For the first time in quite a while I watched some cable news last night. And I’ve read this morning’s editorials. And, other than a brief mention by Keith Olbermann, I haven’t seen anyone addressing the central point of Libby’s commutation. Take a look at this:
…House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the president “did the right thing today…. The prison sentence was overly harsh and the punishment did not fit the crime.”
Intentionally or not, Rep. Blunt is expressing something important here. If we just look at his statement at face value it appears nonsensical. How can a sentence set within the federal guidelines (and at the minimum allowable within that range) be considered overly harsh? If it is overly harsh for Libby then it is overly harsh for anyone else. So, is this comment by Blunt just another inaccurate and misleading talking point…or is it something more?
It’s the second part of Blunt’s statement that explains the first part: ‘the punishment did not fit the crime’. Why would Blunt think that? It’s because Blunt knows, like we all know, that Scooter Libby was the guy who was asked to stick his neck into the meat grinder. Libby lied because he was asked to lie. He released classified information because he was asked to release classified information. Nixon said that ‘when the president does it then it is not illegal’. It’s a theory shared by many Republicans (at least when applied only to Republican presidents).
Blunt knows that Libby was asked to lie to the FBI, to the prosecutors, and to the grand jury. Therefore, it would be wrong for Bush to let him go to jail for following orders. And it would be wrong. The proper thing for Bush and Cheney to do would be to commute Libby’s sentence and then offer to serve his prison sentence themselves. For the Republicans, the idea that they would let a loyal soldier like Libby do hard time is an appalling prospect.
The commutation of Libby’s sentence is an entirely straightforward admission of guilt. The media is not discussing this. And it is a tragedy. There is no doubt in my mind that Libby lied throughout this case precisely because he knew that he would never have to face jail time. It is and has been an extreme example of obstruction of justice. And it is a slam-dunk case for impeachment and removal from office.