engage in criminal conduct that serves his administration.

But I am not what conservatives like to call a "bleeding heart liberal." I am outraged as everyone, conservatives particularly, should be by this act, which shows contempt for the judicial process generally and the federal judiciary particularly. All through the nineteenth century, conservatives repeated "this is a government of laws, not a government of men" as a sort of mantra against expanding government power and political corruption. I wonder if one will hear that now?

This is the sort of thing that the delegates who wrote and ratified the U.S. constitution had in mind when they considered criteria for impeachment. Executive officers who ignored or countermanded the actions of duly constituted legislative and judicial bodies, particularly when criminal acts directly related to the affairs of state were involved.

Now, Bush has the power to pardon people or commute their sentences. Bill Clinton, one should remember, was attacked by conservatives and others for commuting the sentences of people whos had already served time, for various criminal activities, mostly involving corruption and fraud.

But Bush today has commuted the sentence of one of his administration's operatives for clearly obstructing justice in a case in which the administration sought to intimidate an important critic of its war policy by compromising the security of his wife. For this administration, even the lives of CIA agents mean little, if they are wives of its perceived enemies, and loyalty of the kind that G. Gordon Liddy, John Mitchell, et al showed during the early stages of the Watergate conspiracy, is good enough to get your sentence commuted after you are convicted but before you go to jail (it did Liddy and Mitchell little good, even though G. Gordon went on to a lucrative career as a wild and whooly right-wing talk radio figure and bit actor after his release).

Nixon richly deserved to be impeached and escaped it only by resigning. This act should stir up the public to demand Bush's impeachment and Congress should move immediately to institute impeachment procedures.

The alternative is to watch passively as the administration crudely places loyally to itself above the law, which is of course a major foundation of tyranny and dictatorship everywhere.

Norman Markowitz

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