Still filled with rage over the news. Seething, really. Not just because the news hit as I was sitting down to class, meaning I missed out on it for a full few hours of the cycle – including being able to call and leave a response at the white house as Sen. Biden suggests here, they've since taken the line down.
No, I've just realized how arrogant and imperial this move by President Bush really is.
Oh, I mean, sure, just the act of commuting Libby's sentence is flipping the bird to everyone who believes in the rule of law. Who thinks obstructing justice is a serious offense.
But you have to remember this is the same Presidency that's about to go to the mattresses on executive privilege over subpoenas in the Gonzales affair. The same Presidency that's attached hundreds of signing statements onto the backs of legislation. The same Presidency that includes a Vice President who argues with a straight face that he's a member of the Executive when it's convenient and a member of the Legislature when it's not. The same Presidency who's advisors wanted to create an ongoing conservative empire.
It's an administration that knows no checks on its power, that will tolerate no bounds on its ambitions, that contains no shred of decency at its black heart.
Because, when a sentence is commuted, the underlying conviction remains. It's not forgiving it, it's not excusing it, it's merely saying that the imposed prison term is an unnecessary, even unduly burdensome, punishment. It's something you do when, say, you have someone on death row and discover they're dying of cancer.
Here, what Bush is saying is not that Scooter Libby is innocent, not that he was convicted of a crime he didn't commit – commuting the sentence means the conviction stands (unless it's reversed on appeal, of course, but when you're not supposed to do so while it's still under active appeal. Not the case here but that's because this is Bush waving his “King George” wand to make everything right with reality again.) - not that he didn't obstruct justice. But that the punishment for doing so is too big.
Think about that for a minute.
Who decides if punishments are just? Well, you have the legislature who write up the statutes. And you have the judiciary which applies them. Bush is the executive. He doesn't – no matter what he might think – get to decide whether a sentence is fair or just or anything of the sort. Doing so is trampling over the authority of the legislature and judiciary to do so. And that's exactly what Bush is doing here.
He's not trying to split hairs. He's not playing a third-rate Solomon. This isn't a political compromise that does best by doing the least harm for everyone involved. This is the same heavy handed shit he always pulls.
He's saying that no matter what the law says, no matter how the system is supposed to work, he's the Decider. He's the one who gets to determine the outcome.
A commuted sentence, by the way, doesn't give someone immunity from prosecution if they were, saying, called before Congress to testify. Libby can still take the fifth.
This is Bush standing before the gathered throng and saying that he, alone, has the all the power.
Today, four years ago Bush said the infamous “Bring it on,” line. Well, he just looked Fitzgerald, looked Congress, looked the American people in the eye. And said it again.