Thoughts on the Libby Sentencing Controversy

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 03:01 PM

Conservatives in the government and media are still up in arms about Scooter Libby's sentence for deceiving the Special Prosecutor.

Way too severe a sentence, they think. Shouldn't have to go to prison, they think. Much ado about nothing, since "there was no underlying crime"they think.

In his most recent column, David Broder tries to have it both ways: the investigation and prosecution were way out of line, but the sentence shows that no one is above the law.

Specifically:

This whole controversy is a sideshow - engineered partly by the publicity-seeking former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, and heightened by the hunger in parts of Washington to "get" Rove for something or other.

Like other special prosecutors before him, Fitzgerald got caught up in the excitement of the case and pursued Libby relentlessly, well beyond the time that was reasonable.

Nonetheless, on the fundamental point, Walton and Fitzgerald have it right. Libby let his loyalty to his boss and to the administration cloud his judgment - and perhaps his memory - in denying that he was part of the effort to discredit the Wilson pair. Lying to a grand jury is serious business, especially when it is done by a person occupying a high government position where the public trust is at stake.

I have no quarrel with his second point about ensuring that all criminal defendants are treated the same. I have serious doubts about the controversy being a sideshow.

Broder's sideshow characterization is based on this recitation of the complaints of conservatives:

Their bigger complaint is that the White House official's conviction on felony counts of lying and obstruction of justice was a byproduct of a "leak" investigation that itself was unnecessary.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald learned soon after taking the job that Richard Armitage, a high State Department official, and presidential assistant Karl Rove were the sources columnist Robert Novak used in identifying CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson's role in her husband's covert mission that ultimately challenged the Bush administration's rationale for war with Iraq.

Armitage made his admission immediately, and Rove - who made repeated trips to the grand jury - apparently told a version of his own story that persuaded Fitzgerald not to indict him.

Despite the absence of any underlying crime, Fitzgerald filed charges against Libby for denying to the FBI and the grand jury that he had discussed the Wilson case with reporters. Libby was convicted on the testimony of reporters from NBC, the New York Times and Time magazine - a further provocation to conservatives.

Like most conservatives upset about the Libby prosecution, Broder assumes one of the main points in contention: was there an underlying crime committed by outing Plame? As Fitzgerald has repeatedly emphasized, the fact that he brought no criminal charges for the outing itself is not a conclusion that there was no crime. To the contrary, Libby's repeated misstatements made it very difficult to determine whether there was a crime. The fact that Armitage/Rove gave her name to Novak does not mean that Libby didn't criminally or negligently give her name out to others, in a deliberate attempt to rein in her maverick husband.

And of course, there is no way of knowing what other harms Libby's misstatements may have caused, from running up the cost of the investigation to buying sufficient time for other people in the administration to cover their tracks.

I find it interesting to compare Libby's lie and Clinton's lie about not having sex with Lewinsky. Libby lied about an issue central to the investigation (who outed Plame and why they outed her). Clinton lied about an issue completely peripheral to the central issue of the Whitewater investment.

Libby lied about an issue that could have been a crime, depending on knowledge, intent, etc, while Clinton lied about an activity that could not have been a crime--consensual sex with a person old enough to give valid consent.

Libby lied about an act that could well have done serious harm to the national interest in an effective American intelligence community, by endangering the lives of our agents and those who have cooperated with out agents. Clinton lied about an act that endangered, at most, the morals of the two consensual participants, and the confidence of some Americans in the character of their President.

Libby lied about an act he commited as part of his official duties and using his official status. Clinton lied about the most personal of matters.

There is a reason that Both Fitzgerald and the sentencing judge, neither of whom is anything like a flaming liberal except in the minds of the most zealous Libby supporters, were so harsh with Libby.

Clinton should not have lied and I would not have been upset if he was punished for that lie in some fashion. Libby should not have lied, and di far more actual and potential damage with that lie. Too bad so few Libby supporters address that fact.

Comments

Scooter Libby should be shot as a traitor, not jailed as a liar.

Hiss boss, ElDuce should be shot and then hung from a lamp post

Face the facts. They couldn't get Bush or Cheney, so they went after Libby. Wilson is a proven liar. The real traitors are the media who splash our secrets on the front page during a war. Ever notice how liberals have no stomach for war, but some of them believe Libby and his boss should be shot? You're all phonies! Why do you hate America?

"Why do you hate America?"

I don't. I am increasingly disgusted with the policies and attitude of my country, which I deem harmful to its long term health and to the long term interests of most Americans.

I'm also losing hope that reasonable people can get the nation back, in no small part due to comments like yours.

What policies and attitudes are you disgusted with?

