2007 July 02 Monday
Bush Lets Libby Escape Jail Time

The capo di tutti capi makes his move. Scooter gets off.

WASHINGTON, July 2 — President Bush spared I. Lewis Libby Jr. from prison Monday, commuting his two-and-a-half year sentence while leaving intact his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in the C.I.A. leak case.

There's a pattern here. Bush no longer cares about public opinion. He didn't care with his attempt to push immigration amnesty through. He again does not care with the Libby pardon and in this case Congress could not stop him. So he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish.

Mr. Bush’s action, announced hours after a panel of judges ruled that Mr. Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, could not put off serving his sentence while he appealed his conviction, came as a surprise to all but a few members of the president’s inner circle.

The New York Times seems to think that conservatives are happy about Bush's action. I'm thinking more along the line that if you want to know who the neocons and Bush sycophants are then look at who is happy. Neocons and Bush sycophants please raise your hands.

Bill Clinton waited till his final days in office to pardon financier Marc Rich. Rich's lawyer, one Lewis "Scooter" Libby, defended that pardon. Now Libby has his own pardon.

I think that the sort of work that Libby did in private practice should have disqualified him to serve as an advisor to a US vice president. That he could defend Marc Rich given what has come out about Rich's activities strikes me as information that should disqualify Libby from any important job in US federal government. The question of whether he broke the law in his job should never come up because people like him should be kept out of the White House.

Dick Cheney should be blamed for bringing in an advisor with Libby's background and for the fact that Libby was eventually convicted of federal crimes. Cheney should have brought more ethical people into government.

The Libby pardon shows once again elite disdain for popular wishes. Back in March 2007 CNN found the vast majority of the American people opposed a pardon for Libby.

Just 18 percent said they would support a pardon for Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, while 69 percent said they opposed the idea. Meanwhile, a narrow majority said they believe Cheney was part of a cover-up in the case.

The American Presidency is too powerful. Bush's presidency demonstrates how excessive power has accrued to whoever sits in the Oval Office. We need to fix this problem.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 July 02 11:57 PM  Politics American Decay


Comments
Stephen said at July 3, 2007 1:41 AM:

In recent news clips George appears to be rather sullen looking. He always seemed to have such a fragile personality, and with his ego almost entirely suppressed (in hiding from his monumental failure), there's not much left except his innate malevolence. Seems to me that he has that trait of the spoilt brat who would break his toy rather than share it.

Prescriptions for change

Maybe the President should be selected by and from the House of Representatives, rather than by the people? That way looking good on TV becomes less important than being able to talk sensibly. The other advantage is that members of the House will be voting for someone they actually know, rather than a manufactured media image.

Mandatory voting - if all adults vote, then politicians are more likely to take notice of all of the electorate, thereby diminishing the lobbying power of vote-mobilising special interest groups. In that regard, responsible government starts to trump representative government.

Ned said at July 3, 2007 6:26 AM:

The disdain that the elite show for ordinary Americans and the rule of law is just breathtaking. It doesn't seem to matter whether a Democrat or Republican, a Bush or a Clinton, is in the White House - nothing much ever changes. The rules never seem to apply to the rulers and their cronies. Bill Clinton showed supreme contempt by his pardons of such worthies as sleazeball billionaire Marc Rich, FALN terrorists, Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory (for whom Hillary's brother, Tony Rodham, was allegedly paid a bribe), convicted Whitewater conspirator Susan McDougal, corrupt Democratic politicos Dan Rostenkowski and Mel Reynolds, his own druggie half-brother Roger and numerous other gangsters, drug dealers and tax evaders. Now the tradition continues with Bush II, who is in his final two years of office and clearly doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks about him.

Prescription for change? It'll be tough, but one improvement might be allowing the President a single six year term rather than two four year ones. It seems that Presidents spend all their first terms running for a second one, which usually is then much less successful that the first. The Confederate constitution contained this provision, as well as several others that seem quite desirable - prohibiting non-citizens from voting, requiring that any bill before Congress deal only with a single subject, and requiring two-thirds votes by Congress to approve any spending not proposed by the President.

Lawrence Auster said at July 3, 2007 6:39 AM:

I must disagree with Mr. Parker on this. I think the Plamegate investigation was a hideous outrage from the start. The facts are well known, the most important being that the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew when he was appointed three years ago (or was it six or nine years ago, it seems so long), that the leak came from Armitage in the State Department and that the leak was innocent. Yet Fitzgerald, like some kind of Soviet or Kafkaesque figure, did not tell the public this and did not stop the investigation. He had to get SOMEONE, and Libby was that someone. I don't understand how people could think that this years-long investigation into what the invesigator KNEW FROM THE START was a non-crime was proper.

Also, the question of whether Libby's record disqualified him to be chief of staff to the VP is entirely separate from the question of whether he should go to jail. Mr. Parker almost seems to be suggesting that because he thinks Libby was unqualified for his position, therefore Libby deserved to go to jail.

On another point, I agree with what Stephen says about President Bush's "innate malevolence."

h-man said at July 3, 2007 12:17 PM:

I disagree with Parker also. Let's hope it's border guards(Compean and Ramos) next.

Ned said at July 3, 2007 12:18 PM:

Mr Auster -

You make a good point. Many people (including Rush Limbaugh) believe that the Libby prosecution was deeply flawed; and Libby certainly did not deserve to be convicted because of his past activities, no matter how sleazy. But granting all this, Fitzgerald was still able to convince a judge and twelve jurors that Libby was guilty. And even if the trial was improper, Libby will still have the verdict reviewed by the Court of Appeals and possibly the Supreme Court. If they don't reverse, it's a little hard to say, "They done him wrong." What sticks in my craw is that the oh-so-well-connected Libby gets a commutation and won't serve a day in jail, while two border patrolmen who shot a Mexican drug dealer who entered the US illegally get to stay in the slammer for ten years (http://www.townhall.com/columnists/RickAmato/2007/01/30/free_ramos,_compean). And I love the reaction of the Democrats (Pelosi, Obama, even Hillary!) to the "outrageous" Libby commutation - just look at the long list of dirtbags that Slick Willie Clinton pardoned (http://www.usdoj.gov/pardon/clintonpardon_grants.htm). Where was their outrage then?

h-man said at July 3, 2007 12:20 PM:

Great minds think.....

