By Michael J.W. StickingsMore from Krazy Kristol:In a piece in The Weekly Standard, the neocon rag of which he is the editor, Bill Kristol argues that Bush should pardon Libby... now.The trial "should not have been brought in the first place," and Libby (like "any Bush-Cheney official") never stood a chance in a D.C. court. Moreover: "There was no underlying crime and Libby was not responsible for the appearance of Valerie Plame's name in Robert Novak's column." Therefore:
And now is the time for it. If the president does intend to pardon Libby, there is no reason to wait. The president will learn nothing important about the case during the appeals process that he doesn't already know... The argument for continuing to stay out of it is presumably that the verdict could be overturned on appeal, and Bush wouldn't have to make a tough decision. But the core of the injustice -- that the case was brought at all -- was produced by a dereliction of duty by the executive branch. Bush is the head of the executive branch. He should rectify that earlier mistake -- not hope some judges take him off the hook. And" "Bush won't be able to 'stay out of it.' Others will continue to place his White House at the very heart of it, as the Libby appeals move forward." A pardon would thus be good both for Bush and for the country (and presumably also for Libby):
Bush has an interest in being as strong an executive as possible for the remainder of his presidency. So does the country. This argues for an immediate pardon. Everyone who would be outraged by a pardon now would in any event spend the next year and a half being outraged at the prospect of a postelection pardon. But many of those who are demoralized now by Libby's conviction, and by the administration's passivity in defense of its people and policies, would be reinvigorated by a pardon.Okay, this is all predictable -- but is it krazy?Perhaps not. If Bush is intent on pardoning Libby, he might as well do it now -- why wait? Although there is something to be said for letting the case run its course through the justice system. And I don't quite see how a pardon would allow Bush to be the "strong" executive Kristol desires him to be "for the remainder of his presidency". A pardon would only be defensible if Bush, like Kristol, considers the entire case to be a sham (or if Bush decides not to let Libby take the fall). If so, however, a pardon would require Bush to explain why he considers the entire case to be a sham. Is he prepared to do that? I suspect not. Of course, Bush could pardon Libby and refuse to defend the pardon regardless of whether or not he considers the entire case to be a sham. He and his spinmeisters could claim that Libby has been the victim of a witch hunt, for example, or somehow that justice has not been served by the guilty verdict. I suspect, however, that Bush would be widely criticized for pardoning Libby regardless of the reason for doing so, regardless of the spin. The "demoralized" on the right would celebrate a pardon, perhaps, and some may even be "reinvigorated" by a pardon, but with Bush's popularity so low and the media finally doing their job and subjecting his decisions to intense scrutiny (on occasion, at least), I suspect that the outrage at a pardon, which would be seen as yet another example of Bush's refusal to take responsibility for his administration and to hold accountable both himself and those who work for him, would be significantly greater than Kristol assumes.To be sure, a pardon would provoke outrage beyond the ranks of the "demoralized" no matter when it was issued. A pardon after the 2008 election, or on Bush's way out of office in January 2009, would arouse a good deal of cynicism. But, for Bush, I don't see how pardoning Libby now is the slam dunk Kristol makes it out to be. (For more, see Michael Isikoff and Richard Wolffe at Newsweek -- a pardon may not come soon.)I go back and forth on this. I think Libby is being scapegoated and that his conviction serves to distract attention away from the crime that preceded the covering up. The focus needs to be on the crime -- and particularly on who knew what and when and who did what and when (that is, it would seem, on Dick Cheney). It could be argued that a pardon, particularly a premature one, would re-focus attention on the crime -- a pardon would not bring about closure, it would only beg further investigation. But it could also be argued that allowing the case to run its course through the justice system would prompt an investigation regardless.Either way, it does seem to me that the case against a pardon is much stronger than the case for one. Libby broke and law and was found guilty. That ought to take priority over partisan political considerations on both the left (pardon so as to expose the wretchedness of Bush's presidency once more) and the right (pardon because there never was a crime or to free Bush from this cloud over his presidency or to reinvigorate the demoralized).(For an excellent articulation of the case against a pardon (and against the case for a pardon on the right), see The Anonymous Liberal.)Did I say "cloud"? Yes -- and that's what Kristol said on Fox yesterday morning: "I mean, it’s going to be hanging out there. Not to pardon him and to go into a defensive crouch, which is where the White House is now, is to leave that cloud hanging over his White House and over the war." (From Think Progress, which has the video.)That really is krazy, and Juan Williams put it well in response: "But don’t you think -- I mean, look. The cloud exists. And if he were to pardon, he would exacerbate all those tensions. In fact, I think he would -- it would be more than a cloud. It would be a veil at that point, because people would say there is no accountability in this administration for their actions and they excuse their friends."Kristol is krazy if he thinks a pardon would remove the cloud. It wouldn't. It would only be more of the same from a president who thinks he is right about everything and yet doesn't want to be accountable for anything at all.
Labels: Bush, Fox News, Krazy Kristol, Scooter Libby