Americans are inundated with self-congratulatory civics lessons about how in the Home of the Brave we live under the rule of law, not of men (sic). But the fact is that our Constitution places Presidents largely above the law. Therefore what Bush did was strictly legal. But it is absolutely plain that it is also obstruction of justice, just as Joseph Wilson said upon hearing the news. [Libby was to go to prison soon for having lied about his role in exposing CIA agent Valerie Plame in 2003. Wilson, Plame’s husband, was the real target of Cheney and Bush and Karl Rove; it was to punish him that they “outed” his wife.]
Why did Bush do it? Perhaps brazenness is the whole explanation. But maybe he and Cheney were also afraid that the Scooter’s loyalty would disappear during thirty months of incarceration. Libby has much to tell about what Cheney and Bush knew – and did -- and when they knew and did it. It may be significant that, by having his sentence commuted, he can still plead the Fifth, should Democrats find enough courage to call hearings. If he had been outright pardoned, he could no longer incriminate himself and therefore no longer refuse to testify on those grounds.
Nixon did nothing comparably brazen during the Watergate period because he knew that doing so would make his impeachment even more likely. There was an opposition party then. For his Iran-Contra crimes, Ronald Reagan could have been charged with far graver offenses. But, being more popular at his nadir than Nixon or Bush at theirs, and facing a Democratic Party that was already somewhat Clintonized (on Clintonism, see “Combat Clintonism!”, April 27) he rode out the storm. However even the Gipper would never have dared do anything quite so brazen as Bush just did. Instead, he followed Nixon’s lead, leaving the pardoning and commuting to his successors.
[Ford took care of Nixon and Papa Doc Bush took care of the felonious Reaganites, some of whom – Elliott Abrams most conspicuously – afflict us to this day. One could say that W is just following a family tradition. After all, his father did some mighty swift pardoning -- most notably of Casper “Cap” Weinberger -- just as Bush’s own role in Iran-Contra was coming into view. It should be noted, though, that Iran-Contra wasn’t finally put to rest until Bill Clinton quashed the last investigation. Remarkably, the Clintons, like many other Democrats, are de facto Reagan boosters. But for Bill, one could still fly to Washington’s National, not Reagan National, airport. And who can forget the nauseating funeral oration he delivered when the Gipper’s body finally caught up with his mind.]
To be sure, the Scooter was about to be sent up for a crime that pales in comparison to his real crimes and those of his boss and his boss’s nominal boss. This has been the American way ever since the feds got Al Capone for taxes. But even a Reaganite judge agreed that what Libby did warranted 30 months in prison. Whatever his other reasons may be, by commuting Libby’s sentence, Bush is saying to the world and to the courts and especially to the Democrats what he said to the Iraqi people after it became clear that “the mission” wasn’t exactly “accomplished” – “bring it on.” Hundreds, of thousands of people have died or suffered grievously for the bravado those words denote. But with Democrats in charge of Congress, he may get away with it this time. The one thing Karl Rove and the rest of Bush’s handlers understand is the mettle and timbre of the lesser evil party. They know that they’re only up against pusillanimous Pelosiites. [On “pelosiism,” see “Pelosiism: the Highest Stage of Clintonism,” May 28.]
Thanks to the Decider’s in your face antics, Democrats who are too cowardly to use the word “impeachment” (until, say, 90% of the public calls out for it!) can now at least broach the topic (even with only the support of a substantial majority of Americans) by investigating Bush – and Cheney, who must be impeached first -- for obstruction of justice. Will they do it? They will if we make them -- and Bush, like Cheney, makes our work easier with almost every egregious thing they do. But Democrats are not easily moved. Remember, so far only ten of them have agreed to co-sponsor Dennis Kucinich’s House Resolution 333, calling for the impeachment of Dick Cheney. [See “Cheney to the Rescue?” July 1.] Three of the good guys – Maxine Waters, Keith Ellison and Hank Johnson – are on the House Judiciary Committee. Were the committee’s chairman, John Conyers, to follow his heart, not Nancy Pelosi’s, he could initiate an investigation right away. Now is therefore the time to apply maximum pressure. Now too is the time to give the other members of the so-called Progressive Caucus who also sit on the Judiciary Committee – Mel Watt, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jerrold Nadler, Danny Davis and Tammy Baldwin – no peace until they do the right thing. They have more than enough political cover. They don’t need to be brazen as a Bush boy. They don’t even need a backbone. Simple common decency should suffice.
The “outraged” arch-Clintonite Joe Biden issued a call this morning to flood the White House switchboard voicing opposition to Bush’s brazenness. Far better to follow the advice of the improbably named www.democrats.com. This is one of the groups in the forefront of the impeachment struggle. Here is a portion of an email they sent out this morning:
-There's only one reason why Bush kept Libby out of jail: to keep him from ratting on Cheney and Bush about their direct involvement in the felonious outing of Valerie Plame.
-In mob circles, it's called silencing a witness. In a courthouse, it's called obstruction of justice. And in Congress, it's called grounds for impeachment. Just ask Richard Nixon.
-On TV, the Busheviks are telling even more lies to drown out talk of impeachment. Via email, Democratic "leaders" are feigning outrage to avoid calling for impeachment.
-That means it's time for us to demand impeachment. Let's make this "Impeachment Summer!"
-Don't waste your time calling the White House (the switchboard is closed anyway). Call your Representative to impeach Cheney and Bush: 1 (800) 828 - 0498 1 (800) 459 - 1887 1 (800) 614 - 2803 1 (866) 340 - 9281 1 (866) 338 - 1015 1 (877) 851 – 6437
Email your Representatives to Impeach Cheney: http://www.democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/73
Email your Representatives to Impeach Bush: http://www.democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/88
Email theHouse Judiciary Committee to Start Hearings on H.Res. 333, Articles of Impeachment for Vice President Cheney http://www.democrats.com/topelosiandjudiciary