Anon said at July 3, 2007 1:32 PM:

It gets better:

http://www.yahoo.com/s/618576

Hillary would know quite a bit about it, I'm sure.

Matt@occidentalism said at July 3, 2007 6:42 PM:

Mr Auster, are you saying that Libby is innocent? That he did not commit perjury or obstruct justice? Obviously he is protecting his masters, and now his masters are protecting him.

Anon said at July 3, 2007 7:34 PM:

Auster is a jew, of course he thinks Libby is innocent. Bush, on the other hand, is just doing what his masters tell him to.

Stephen said at July 3, 2007 8:36 PM:

Ned said: ...requiring that any bill before Congress deal only with a single subject

Entirely agree with that prescription - legislation should be debated on its merits, not bought & sold via a bunch of unrelated earmarks.

Randall Parker said at July 4, 2007 9:11 AM:

Anon,

Bush is obeying his masters? And who exactly would they be?

If Bush had masters with brains enough to control a sitting US President I would expect we'd have much more competent government than we have now. The tragedy is that Bush is in control. The simpler conspiracy theories are obviously false because if the simple conspiracies (e.g. Jewish bankers or oil company executives) were really in charge then the US government would not do some of the things it does and would do other things instead.

Conspiracy theorizing as a substitute for understanding how the world really works is intellectually lazy and does not help you. Resist the temptation.

As for Larry's supposedly taking his position due to his being Jewish: Quite a few Jews (and probably most Jews who are Democrats) would be happy to see Libby rot in jail. Also, people who want to see Libby get off have a number of motivations.

Look, sometimes some people take political positions based on their ethnicity. The very existence of AIPAC, La Raza, and other groups with goals motivated by ethnic identity demonstrates this. Plus, you can just ask people who are black or Hispanic why they support racial preferences. The answer is simple: they expect their group to benefit. But it is intellectually lazy to expect that ethnic identity motivates all political positions of any one person.

I think people who are defending Libby are making a mistake. I think a mob lawyer who has a history of defending bad people never should have been allowed near the levers of power. I think Libby lied to protect more powerful people and he broke the law under the circumstances.

I also think that Dennis Wilson's status as a Democrat did not make him the least bit incorrect when he tossed cold water on the Niger yellow cake story. The document that Michael Ledeen's friends in Italian intelligence cooked up to promote the uranium sale story was obviously bogus. Bush and company engaged in deception of the American public by trying to use such shoddy evidence to promote the war that Bush desired for his own reasons.

Also, while some neocons wanted the war against Saddam in order to promote Israel's security (this backfired) that was not Bush's main motivation and he was not their tool. Bush wanted to overthrow Saddam back in the 1990s. Also, not all the Jewish neocons were primarily motivated by Israel. Paul Wolfowitz thinks more like Bush with regards to the cure-all effects of democracy and Wolfowitz demonstrated this in the Philippines and Indonesia during the Reagan Administration. Bush also wanted to out-do Pappy Bush and thought he'd become more popular by winning an easy war (ooops).

Randall Parker said at July 4, 2007 9:23 AM:

Lawrence,

I'm suggesting that there's a far far stronger argument to be made for use of the power to commute sentences and to pardon when the convicted person has led an exemplary moral life and just fell down once. Libby fails this test. Why do parts of the conservative commentariat waste their time defending this guy? There are so many far more morally worthy people to defend against the uses of the power of the state.

If Libby hadn't lied to the FBI he wouldn't have been convicted. He's a lawyer. He knew he was breaking the law. But he figured he could get away with it.

John Derbyshire said at July 4, 2007 10:04 AM:

Can someone please explain to me why the VPOTUS, who has essentially nothing to do, needs a staff, let alone a chief of staff? An imperial presidency is bad enough, but an imperial Vice Presidency?

JD

Lawrence Auster said at July 4, 2007 10:48 AM:

In his response to "Anon," Mr. Parker makes excellent arguments. However, he makes the mistake of addressing Anon as though he were a rational person acting in good faith who just happened to be wrong in this instance and can be persuaded otherwise, rather than what he is, a serious anti-Semite. Mr. Parker thus implicitly invites further "rational" discussion with the anti-Semites at this forum.

Anon's own form of serious anti-Semitism, which is extremely common today in the right-wing Web, is that he dehumanizes and "de-individualizes" Jews by seeing any statement by any Jew (or by any person of Jewish ancestry) as having no rational content but only as an expression of pure tribalism (e.g., "Auster is a jew, of course he thinks Libby is innocent"). This is closely related to the anti-Semitic idea that the behavior of Jews is determined by a genetically programmed war against gentile whites aimed at subduing and destroying them. This is the view of Kevin MacDonald and David Duke, and they have thousands of clone-like followers.

The irony is that in reducing Jews (or "jews," as they charmingly call them) to tribal automatons incapable of objective thought, the anti-Semites reveal that their own state of consciousness is that of tribal automatons incapable of objective thought, which they then project onto the Jews.

Randall Parker said at July 4, 2007 11:00 AM:

Lawrence,

For every person who voices an opinion I figure there are 100 or more who think similar thoughts to themselves. I write what I write for that silent audience. I figure we should dissect the conspiracy theories and explain why they are wrong and what patterns of erroneous thinking cause people to embrace conspiracies.

