Monday, July 02, 2007

Law(less) And (Dis)order

Let me add my little pipsqueak opinion to the outpouring by the rest of the sentient universe on President Bush's commutation of Libbys sentence.

In trying to be cutesy about this George Bush has worsened rather than improving his poltiical standing compared to either pardoning Libby or letting justice take it's course. Bush's logic in commuting the sentence is completely ridiculous.

Bush affirms the outcome of the jury trial, but says that the fine and probation in the Judges sentence ought to be sufficient punishment for the crimes Libby was found guilty of and jail time is undue punishment. This finding by President Bush flies in the face of the federal sentencing guidelines which form the basis on which the Judge ruled in sentencing Libby to prison. In fact by finding that prison time for Libby was not justified Bush calls into question any jail time being served, or that will be handed down in future convictions, for perjurers and obstructionists now serving time and those to be sentenced going forward.

What could possibly be more chilling to the fundamental system of justice than to send the message that obstructing justice and perjury will land you a veritable slap on the wrist? Bush's reasoning is fundamentally damaging to the entire system. He's not pleading that Libby is not guilty or by some technicality should not be found guilty. Bush claims the sentence is greater punishment than deserved for the crime, plain and simple.

Will President Bush now have the federal prisons emptied of anyone convicted of those crimes? Will he actually try to push through legislation to have the sentencing guidelines comport with his newfound conviction that being convicted of perjury and obstruction warrants no prison time, but only a fine and probation? The justice department (under normal circumstances) would certainly protest such an action and we may expect to see more than a few resignations if the President were to truly follow through on the sentiment he expressed in Libby relief.

President Bush is renowned for his tough on crime stance. His record as governor was replete with perfunctory denials of clemency for people facing the death penalty, no matter the extenuating circumstances of the case. And there were several cases with very dubious circumstances which Bush allowed to proceed to a fatal conclusion.

Yet now Bush pleads that the sentencing guidelines for perjury and obstruction do not offer justice to those convicted of those crimes, and just happens to reach this conclusion in the case of Libby, who helped expose an undercover CIA agent and then lied to obstruct the prosecutor from finding the facts of the matter. How freaking convenient.

One suspects that this realization on Bush's behalf will only apply to administration officials. Standard issue perjurers and obstructionists will most likely find little relief from the adminsitrations logic, but administration officials are sure to take this as a great reason to be less than forthcoming in the myriad investigations the White House finds itself embroiled in. In fact, if this newfound realization by Bush that obstruction and perjury are too heavily punished under federal sentencing guidelines really does only apply to administration figures, I think a good case may be made that that determination in and of itself is obstruction of justice.

Bush would have been bettter off just transparently pardoning Libby, which the entire world would have understood as a favor to an administration toady doing the bidding of his overlords, than in calling into question the fairness of the sentence for a crime which Bush plainly says Libby needs to be punished for.

Of course the right thing to do would have been to let justice take it's course, but since when can we expect President Bush to haul off and do the right thing?

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