"What policies and attitudes are you disgusted with?"

I would think that the list is fairly obvious from my posts on this site. A short, nonexhaustive list of a dozen, produced without nearly the amount of thought that is really required (it's late, I'm tired):

1. An executive branch that has attempted to run roughshod over the other branches of government.

2. The use of fear (fear of terrorists, fear of gays, fear of liberals, fear of Muslims, fear of just about everything) to control public opinion and to justify an elective war.

3. The policy of encouraging outsourcing & globalization without making anything like a sufficient effort to protect and support the millions of Americans hurt by those phenomena.

4. A form of national arrogance (& accompanying loss of morality) that allows us to do such things as endorse torture and then engage in semantic games to redefine the term to cover up our actions.

5. Attempts to tear down the wall between church and state.

6. A policy of smearing and demonizing all groups and individuals who disagree with the people in power.

7. A harsh partisanship that has elevated political disagreements to the level of warfare (which I see as having been deliberately fostered by the conservative right on the theory that they are best equipped to win those kinds of battles).

8. Elevation of wealth ( & greed and grasping) to a virtue entitling the wealthy to reverence and avoidance of any scrutiny.

9. A corresponding loss of compassion for those in society who are at the bottom of the totem pole.

10. A generalized loss of the sense that "we" are all in it together in a very real sense.

11. A preference for slogans and sound bites over substance.

12. A public attitude that "everything" is corrupt, so there's no sense in trying to combat or resist any specific type of corruption.

1. What you call "running roughshod", is referred to as "Executive Powers".
2. Fear of terrorists is justified because they've said over and over that they want to kill us. No one fears gays. Most people just find 2 men kissing to be odd. No one fears liberals either. They are loathed because their policies are irresponsible and dangerous to our country.
The only Muslims to be feared are the ones who want to cut your throat. As for controlling public opinion, the 2 major newspapers in New York and Los Angeles have shamelessly manipulated the public for years. Concerning the war, liberals don't ever have the stomach for it. They're too selfish to understand the meaning of sacrifice. It's that simple.
3. I completely agree with you.
4. Can't stomach war, can't stomach harsh interrogations. What CAN you stomach? The Al-Quaida torture house with torture implements, torture manuals, and Iraqi victims doesn't bother you guys. But anything the U.S. does REALLY gets you steamed. For your information, under the rules of warfare, if you're caught fighting in civilian clothes, you're shot as a spy or saboteur. They're lucky they're all not taken out and shot. Gosh, they're not playing fair by posing as civilians. Does THAT bother you?
5. The separation of church and state means there's no "State sponsored religion" No one's forced to believe anything they don't want. We must respect a person's religion, unless of course, it's a Christian. They have to shut up.
6. Democrat leftists are excellent at "Smear Tactics" because it reminds them of the "good 'ol days" under Stalin.
7. Bipartisanship? You've got to be kidding!! I've never seen so many people in one place who are determined to destroy this country. Democrats understand 2 things: Appeasement and surrender.That, they're good at.
8.Maybe we should distribute the wealth just like all good little Communists.
9. I agree.
10.I agree
11. What?
12. I guess so. Remember this: A patriot is a person that zealously supports his country's authority and interest.

Well, that seems like a pretty good example of number 7: "7. A harsh partisanship that has elevated political disagreements to the level of warfare..."

I tried to be as objective as possible, and you immediately resort to a boatload of labels and insults--Stalin, leftists, appeasement, surrender, "too selfish to understand the meaning of sacrifice," communists.

I'm not going to respond in kind, because I'm really sick of this kiind of nonsensical name-callling.

Not that it matters on the question of Iraq, but I've served in the active military, during war time. A crapload of rabidly pro-war folks have managed to avoid doing that. I don't need your approval of my commitment, scarifice, decency or patriotism.

As to patriotism, the real issue is determining what acts and policies actually will be in the long term best interests of the country. Remember this: in The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined "patriot" as

One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

Once again, it is enlightening to notice how commentary about Sandy Berger's theft of documents from the National Archives is treated, and in comparison to that handed-out to a conservative who got his information crossed, in an interview three years after his comments had been made.

One goes on trial for national security crimes, is immediately granted clemency and does not serve any jail time. One goes on trial for a mistake in testimony (perjury) and is sentenced to 30 months of hard time ...

Which one is the Democrat and which one a Republican?

That's correct -- the hypocrites reside in and control the Democratic party, and the DC courts! Justice in Washington is ONLY FOR DEMOCRATS!

The hoi poloi of American citizenship!

To the Visitor immediately above:

And this is irrefutable proof of...what? That you hate Democrats? That you can't be bothered to support what you say?

?????