I'm on the receiving end of liberal attempts to silence discussion of taboo topics and they use haughty "that's beyond the pale" sorts of condescension and of just plain character attacks and other attempts at marginalization to close off discussions they do not want to have. They do this on racial differences, sexual differences, religious differences, and other topics. They refuse to engage in rational debates. This has made me much more appreciative of the need for rational debates about everything. I'll argue with Jihadists and neo-Nazis and black nationalists and Aztlan nationalists. I'll argue with socialists. With all these people I'll bring real facts and educate the audience.

Lawrence Auster said at July 4, 2007 11:14 AM:

Mr. Parker asks: "Why do parts of the conservative commentariat waste their time defending this guy?"

Excuse me, but what country has Randall been living in for the last three and half years? Is he not aware of the insane witch hunt triggered by Joseph Wilson's ridiculous, transparently false charge that the administration was trying to get back at him by leaking the CIA employment of his wife?

This is where I part from many conservative critics of the administration. Their opposition to the administration seems to lead them to dismiss any injustice that is done to any member of the administration.

To repeat what I said at the start, the entire investigation was a hideous outrage from the start. There was no underlying crime. It was a witch-hunt aimed at getting someone, anyone, in the White House. Prosecutors have enormous discretion in choosing which potential crimes to make the subject of criminal indictment. People make false statements to police and investigators all the time in the course of investigations and are not prosecuted for them. Libby should not have been indicted for any false statements in he made in the course of this absurd and improper investigation. The investigation was itself founded on huge lies. The prosecutor knew they were lies but allowed the public to continue believing that they were the truth. To this day he has not stated that Plame's status was classified; if it were, wouldn't he have said so? It is a routine thing in this country that when a prosecution is highly improper, any indictment coming out of that prosecution is dropped. I would not just have removed Libby's jail punishment, as President Bush did, I would have given him a full pardon.

The fact that Bush has let the two Border Control agents go to jail for long terms is sickening, and he should continue to be attacked for it. But that is a separate issue from the Libby issue.

Lawrence Auster said at July 4, 2007 11:30 AM:

Randall,

I respectfully disagree with your position that we should be equally open to discussion with every type of person and every type of belief. Websites that are open to anti-Semites end up merely giving license to anti-Semites, and thus become anti-Semitic websites. MajorityRights.com is a prime example.

I make distinctions between people with whom useful, rational, and civilized discussion is possible, and those with whom it is not. For example, I will post comments by anti-Semites, but only to let them reveal what they are, not to give them a forum.

Because there is such a thing as political correctness, that does not mean that in resisting political correctness we should embrace pure libertarianism and say that all statements should be allowed. Making rational distinctions between what is properly allowed and what is not properly allowed is the mark of civilization.

Randall Parker said at July 4, 2007 11:36 AM:

Larry,

In many legal cases the question of someone's innocence can hang on whether that person is of good character. A person of good character is more likely to be telling the truth. I see Libby's willingness to represent Marc Rich as a sign that he's not a person of good character. So when weighing his claims about his innocence I'm going to assign less weight to those claims than I would if someone else made the same claims.

Libby's claim of innocence rests on his claim that he'd forgotten that Dick Cheney told him about Plame's job at the CIA. That's an incredibly convenient case of forgetting since the forgetting (if believed) protected both him and Cheney.

After Bill Clinton's pardoning of Libby client Marc Rich this quote of Hillary Clinton is, well, rich:

"I believe that presidential pardon authority is available to any president, and almost all presidents have exercised it," Clinton said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "This (the Libby decision) was clearly an effort to protect the White House. ... There isn't any doubt now, what we know is that Libby was carrying out the implicit or explicit wishes of the vice president, or maybe the president as well, in the further effort to stifle dissent."
Lawrence Auster said at July 4, 2007 12:11 PM:

Randall, you write:

" I see Libby's willingness to represent Marc Rich as a sign that he's not a person of good character. So when weighing his claims about his innocence I'm going to assign less weight to those claims than I would if someone else made the same claims."

I am flabbergasted by this argument. Lawyers represent every type of client, including, obviously, criminals. Your argument comes down to saying that if a lawyer represents a criminal, he himself is a person of bad character and therefore he loses the presumption of innocence if he himself is ever criminally charged.

Randall Parker said at July 4, 2007 12:43 PM:

Larry,

First off, not all lawyers will represent people who they know to be guilty. Some prefer becoming prosecutors or judges or patent attorneys or trust attorneys or assorted other legal occupations that are more respectable. Second, even among those who represent the guilty many draw the line on just who they will represent. So the mob ends up having specialist lawyers representing them and those lawyers are seen as tainted by the public at large. We really do judge people by the work they do. I see nothing wrong with judging Libby's character by his past activities.

I do not say Libby loses the presumption of innocence. I say that when he makes false claims (and Libby really did make false claims under oath) the question of whether he made those claims intentionally (and that was the crux of the matter in his case) depends on judgments of his character and also on what other evidence was available.

Fitzgerald argued that Libby had many conversations with Dick Cheney about Valerie Plame before Libby spoke with Tim Russert and that therefore it was not reasonable for Libby to have forgotten. I do not know what evidence was presented at trial to support Fitzgerald's argument. But I did read that many jurors said they liked Libby enough that they did not want to find him guilty of something. So the fact that they voted for guilt given their affection for him suggests (at least to me) that the evidence Fitzgerald presented was very persuasive.

I figure if you are testifying to a grand jury you damn well better tell the truth. These 12 jurors do not think Libby told the truth and that he knowingly perjured himself.

Lawrence Auster said at July 4, 2007 12:54 PM:

Can you tell me what Libby was achieving or thought he was achieving by his lies before the grand jury? What was his motive for the perjury?

Lawrence Auster said at July 4, 2007 1:38 PM:

Does Randall have specific information that Lewis Libby is sleazy, beyond the bare fact that he represented Marc Rich? The crimes with which Rich was charged were tax evasion and trading with Iran during the hostage crisis. Both his lawyer, Libby, and tax specialists say that there was nothing criminal in his company's tax practices. Libby did criticize Rich for the trading with Iran. (See wikipedia link below.)

