- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I understand the angst of certain rule-of-law proponents upset by President Bush’s commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s conviction. But most of the people outraged by it have no credibility, since they were utterly indifferent to the Clintons’ habitual mockery of the rule of law and prolific and shady abuse of the pardon power during their co-presidency.

The president clearly has the constitutional authority to pardon or commute sentences for almost any reason. So the issue isn’t one of authority, but propriety.

As a rule of law conservative I don’t take lightly such executive interventions in the judicial process, believing our judicial system depends on the integrity of our jury system and the impartial administration of justice.

I understand that it might appear like cronyism for the president, after the justice system has taken its course and convicted and sentenced a member of his administration, to reduce the sentence, especially given the president’s affirmations of confidence in the special prosecutor handling the case.

That said, I still believe Scooter Libby is a worthy candidate for clemency and even pardon. This case has never been about Libby. He has merely been the scapegoat for the Bush-hating left, which has been lusting to criminalize the administration over the president’s fraudulently alleged misrepresentations about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Thus, when the news broke someone had leaked the identity of Joe Wilson’s allegedly, but doubtfully covert CIA spouse, Valerie Plame, liberals immediately assumed irreversibly that the “leak” was orchestrated by the administration and carried out by one or more of its key players.

But we know beyond any doubt that Richard Armitage, not Libby, was the leaker. Since Libby had committed no “underlying” crime, he had no motive to commit perjury. He had nothing to cover up.

Nevertheless, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was able to secure a perjury conviction against Libby based on inconsistent statements he made involving conversations he’d had. Others also caught in inconsistent statements were not only not charged with perjury, but lavished with praise by the mainstream media.

Libby represents the liberals’ pound of flesh for Mr. Bush’s mythical WMD lies. Driven by the very sordid type of revenge motive they falsely projected onto the administration, they scapegoated Libby. To this day, these liberals don’t care about perjury — they nearly glorified it during the Clinton years. This is still about the leak. Yet there was no administration leak.

If I were Mr. Bush, I would pardon Libby because I don’t believe he is guilty and I don’t believe he should have to shoulder the punishment for the liberals’ fabricated Bush-lied “crime.” I believe that at worst, Libby’s memory is fallible, like all the rest of us. If I believed he actually lied deliberately to the court — I wouldn’t favor clemency.

But think about this. By commuting Libby’s sentence, or pardoning him, Mr. Bush is hurting himself to grant mercy to someone else. Regardless of conservative support for leniency, history books will doubtlessly record this as a cloud on Mr. Bush’s integrity.

The Clintons, by contrast, abused the pardon power to help themselves, their family, friends and contributors. Their use of the power differed in kind rather than degree from Mr. Bush’s.

We’ve recently been reminded of the rash of Clinton pardons at the close of their second term in exchange for political contributions and other self-serving reasons. Even before that black mark on presidential history, I chronicled in my first book Bill Clinton’s abuse of the power to pardon FALN terrorists to boost Hillary’s popularity with Puerto Rican voters in her New York Senate race.

He did so, even though the Justice Department’s recently released Five-Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan concluded the release of FALN members would heighten the risk of domestic terrorism. He did so, despite the opposition of the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons and various United States attorneys. He did so though between 1974 and 1983, FALN bombed more than 130 American military, business and political “targets,” the most devastating of which killed four and injured more than 60 in Lower Manhattan in 1975.

Scooter Libby represents a threat to no one. Yet the liberals squealing the loudest about Libby are the very ones who pooh-poohed Mr. Clinton’s abuses and ignored his FALN and other indisputably improper pardons.

For all the talk about Mr. Bush violating procedure by granting clemency before Libby formally requested it, the Clintons set the precedent on that practice as well, proceeding with the FALN pardons before they were requested. And if you needed further proof, the Clintons’ pardons were politically motivated, understand that they even took the unprecedented action of recruiting people like Jimmy Carter to lobby them for the pardons.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. But I truly don’t believe Libby’s clemency is wrong or selfishly motivated; there is no question many of the Clintons’ were.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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