- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

Coming pardon?

“In his last days as president, George W. Bush will pardon [I. Lewis] Scooter Libby — that is, if the convictions secured [Tuesday] don’t get overturned on appeal,” New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.

“For political reasons, Bush can’t pardon Libby earlier than that. His responsibilities as head of the Republican Party, heading into an election year, would preclude such action,” Mr. Podhoretz said.

“But Bush won’t leave office without issuing that pardon. Why? Because if Bush fails to pardon Libby, he will implicitly be accepting the contention that Scooter Libby was part of a White House conspiracy at the highest levels to destroy the career of a CIA agent whose husband had proved Bush & Co. had lied us into the Iraq War.

“Without a pardon (again, assuming an unsuccessful appeal), Bush will leave office with a former employee in jail on charges that rise directly from the most damaging charge against his administration — the ‘Bush lied and people died’ charge.

“No, the ‘Bush lied’ claim wasn’t the subject of the Libby trial. In fact, Libby was charged with lying to a grand jury about conversations with reporters, and a general charge of obstruction of justice. But, in the end, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald got it both ways.”

Facing questions

Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, said yesterday he was not aware he had invested in two companies backed by some of his top donors and said he had done nothing to aid their business with the government.

The 2008 presidential hopeful faced questions about more than $50,000 in investments he made right after taking office in 2005 in two speculative companies, AVI Biopharma and Skyterra Communications. Mr. Obama said his broker bought the stocks as part of a quasi-blind trust in which he was not consulted when trades were made.

“At no point did I know what stocks were held, and at no point did I direct how those stocks were invested,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the end of a press conference called to tout an unrelated immigration bill. He said he would provide the paperwork relating to the trust.

“What I wanted to make sure is that I didn’t want to invest in companies that potentially would create conflicts with my work here,” said Mr. Obama, who has campaigned on the need for stronger congressional ethics rules. “Obviously, the thing didn’t work the way I wanted it to.”

Program changes

The Fox News Channel lineup had two changes yesterday: More comedy, less Edwards.

The presidential campaign of former Sen. John Edwards said the North Carolina Democrat won’t participate in an Aug. 14 debate in Reno co-sponsored by the Fox News Channel and the Nevada Democratic Party, the Associated Press reports.

Online activists and liberal bloggers quickly hailed the decision as a victory in their campaign to urge Nevada Democrats to drop the Fox News Channel as a partner. MoveOn.org Civic Action says it has collected more than 260,000 signatures on a petition that calls the cable network a “mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel.”

In a letter posted yesterday on the party’s Web site, Democratic Party Chairman Tom Collins said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, now shares activists’ concerns and “has asked us to take another look.”

But don’t fret for Fox. The network’s first original comedy series is a hit.

Variety reported yesterday that the second pilot for the satirical news show “1/2-Hour News Hour,” created by Ned Rice and produced by “24” creator Joel Surnow, scored strong ratings. The parody news show pulled in 1.4 million viewers, including 443,000 in the prized age 25-54 group — a 69 percent increase over Fox’s first-quarter average for the 10 p.m. Sunday slot and the top show in cable news on the weekend.

The Internet entertainment-news site Jossip said Fox is ready to sign a deal for 13 episodes of the series.

“We’re told to expect a formal announcement shortly,” wrote Jossip, citing an unnamed source.

Media spin

“The broadcast network evening newscast coverage Tuesday night, of the guilty verdicts for perjury and lying found against Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, painted the case through the prism of administration opponents who presumed a nefarious scheme led by Vice President [Dick] Cheney against the heroic Joe Wilson,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“Though the legal status of Valerie Plame remains in dispute, ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas and CBS’s Gloria Borger described her as an ‘undercover’ CIA agent. And while ABC’s Pierre Thomas noted how Plame ‘had been outed as a CIA operative in a column by Robert Novak,’ neither Thomas, nor reporters on CBS or NBC, ever pointed out how Novak learned of Plame’s identity from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a war opponent outside the Cheney/Karl Rove circle.

“CBS and NBC managed to connect Libby to the Reagan years. ‘Guilty,’ Katie Couric teased at the top of the CBS Evening News, ‘the highest-ranking White House official found guilty of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal.’ Over on the ‘NBC Nightly News,’ Kelly O’Donnell echoed: ‘What happened here today makes Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby the highest-ranking White House official convicted of a felony since the Reagan era and the Iran-Contra scandal.’

“CBS’s Gloria Borger ominously concluded: ‘The prosecutor said there was a cloud over the vice president’s office. And today he said it’s still there. Only now, Katie, it may be darker.’ Bob Schieffer soon piled on: ‘I think it’s going to hurt the administration because it’s going to raise new questions about their credibility when they already have more problems on their plate than they can really handle right now.’ On ABC, Vargas picked up on how ‘Joe Wilson … said today he wants Karl Rove fired from the White House. Do you think that might happen?’ George Stephanopoulos rationally retorted: ‘No. It ain’t going to happen.’ ”

Pataki’s new job

Two months after leaving office, former New York Gov. George E. Pataki announced yesterday that he is joining a New York City law firm and will specialize in environmental issues.

Mr. Pataki, who has been considering a potential run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, will be joined at Chadbourne & Parke by his former chief of staff, John Cahill, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Pataki is not ruling out a later jump into the presidential campaign, said his spokesman, David Catalfamo.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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