Rich's behavior doesn't make him a monster or a mobster—which Randall tries to suggest he is: "So the mob ends up having specialist lawyers representing them ... we really do judge people by the work they do." Why bring in the mob since Rich is not a mobster but a businessman who broke the law? Why does Randall keep overshooting the mark?

Similarly, nothing here shows Libby to be a "sleaze" or anything more than a lawyer representing a client. Yet Randall repeatedly describes him as a sleaze, and makes this characterization central to his own case against Libby.

I must say that Randall's persistent, and, in my view, inappropriate, focus on Libby's supposed bad character ("I see nothing wrong with judging Libby's character by his past activities") rather than just on the facts of the case gives me the feeling that Randall's opinion on the Libby clemency is in part driven by an animus against Libby as a person, based on Libby's association with Marc Rich, and possibly based on Libby's role in the Bush administration.

See wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Rich

Randall Parker said at July 4, 2007 3:31 PM:

Lawrence,

Marc Rich didn't just do illegal trading with Iran or tax evasion:

Last week the New York Post's Rod Dreher reported that Rich made tens of millions of dollars helping Russia’s communist bosses loot their country, leaving it bankrupt.

Rich’s role in ruining Russia’s economy was detailed in the book "Godfather of the Kremlin," by Paul Klebnikov, who Dreher describes as an expert on Russia and a Forbes magazine senior editor.

The book reveals how Rich and Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and associates stole untold sums from the Russian people through corrupt international financial manipulations.

In 1983, the year he fled the United States to avoid prosecution, Rich took advantage of the grain embargo the United States imposed on the USSR because of its war in Afghanistan.

Rich ignored the embargo and imported grain into the Soviet Union, winning friends in the Soviet hierarchy with whom he would ally himself when the Communist government collapsed.

More on Rich's illegal activities:

Rich was also charged with a complex oil scam that exploited America’s energy crisis in the early ’80s. The 65-count indictment claimed he had secretly bought up millions of barrels of Texas crude oil then under strict price controls and relabeled the oil as decontrolled supplies, ultimately selling it on the open market for huge profits — reportedly $100 million.

And while 52 Americans were held hostage in Iran, Rich’s company allegedly made another fortune by trading with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime in violation of a strict American trade embargo.

Rich and his partner were then charged with failing to pay U.S. taxes on the profits.

The formal charges sounded like the case against gangster Al Capone: wire fraud, mail fraud, racketeering, trading with the enemies of the United States, and, of course, tax evasion.

Jack Quinn and Denise Rich were better at getting Marc Rich his pardon:

Various lawyers had tried to get White to accept a plea-bargain from Rich for years. One of these lawyers, according to the New Yorker, was Lewis Libby, now chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. (Cheney's office did not return calls on the matter.)

But when Jack Quinn, Clinton's former White House counsel, took Rich as a client, things changed. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Anti-Defamation League and, of course, mega-fundraiser Denise Rich all submitted letters directly to Clinton, through Quinn, requesting a pardon.

Matt@occidentalism said at July 4, 2007 8:43 PM:

Mr Auster, please read your comment and see how it looks.

"Libby should not have been indicted for any false statements in he made in the course of this absurd and improper investigation."

Think about it carefully. Think about how this kind of statement reflects on your character, and how people will perceive the reliability of your statements.

Lawrence Auster said at July 5, 2007 7:23 AM:

Oh my, now my character is being attacked because of the opinion I have expressed. So Matt is doing what Randall has been doing: making the focus of the issue people's putatively bad character, instead of the facts and the right and wrong of the case.

And this, as I have been arguing for years, is part of the decline of our culture which is reflected in particular in the paleocon right. For example, in the run-up to the Iraq war, at Chronicles and elsewhere, there would be articles that argued against the invasion of Iraq, not because it was a bad idea or because the cons of it outweighed the pros, but because the neoconservatives are BAD PEOPLE. This way of thinking has so infused the paleo right that paleocons have lost the ability to argue objectively about issues. And Matt's despicable statement is part and parcel of that.

I stand by what I said. The whole investigation was an outrage from the start, and should not have taken place. Unless Matt wants to live in a society where special prosecutors with unlimited budgets are free to spend years questioning people under oath about non-existent crimes in order to catch them in a false statement that can send them to jail, he ought to wonder about this himself.

Also, I notice that paleocons, who are supposedly very suspicious of the power of the central state, have no problem with an unaccountable federal special prosecutor being able to spend years and many millions of dollars pursuing a non-existent crime. They have no problem with it, so long as the target of it is someone identifiable as a neocon.

First "Alon" made an anti-Semitic statement about me, and Randall Parker's response was politely and respectfully to disagree with him, not to tell him that his anti-Semitism was unacceptable at this website. And now I'm told I have a bad character because of my opinions. If this is the level of discussion to be expected at this site, it ceases to be worthwhile for me to post here.

gcochran said at July 5, 2007 7:54 AM:

Progress _is_ possible.

Matt@occidentalism said at July 5, 2007 4:58 PM:

Mr Auster, I do not want to make this an issue of character. I link your site from my site, and would not do so if I wanted to make you look bad or wished you ill. I do not think my comment was "despicable". To me it seemed as if you were saying it is OK to make false statements (lie) if you don't like a particular investigation. I pointed it out not to score points, but to get you to consider and perhaps retract or rephrase the comment - for your benefit.

I wonder if we are even on the same planet on this issue. The prosecutor was a Bush political appointee, and so was the judge. A political prosecution needs the involvement of political enemies, enemies that are just not there in this case. The fact is that the case would have made progress had Libby not lied and obstructed the investigation.

Randall Parker said at July 5, 2007 7:09 PM:

Lawrence,

1) Lying to a grand jury is against the law. It is a real crime, not a non-existent crime.

