Today in Libby Spin
So I thought I'd accumulate some of the most egregious Scooter Libby commutation spin and turn it into a big long post.
Tony Snow actually took to the venerable USA Today op-ed page, and in between the brightly-colored graphs served up a melange of rationalizations and justifications:
The Constitution gives the president the power to grant clemency in a wide range of cases, at his discretion, with no restrictions. In the final hours of the Clinton administration, this unfettered authority was embodied in a mad rush to push through pardons with dizzying haste — 141 grants on Clinton's final day in office, part of 211 in the final nine weeks.
In contrast, no president in recent history has made more careful use of the pardoning power than George W. Bush: The president believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government.
We're allowed, and anyway Clinton abused it too, but we abused the clemency power in such a way that RESPECTED the rule of law. That's just bogus. In one account of the deliberations over the commutation, Bush's team appeared to be re-trying the case by weighing the evidence. There can be no greater disrespect of the independent judiciary than this. And we can go over all of the times in Texas when Bush didn't lift a finger to help those convicts who were mentally retarded, or those whose lawyers slept through their trials.
As for the "Clinton did it" part, there was more of this today.
The White House on Thursday made fun of former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for criticizing President Bush's decision to erase the prison sentence of former aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
"I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it," presidential spokesman Tony Snow said [...]
In the closing hours of his presidency, Clinton pardoned 140 people, including fugitive financier Marc Rich.
Marc Rich was REPRESENTED by Scooter Libby, and Libby made a cool couple million defending him, money that in part went to his fine today. If you have a problem with the pardoning of Marc Rich, go ask Scooter Libby if he was guilty as sin.
In addition, nobody that Bill Clinton pardoned had the goods on him. In other words, he wasn't continuing to obstruct justice by commuting a sentence, as Al Gore says best:
Former Vice President Al Gore said he found the Bush decision "disappointing" and said he did not think it was comparable to Clinton's pardons.
"It's different because in this case the person involved is charged with activities that involved knowledge of what his superiors in the White House did," Gore said on NBC's "Today" show Thursday.
You can also go back and look at Bush I's pardons of everyone connected to the Iran-Contra Affair, all of whom ALSO had information on the President himself, and realize that this is a family tradition of backscratching in exchange for silence.
In a twist on the "Clinton did it" sub-genre, radio talker Neal Boortz outright lied and claimed that Clinton was also convicted of perjury just like Libby (and as such deserved no jail time, right?):
BOORTZ: But in the case of Scooter Libby, Scooter Libby and Bill Clinton got sentenced and convicted for exactly the same crime. Can you -- now tell me, why is there so much outrage on the left that Scooter Libby isn't going to have to serve a 30-month jail term, and not a bit of outrage on the left that Bill Clinton didn't even get a 30-month jail term.
CALLER: I don't remember Bill Clinton actually being convicted for perjury.
BOORTZ: I'm sorry, he was.
CALLER: He was exonerated by a Republican Senate if I remember correctly.
The caller was, um, right.
Alan Dershowitz, one of the lawyers who filed a brief on Libby's behalf that Judge Walton famously said "wouldn't pass the muster of a first-year law student," predictably got angry at the judge for failing to recognize his brilliance:
The trial judge too acted politically, when he imposed the harshly excessive sentence on Libby, virtually provoking the president into commuting it.
As several readers who commented on Dershowitz's brief pointed out, not only was the judge who sentenced Libby--and denied him bail pending appeal--a Republican nominee, but so were two of the three Appeals Court judges who sustained that decision [...]
The Dershowitz Rule: Those who disagree with Alan Dershowitz are political.
Rudy Giuliani didn't really try to spin the White House's decision, simply calling it "reasonable", despite railing against at least one particular perjury sentencing when he was a federal prosecutor:
The United States Attorney in Manhattan, Rudolph W. Giuliani, declared yesterday that the one-year prison sentence that a Queens judge received for perjury was "somewhat shocking."
"A sentence of one year seemed to me to be very lenient," Mr. Giuliani said, when asked to comment on the sentence imposed Wednesday on Justice Francis X. Smith, the former Queens administrative judge.
And finally, there's in-over-his-head "I didn't think we'd have any tough questions over Fourth of July break" deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel, who first couldn't argue his way out of the most obvious spin-puncturing question:
Q Scott, why, if the President thought the sentence was excessive, why didn't he simply reduce it? Why do away with the entire sentence?
MR. STANZEL: Well, I think the President thought that the penalty -- the fine, the probation, the felony charge -- were all very significant penalties. And so that's why -- I'm not going to get into a gaming out of whether zero to 30 and somewhere in there was -- is the right place, but the President thought that the fine was excessive -- or the jail time was excessive, and that's why he commuted the sentence.
Q Even one day would have been considered excessive?
MR. STANZEL: The President commuted the entire sentence.
Q So a single day in jail for lying and obstructing justice, in a federal case, is excessive?
MR. STANZEL: The President believed that 30 months, the sentence that was given -- one day wasn't given, 30 months was.
Q Right, but it's not the 30 months that he thought was excessive, it was the entire sentence.
MR. STANZEL: It was the --
Q -- any time in jail.
It reminds me of that Kids in the Hall episode where the customer is haggling with the sales clerk, and the sales clerk keeps saying "$500" and the customer thinks about it, and goes, "No dollars." The all-or-nothing aspect of this makes plain that this was a makedly political act.
Then there's this gem.
Q Scott, is Scooter Libby getting more than equal justice under the law? Is he getting special treatment?
MR. STANZEL: Well, I guess I don't know what you mean by "equal justice under the law."
Epitaph for an Administration. They don't know what "equal justice under the law means.
FOOTNOTE: I will add that at least one Republican didn't check his "law and order" bona fides at the door when it comes to this case.
So far, however, only one congressional Republican from Florida, Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, has publicly broken with party leaders and the president, saying Bush's decision was wrong. Most of the others have just kept mum.
"Mr. Libby was tried by a jury of his peers and was convicted of a felony, " Bilirakis said in a statement. "The fact that Mr. Libby committed this crime while serving as a public official makes it all the more egregious. Excessive or not, Mr. Libby's sentence should be respected."