The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, July 09, 2007

What the Libby case teaches us

1. Bill Kristol is an asshole.

"Here's why the president acted the way he did. He knew Bill Clinton was joining Hillary in Iowa on July 4th," Kristol said [on Fox News Sunday]. "...So on July 2d, Ed Gillespie, who's a very canny Republican operator, said, Let's pardon Libby. Clinton will rise to the bait, and we could spend the last half of the week debating the unbelievable Clinton pardons against the defensible Bush pardon.

"So I regard this as an extremely clever Machiavellian move by the president. It cheers me up. It cheers me up about the Bush White House, and I'm really heartened."

Nothing makes me say 'attaboy' faster than manipulation of the justice system for political ends.

2. Fearless leader can express interest in legal matters.

Quite a shift from his days in Texas, when he (along with Gonzales) was openly mocking death row inmates and denying stays of execution to prisoners who had inept-- and even alcoholic-- defense lawyers. Then he assured us there was no doubt that every single one of them was guilty. Now? Not so much.

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff offers up an account, from White House insiders, of Bush's deliberations on the commutation and why he ultimately decided to go the way he did. Notably, Isikoff paints a picture of Bush as focused on the details of the case; that's quite different from how Bush has acted in the past when questions of clemency came before him, and Isikoff himself calls it uncharacteristic. Isikoff offers one possible reason for Bush's dilligence: "he was especially keen to know," Isikoff says, "if there was compelling evidence that might contradict the jury's verdict that Libby had lied to a federal grand jury about when -- and from whom -- he learned the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, wife of Iraq War critic Joe Wilson."

3. Intellectual honesty is a dish best served... to someone else.

Turns out, though -- sorry, Libby supporters -- that the conclusion of White House Counsel Fred Fielding was that "the jury had reached a reasonable verdict: the evidence was strong that Libby testified falsely about his role in the leak."

4. Fearless Leader is, in fact, afraid.

"The president was conflicted. He hated the idea that a loyal aide would serve time," Isikoff writes. "Hanging over his deliberations was [Vice President Dick Cheney, for whom Libby served as chief of staff], who had said he was 'very disappointed' with the jury's verdict. Cheney did not directly weigh in with Fielding, but nobody involved had any doubt where he stood. 'I'm not sure Bush had a choice,' says one of the advisers. 'If he didn't act, it would have caused a fracture with the vice president.'"

That's really saying something, isn't it? The president 'had no choice' because the veep wanted it.