2) Conservatives place a high value on adherence to the law.

3) When Bill Clinton lied under oath that too was against the law.

4) Whether any particular grand jury is an abuse of the legal system the fact remains that, yes, lying under oath is against the law.

5) Libby had a Republican prosecutor named Patrick Fitzgerald appointed by the Bush Justice Department and a Republican judge appointed by George W. Bush.

6) Libby had a first class defense that the vast bulk of us could not afford. He also had a huge crowd of powerful defenders in the press and in the halls of power. Many of his defenders were even liberals.

7) Libby had a jury whose members said they liked him enough that they didn't really want to convict him. His jury was not stacked against him.

8) One can debate whether Libby should have been placed under oath in an investigation of who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity to the press. But once Libby was placed under oath Libby had a legal requirement to tell the truth.

You seem to disagree with point 8. (I fixed this originally having erroneously typed 7)

I'm refraining from responding to everything you and everyone else says here about every point because I see much of this as a distraction from the most important argument here: Did Libby have a legal and moral obligation to tell the truth under oath?

Lawrence Auster said at July 5, 2007 8:46 PM:

Of course a person is obligated to speak the truth when under oath before a grand jury. But we have a well-established tradition and legal precedent in this country, that when the prosecution itself has been improper, the charges are dropped; all the more so when the prosecution has been improper to a Kafkaesque degree, as it has been here. Second, Libby's false statements, having to do with whether it was Tim Russert or other persons who told Libby about Plame, are of such an obscure nature that no one has been able to give an intelligible accounting of them or what motive he would have had to make them. Could it have been to cover up the fact that it was Vice President Cheney who told Libby about Plame? But if Fitzgerald was persuaded that Libby was covering up for Cheney, why hasn't he gone after Cheney? Because, third, there was no underlying offense. To this moment, Fitzgerald has never said that the supposed violation that launched his investigation, the revealing of a classified agent's identify, ever happened. The case, as I said, is Kafkaesque. You have acknowledged none of this. Your focus is solely on getting Libby put in jail.

Also, instead of looking at Fitzgerald's actual conduct, you rely on the nugget that Fitzgerald was appointed by the Republican administration and therefore he must be fair to Republicans. Don't you remember the obsessed, Ahab-like Walsh (I forget his first name), the special council in Iran-Contra, also a "Republican"? The notion that any nominal Republican is inherently fair to Republicans is standard left-wing propaganda, and you've fallen for it.

Also, since when do you have such faith in the probity of Republicans and in their resistance to left-wing agendas? Do you have such faith in Bush, Cheney, and Libby?

On the other matter of concern to me, the conduct of posters at this discussion board, one commenter, "Anon," made an anti-Semitic comment about me, and you replied to him politely, based, as you explained it, on the assumption that he is a reasonable person who could be persuaded that his statement, "Auster is a jew, of course he thinks Libby is innocent," was incorrect. It didn't occur to you that someone who has the thoughts Anon has and who writes "jew" in lower case is not someone who can be reached by reason. Nevertheless, you said that you needed to address him reasonably, because, as you put it,

"For every person who voices an opinion I figure there are 100 or more who think similar thoughts to themselves. I write what I write for that silent audience. I figure we should dissect the conspiracy theories and explain why they are wrong and what patterns of erroneous thinking cause people to embrace conspiracies."

In other words, you think you have a hundred readers who think the same as Anon, and you think your gentle reasonings can persuade not only Anon, but the hundred who are as anti-Semitic as he, while you continue to allow them to post at your site and to make anti-Semitic statements to your other commenters. In short, you behave toward anti-Semites and their conspiracy theories the way liberals behave toward ranting blacks and their anti-white conspiracy theories. You treat them respectfully, as though they were rational people. They are a part of your readership, and you don't want to drive them away.

And by the way, I'm not saying one should not dissect anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; I'm saying that one must dissect the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories while also excluding the anti-Semites.

In addition to Anon, there was the poster who said my opinion about the Libby case reflected on my "character" and showed I am not a "reliable" person.

Then there is Gregory Cochran, whose nasty comment, equating my statement that I would not post here any more, with "progress," is above.

You yourself are a gentleman, Randall. You use facts and arguments, and (with the exception of your current unsupported statements that Libby is a "sleaze" and therefore deserves to have the book thrown at him), you never go for cheap shots. I have often praised you and expressed my gratitude for your work in critiquing the Bush Iraq policy without the hatred against Bush, neocons, and Israel that deforms the thinking of all too many paleocons. But unfortunately, your comments board attracts people who only know how to argue by personal insult, and it's evident that you have no will or desire to do anything about that.

So, while I will continue to read your articles, I will not participate in discussions at this site any more. Anon, Matt, and Gregory Cochran, and the hundreds of silent readers who think like them, will be happy.

Also, I just found out this evening at Wikipedia that Libby's full name is I. Lewis Libby, with the "I" standing for Irving, which also happens to be the name of my late father. So Anon and the hundred readers who think like him ("Auster is a jew, of course he thinks Libby is innocent"), and whom you treat with such respect for their rational thought processes, have really hit pay dirt now.

Randall Parker said at July 5, 2007 9:35 PM:

Larry,

You over-interpret what I say. Just because 100 people think like some person does not mean that they all happen to read my blog. My blog is much too small for that. As for the 100 estimate: It might be 10 or 100,000 or 1 million. The point is that, yes, lots of people have thoughts who do not speak them. Yes, I do try to persuade those people. I think I have a fair amount of success in changing people's minds. I write to change people's minds. I do not write to simply have a bunch of readers who agree with me.

No, I do not want to drive away people who disagree with me. If I do that they will end up only reading people who agree with them. I wish I could get a huge readership where 90% of them disagree with me. That'd be much preferable to what I have now. The people who agree already agree. There's some value in talking to those who agree since I can probably spur some to write to Congress critters or otherwise get politically active. But I'd much rather speak to those who hold no opinion or a contrary opinion on a subject where I have strong views.

