Sunday, July 08, 2007

The only comment I plan on making about Scooter Libby

About the whole Scooter Libby commutation thing. Let's say, for argument's sake, that the penalty was, as Bush argued, too harsh to fit the crime. (Which, btw, it was in line with sentencing standards, so it's hard to argue it was "too harsh.") If the problem was the length, why not cut down the 30 month sentence to 5 months, or whatever the President felt was appropriate? Why require him to serve not a single day in jail?

According to the New York Times, this is completely out of line with Bush's previous actions:
“The grounds he offered for commuting Libby’s sentence were equity — that the sentence was out of line with other sentences — or compassion,” Professor Sarat said. “Those two grounds seem so out of character with anything Bush had ever said or done in the area of clemency that it’s as if he has become a different person.”

He's clearly giving special treatment to his friends and people who have lied to protect him.

And, I suppose that is a President's privilege. However, it was amazingly disheartening to see the one instance in which someone was being held accountable for this administration's actions that led to a disastrous war be thwarted by the President.

It wasn't a whole lot. There were no impeachment proceedings. (After all, it's not as if GWB were getting a blowjob. That would require more tough action.) It was a staffer getting punished for lying to the American people about his actions in outing a CIA agent in order to discredit someone who was telling a different story about Iraq's attempts to get WMD. This would blow over relatively soon. Bush doesn't lose a whole lot by letting Libby serve his sentence. And Libby's sentence doesn't require any more loss of face by this administration. We're not demanding he tell the truth, after all. Just that he serve some time for lying under oath.

That's why this is so distressing. It's just another example of the power that the President has to prevent any accountability, any responsibility for his actions. It's a reminder that he's in charge, that the law doesn't apply to him and his, and that we the people can try whatever means we want to make him responsible for his actions, he can undo them just like that.

Edited to add: Also, again like the Paris Hilton case, this demonstrates the powerful differences in the legal system for the rich and the middle class and the poor. Most of the time the differences aren't so stark. You don't see the President's friends getting their sentences commuted because they're "not fair" or socialites going home after a few days because they're suffering mental breakdowns.

No, usually, the difference happens at the trial level, where those with money are more able to get off or to get lighter sentences because they can afford better lawyers. Public defenders, after all, are notoriously overworked, and thus often less effective in defending their clients.

But it's these high profile cases, like the Paris Hilton and Scooter Libby ones, that highlight in dramatic terms the ways in which justice is not equal in this country. The average person whose sentence is "too harsh" does not get a commutation. And there are thousands of mentally disturbed people in our prison and jail systems. Why does Paris get to leave because she's having mental issues?

Along with exemplifying the lack of responsibility taken by this administration for it's own actions, the Scooter Libby ordeal crystallizes the problems resulting from unequal justice and inequality before the law.

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