Reaction Negative to Bush’s Decision on Scooter Libby

Reaction to Bush’s decision to commute the sentence of Lewis Libby has been overwhelmingly negative. A Survey USA poll shows only 21% of Americans familiar with the case approve of the decision. The Wall Street Journal disapproves, but for a different reason, writing “by failing to issue a full pardon, Mr. Bush is evading responsibility for the role his Administration played in letting the Plame affair build into fiasco and, ultimately, this personal tragedy.” They may get their wish as Bush is reportedly still considering a full pardon. From a political stand point, I then wonder why he limited this to commuting the jail sentence yesterday. The negative reaction was as strong as a pardon would have been, and he will go through this a second time if he pardons Libby in the future.

As I did yesterday, Joe Wilson has called on Congress to investigate Bush’s role in the obstruction of justice. Among the initial reaction to the decision:

Melanie Sloan, legal counsel to Joe and Valerie Wilson
“First, President Bush said any person who leaked would no longer work in his administration. Nonetheless, Scooter Libby didn’t leave office until he was indicted and Karl Rove works in the White House even today. More recently, the vice president ignored an executive order protecting classified information, claiming he isn’t really part of the executive branch. Clearly, this is anadministration that believes leaking classified information for political ends is justified and that the law is what applies to other people.”

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and presidential candidate
“This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people’s faith in a government that puts the country’s progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada
“The President’s decision to commute Mr. Libby’s sentence is disgraceful. Libby’s conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq War. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone. Judge Walton correctly determined that Libby deserved to be imprisoned for lying about a matter ofnational security. The Constitution gives President Bush the power to commute sentences, but history will judge him harshly for using that power to benefit his own Vice President’s Chief of Staff who was convicted of such a serious violation of law.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California
“The President’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence does not serve justice, condones criminal conduct, and is a betrayal of trust of the American people. The President said he would hold accountable anyone involved in the Valerie Plame leak case. By his action today, the President shows his word is not to be believed. He has abandoned all sense of fairness when it comes to justice, he has failed to uphold the rule of law, and he has failed to hold his Administration accountable.”

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, presidential candidate
“Last week Vice President Cheney asserted that he was beyond the reach of the law. Today, President Bush demonstrated the lengths he would go to, ensuring that even aides to Dick Cheney are beyond the judgment of the law. It is time for the American people to be heard — I call for all Americans to flood the White House with phone calls tomorrow expressing their outrage over this blatant disregard for the rule of law.”

Former Sen. John Edwards, presidential candidate
“Only a president clinically incapable of understanding that mistakes have consequences could take the action he did today. President Bush has just sent exactly the wrong signal to the country and the world. In George Bush’s America, it is apparently okay to misuse intelligence for political gain, mislead prosecutors and lie to the FBI. George Bush and his cronies think they are above the law and the rest of us live with the consequences. The cause of equal justice in America took a serious blow today.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, presidential candidate
“It’s a sad day when the President commutes the sentence of a public official who deliberately and blatantly betrayed the public trust and obstructed an important federal investigation,” said Governor Richardson. “This administration clearly believes its officials are above the law, from ignoring FISA laws when eavesdropping on US citizens, to the abuse of classified material, to ignoring the Geneva Conventions and international law with secret prisons and torturing prisoners.

There is a reason we have laws and why we expect our Presidents to obey them. Institutions have a collective wisdom greater than that of any one individual. The arrogance of this administration’s disdain for the law and its belief it operates with impunity are breathtaking.

Will the President also commute the sentences of others who obstructed justice and lied to grand juries, or only those who act to protect President Bush and Vice President Cheney?”

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, presidential candidate
“Today’s decision is yet another example that this Administration simply considers itself above the law. This case arose from the Administration’s politicization of national security intelligence and its efforts to punish those who spoke out against its policies. Four years into the Iraq war, Americans are still living with the consequences of this White House’s efforts to quell dissent. This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.”

Congress Must Investigate The High Crimes Which Bush and Cheney Are Covering Up

Scooter Libby was convicted for covering up crimes committed by his boss, and very likely by the President of the United States. No action was taken against the actual parties responsible for the policy of deceiving the public and retaliating against those who spoke out, most likely as a conservative Republican prosecutor played it too safe and was unwilling to proceed against a sitting Vice President.

George Bush has taken advantage of a holiday week to countermand the little bit of justice we have received in this case by commuting the jail sentence of Lewis Libby. Bush called the sentence “excessive” but it is hard to imagine such a sentence as being excessive. Scooter Libby participated in a conspiracy to lie the country into a war and retaliate against whose who attempted to bring the truth to the American people. Libby, and his boss, are traitors to their country, and his jail sentence was mild compared to the magnitude of the crimes he committed.

The real injustice here is not that Libby received too harsh a sentence but that those above him responsible for high crimes of this magnitude are getting off free. As the criminal justice system is unable to bring these traitors to justice, there is no longer any choice but for Congress to fulfill the role mandated by the Constitution of the United States.

Immediately upon return from the holiday break, Congress should make the top order of business a full investigation of the run up to the war with the purpose of initiating impeachment proceedings against both George Bush and Dick Cheney. It is extremely unlikely that the Senate will convict in this polarized political atmosphere, but history will be the ultimate judge. Once all the facts are laid out, if the Senate Republicans vote as a block against impeachment and conviction, my bet is that the American people will take action against many of these Republicans at the ballot.

Many Democratic leaders fear impeachment after having seen the reaction to the impeachment of Bill Clinton. There is a major difference here. The impeachment of Bill Clinton for such a minor offense was a travesty of justice. Considering the magnitude of the crimes committed by George Bush and Dick Cheney, the travesty of justice in this situation would be the failure to take action against them. I’m betting that the majority of Americans would understand this difference and support impeachment.