You make a factual error here:

You yourself are a gentleman, Randall. You use facts and arguments, and (with the exception of your current unsupported statements that Libby is a "sleaze" and therefore deserves to have the book thrown at him)

Ned referred to Libby as a sleaze. I never used the word.

Stephen said at July 6, 2007 3:19 AM:

Lawrence Auster wrongly said: [Fitzgerald knew]...that the leak came from Armitage in the State Department and that the leak was innocent

This appears to be a deliberate half-truth. Fitzgerald was hired to track down the leak. He found two leakers - Armitage and Libby. Armitage demonstrated that he got his information from a wrongly non-classified portion of a report. That put him in the clear as there's nothing illegal about him using that information.

Then there's Libby. Libby claimed to the FBI and later under oath to the Grand Jury that he only knew that Plame worked for the CIA because journalists told him so. Fitzgerald asked the journalists if that was right, and to an person each said it was the other way around - Libby had told them. Having ruled out that defence, Fitzgerald looked at whether Libby was lying (bad) or had in simply misremembered (good). This is what Fitzgerald found (taken from the indictment):

LIBBY was well aware that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA; in fact, LIBBY had participated in multiple prior conversations concerning this topic, including on the following occasions:
    In or about early June 2003, LIBBY learned from the Vice President that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA in the Counterproliferation Division;
    On or about June 11, 2003, LIBBY was informed by a senior CIA officer that Wilson’s wife was employed by the CIA and that the idea of sending him to Niger originated with her;
    On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was informed by the Under Secretary of State that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA;
    On or about June 14, 2003, LIBBY discussed “Joe Wilson” and “Valerie Wilson” with his CIA briefer, in the context of Wilson’s trip to Niger;
    On or about June 23, 2003, LIBBY informed reporter Judith Miller that Wilson’s wife might work at a bureau of the CIA;
    On or about July 7, 2003, LIBBY advised the White House Press Secretary that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA;
    In or about June or July 2003, and in no case later than on or about July 8, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Assistant to the Vice President for Public Affairs that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA;
    On or about July 8, 2003, LIBBY advised reporter Judith Miller of his belief that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA; and
    On or about July 8, 2003, LIBBY had a discussion with the Counsel to the Office of the Vice President concerning the paperwork that would exist if a person who was sent on an overseas trip by the CIA had a spouse who worked at the CIA;

On the face of that evidence, you'd have to have a screw loose to think that Libby was telling the truth to the FBI and the Grand Jury. Indeed, a jury of Libby's peers had no trouble reaching that same conclusion - pity they were wasting their time.

Stephen said at July 6, 2007 3:29 AM:

Oh, the other really interesting aspect is that Libby didn't give evidence at his trial. Surely in any trial where your own recollections are being questioned, you'd want to testify in the hope of convincing the jury that you are on the level - after all, it only takes one jury member to get a bit of doubt and Libby is home free. But no, not Mr Libby, he sat on his hands the entire hearing.

Its kind of like he knew he didn't have to bother...

Anon said at July 6, 2007 8:53 AM:

That Mr. Libby didn't testify on his behalf does not necessarily mean much beyond the fact that he did not testify. The defendant may or may not choose to testify; such a decision is up to him and and his counsel.

The problem with Mr. Libby's testifying is that, absent some arcane procedural trick, once he testifies in his defense Mr. Fitzgerald and his staff would be entitled to cross-examine him. A good cross-examination can be devastating to the defense. It would seem that Mr. Libby's people decided that his testimony could do more harm than good, and acted accordingly. If you've spent all your time establishing Mr. Libby as a great guy, why give him the chance to damage that perception by a slip of the tongue or misstatement, or give Mr. Fitzgerald something to work with in cross-examination or closing argument?

gcochran said at July 6, 2007 9:18 AM:

There were a lot of Administration talking points released on the Plame affair - that she wasn't undercover for example: and as far as I can tell none of them were true.
It took me some time to even understand the damn point of the planned Administration leaks was, becaue it was so pointless and stupid. The argument was that you shouldn't take what Wilson said seriously because his _wife_ got him that 'job'. I saw his trip to Niger referred to as a 'junket' and a 'boondoogle'. In fact, with the repeated references to 'sipping tea', you could pretty well reconstruct the talking-point memo that was circulated to Administration friends and loyalists, otherwise known as the usual gang of idiots and liars.

The implication was that an unpaid trip to Niger was some kind of _plum_. Niger, the Riviera of the Sahara!

Anyhow it was easy to see that diverting uranium from the mines in Niger was essentially impossible, since France ran and operated the mines. Several other investigators came to the same conclusion. The letters suggesting it were forgeries: if we find out who ordered those forgeries, life could become extremely interesting. And of course there was never any point to it in the first place: Iraq already had plenty of uranium, 500 tons of uranium oxide under unenforced IAEA seal. If they had tried a nuclear breakout (which was in fact impossible due to limited resources and talent, as I pointed out in the fall of 2002), they wouldn't have risked exposure by shopping internationally for uranium that they didn't need.
Like all the rest of the evidence of Iraqi WMD, the story was crap: like most such stories, any competent person could easily have seen that it was crap well before the war.
Of course we now know that almost no one in Congress or the talking classes is thus competent; moreover, they won't even deign to talk to anyone who is.
I asked a number of Republican defense-industry friends what they thought about Bush's Iraqi-peril spiel: most thought it a lie before the war. Thinking of a good friend who is genuinely smart (Cal Tech Ph.D. in math at 24, reads Thucydides to relax): he thought Powell's speech to the UN was just embarrassing. Artists' conceptions of weapons instead of satellite pictures?
Shit, he's _designed recon satellites.. I wonder if they're still using three-mirror anastigmats.
Didn't bother the pundits, because they have no, repeat _no_ slightest idea what they're talking about. I'm not just talking lack of specific information on nuclear weapons development - no, they're Renaissance idiots. Don't know much about history - couldn't even seem to remember how Hezbollah formed in response to and chased out Israeli occupiers. Never even heard of nationalism.
Which is a consequence of market forces: pundits are cheerleaders rather than analysts. Usually cheerleaders with an agenda, itself stupid.

Now I doubt if revealing her identity had any negative effect on national security, since my guess is that having half the CIA disappear with a popping sound would make no difference. They're not very good: they can't afford to hire anyone good. Back in the day, I interviewed and got an offer: I know. Of course they're better than the Bush people, but that's the lowest of all possible standards.

Stop PC war said at July 6, 2007 12:37 PM:

"couldn't even seem to remember how Hezbollah formed in response to and chased out Israeli occupiers."

And that is relevant to Plane-Wilson-Libby love triangle how?

pete said at July 6, 2007 1:38 PM:

In a nutshell, Auster argues that, if the evidence does not support a prosecution for the underlying crime which a prosecutor is investigating, then witnesses may repeatedly perjure themselves and obstruct justice without criminal liability. Auster's argument is defective for two reasons: (1) The fact that the crime under investigation can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt does not give witnesses license to commit perjury and otherwise falsify and conceal evidence. (2) If the prosecutor's decision not prosecute the underlying offense were a defense to perjury and obstruction of justice committed during the investigation, witnesses would commit perjury more often and the law enforcement operations would be greatly undermined. Auster's a great writer and thinker but he has failed to think through the corollaries of his defense of Libby's criminal conduct.

purenoiz said at July 7, 2007 10:53 AM:

"Two other companies, large oil concerns with names you know, were charged with doing the same thing as Marc Rich's company did. Their offenses were treated as technical tax code violations, and therefore civil matters, not crimes at all; they paid the back taxes and some fines, and that was it.

In the case of Marc Rich, however, a politically ambitious NY/southern district US Attorney decided he would invent a novel application of the RICO laws in a civil matter as had never been done before, and which results devolved into such a travesty of justice that now DOJ guidelines for prosecutors forbid them from pursuing civil RICO charges against anybody. (That US Attorney? One Rudy Giuliani, and this provides an excellent window into his bullying character and why he should never be allowed near the Oval Office).

Rich did not 'flee' the country as a fugitive from indictment-- he maintained a residence and business HQ in Switzerland at all times, and left the country to return there as per his normal travel patterns before any indictments were returned. (Note, this was a civil matter involving no criminal indictments at all for the other two companies). Rich wasn't additionally charged with being a fugitive, because the terms of that charge didn't apply to his situation because it was as described above, despite how these terms are loosely thrown around to describe what he did.

The Marc Rich case went through all the normal procedural hurdles for presidential pardons, including review by the special DOJ pardon section, seeking the comments pro or con of the original prosecutor, and etc. The complete 'regular order' of things was honored, including, most importantly perhaps, that the aggrieved party actually submit a pardon request, but all the rest of it as well. Additionally, Marc Rich's company PAID IN FULL ALL THE TAXES OWED, AND THE FINES, amounting to several hundred million dollars.

(To be sure, normally, such a petitioner could not remain 'at large,' sought by authorities, and must instead have surrendered himself to the authorities. And normally, the president would require a positive recommendation from the DOJ pardon officer and whatever other panels he consulted, and in Rich's case, those parties recommended no pardon. But the situation was unique, unprecedented, and the DOJ and the prosecutor were loathe to admit they'd badly abused their authority in the first place to get these indictments, although that was exactly what they had done.)

But the Libby case featured no such formalities whatsoever. Libby didn't apply for any presidential relief. He hadn't begun serving his time, nor cease pursuing his appeals. He didn't repent or express remorse. He didn't pledge on-going cooperation with the prosecutor, still less deliver on such a proffer. And Bush didn't go through ANY DOJ process, ask ANY official opinion of anyone-- he simply trashed the system for this, and rashly substituted his opinion for any due process as it exists in DOJ guidelines.

In assuring that Libby served less time than the original time Paris Hilton did before she was prematurely released, Bush appears to be saying that ANY JAIL TIME more than ZERO was excessive, and his slap-dash lightening quick 'review' of this matter has more the appearance of a heavy-handed obstruction of justice, accessory after the fact kind of thing, rather than a righting of any injustice."

Bob Badour said at July 8, 2007 9:43 AM:

Lawrence,

I find your behavior in this comment thread absurd:

  1. Anon posted a message that contained nothing but denigrating ad hominem.
  2. Randall gutted Anon's ad hominem by demonstrating its farcical absurdity. (Granted, Randall weakened his own argument by including some ad hominem regarding Libby's choice of client.)
  3. You responded both to Anon and to Randall with even more ad hominem (and even character assassination) directed not only at each of them but at conservatives in general.
  4. At the same time, you tried to bully Randall to impose some sort of knee-jerk and unthinking ideological orthodoxy regarding allowable speech. This is not the first time you have tried to bully Randall into censorship.

Point 4. does more to promote antisemitism than anything I can imagine and actually lends direct support to Anon's ad hominem. I respectfully suggest Randall's approach to Anon was far more effective and far more adaptive than your own.

I can understand how, by this point, you must feel somewhat beaten up on. I do not wish to beat up on you. I want only to express how your behavior appears to other readers.

Regardless whether one sees any particular antisemitic message in Randall's comment threads, one will see or hear plenty of antisemites in one's life. By modeling the sort of knee-jerk behavior Anon accuses all Jews of, you might actually push some less sophisticated folks who are on the fence in the direction of antisemitism. Quietly and calmly explaining the farcical absurdity of the accusation will tend to push them in the opposite direction.

Bob Badour said at July 8, 2007 9:51 AM:

Randall,

Your 8 point analysis was far, far better than attacking Libby's character on the basis of his client list. Representing people accused of wrongdoing--even people previously convicted of wrongdoing--is a matter of professional ethics and not a matter of morality at all.

Your 8 point analysis ignores character in favor of facts. Point 7) is particularly compelling in that those charged with the task of weighing the allowable facts, the law, and his character decided the facts and the law outweighed any consideration of Libby's character.

Ned said at July 8, 2007 2:22 PM:

Wow! I go out of the country for a few days, come back, and this thread is still running hot and heavy. I'm impressed. Anyway, for the record, I did not say that Libby was a sleaze. Here's what I did say:

"... Libby certainly did not deserve to be convicted because of his past activities, no matter how sleazy."

I think that's a fair statement. I also agree that Libby, like every other criminal defendant, including mobsters, murderers, rapists, child molesters and people who burn down orphanages, is entitled to the very best defense that he can afford. And Libby was certainly well represented. The lawyers who represent these defendants are not criminals, although some might indeed consider them "sleazy" if they do it on a regular basis, others might not. I make no judgment on the issue.

No, the point I wished to make is that the current culture in Washington, at least for the last two administrations, seems to assert that you can get a free pass if you're rich or well-connected, but, if you're not, well, too bad for you. Take a gander at the DOJ web site that I mentioned - take a look at those criminals whom Clinton pardoned. Then look at the examples I cited - Marc Rich (rewarded for his major contributions to the Democratic Party), the FALN terrorists (trying to curry favor with Latinos for Hillary), the Gregory's (? "consulting fee" to Hillary's brother), Susan McDougal (reward for keeping her mouth shut about the Clintons' role in Whitewater), corrupt Congressmen Dan Rostenkowski and Mel Reynolds (who was also a sex offender - both rewarded for faithful service to the Democratic party), and his own druggie half-brother. The parallel with the border patrolmen seems exact - they, too, were tried and convicted, lost their appeals and went to jail. Yet many Americans are deeply troubled by the underlying assumptions of their prosecution, just as some are troubled by those underlying Libby's prosecution, even though it now seems clear that, in both cases, laws were broken. I'm not saying that, at least in the abstract, Libby didn't deserve the commutation (and probable eventual pardon), or that he did. What troubles me is that he (and all of Clinton's pardoned criminals) get to walk, while the border patrolmen (who are "nobodies") get to rot in jail for ten years. It seems that the rules don't apply to the rulers.

Bob Badour said at July 8, 2007 2:40 PM:

I am curious: What laws did the border patrolmen break?

Randall Parker said at July 8, 2007 3:07 PM:

Ned,

I also am disgusted by this seeming immunity of the elites to the law. They band together. They get breaks the rest of us do not get.

If you or I get caught lying to a grand jury we just go to jail. Noone will editorialize for us. Our boss won't lobby the President who sits down the hall.

Fitzgerald's indictment laid out all the ways Libby knew about Plame's identity before he talked to reporters about it. Libby told reporters. Then he lied to the FBI and a grand jury. He got busted. He got convicted. Then Bush let him off.

First off, Libby shouldn't have told the reporters. Second, he shouldn't have lied to the FBI and a grand jury. Third, he shouldn't enjoy a special immunity to the law that the rest of us live under.

Ned said at July 9, 2007 9:29 AM:

RP -

Exactly. Just one more comment on pardons, from cato-at-liberty.org:


President Bush has pushed the envelope of every aspect of executive power, except for two that might ease the burden of government, the veto and the pardon. Now he’s threatening to protect the taxpayers with his veto pen, and he’s just discovered his power to pardon or commute the sentences of people convicted of crimes. Whether Scooter Libby was an appropriate recipient of a commutation is subject to much debate.

But there are plenty of other people who deserve presidential pardons or commutations. Families Against Mandatory Minimums has highlighted a number of good cases here:

Mandy Martinson — 15 years for helping her boyfriend count his drug-dealing money.

DeJarion Echols — 20 years for selling a small amount of crack and owning a gun, causing Reagan-appointed federal judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. to say, “This is one of those situations where I’d like to see a congressman sitting before me.”

Weldon Angelos — 55 years for minor marijuana and gun charges, causing the George W. Bush-appointed judge Paul Cassell, previously best known for pressing the courts to overturn the Miranda decision, to call the mandatory sentence in this case “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.”

Anthea Harris — 15 years when members of her husband’s drug ring received sentence reductions to testify against her, although she had not been directly involved in the business.

A compassionate conservative should also use the pardon power to head off the DEA’s war against doctors who help patients alleviate pain. He could start by pardoning Dr. Ronald McIver, sentenced to 30 years for prescribing Oxycontin and other drugs to patients in severe pain. Or Dr. William Hurwitz of Virginia, sentenced to 25 years but then granted a retrial, convicted again, and awaiting sentencing, which could still be 10 years.

Commute these sentences, Mr. President.

Stephen said at July 11, 2007 3:34 AM:

Ned, Calling for a President to pardon obvious injustices might make an individual prisoner happy, but it doesn't actually solve the underlying cause of the injustice. Government is (in theory) about good policy, and that means that a pardon should be accompanied by an amendment to the laws that caused the problem in the first place.

That said, I agree entirely that minimum sentences are an abomination. I find it amazing that the electorate supports such obvious stupidity. Why is the electorate so very stupid??? Everyday US democracy appears more like the justice of a bloodthirsty mob.

Randall Parker said at July 11, 2007 7:19 PM:

Stephen,

Just because the legal system creates a bad outcome does not mean that it is fixable with better laws. We can't fix the human element with simple algorithm changes.

Minimal sentences came about as a legal fix to a problem: liberal judges sentencing bad guys to short terms in prison. If you do not like the outcome this should serve as a cautionary tale about fixing the legal system with more law changes.


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