Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cloud Cuckoo Land 

We could not be more delighted to see convicted perjurer and obstructor-of-justice Scooter Libby get what he deserves: 30 months in the can, a $250K fine, and two years' probation after he walks. (Well, we could be more delighted, but only if Judge Reggie Walton had ordered that Libby share his cell with a sex-crazed bear.) However, our delight is scarcely a patch on that of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who we fear has ridden a wave of euphoria well past the three-mile limit of rationality:
As Americans, both Valerie [Plame] and I are grateful that justice has been served, reconfirming that our country remains a nation of laws.

We are also saddened for the pain that Mr. Libby has inflicted on his family, friends, and the nation. Mr. Libby benefited from the best this country had to offer: the finest schools, a lucrative career as a lawyer and many years of service in Republican administrations. That he would knowingly lie, perjure himself and obstruct a legitimate criminal investigation is incomprehensible.

It is our hope that he will now cooperate with Special Counsel Fitzgerald in his efforts to get to the truth. As Mr. Fitzgerald has said, a cloud remains over the Vice President.
Mm hmm. We too nurture a "hope." Our "hope" involves Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, and a jungle gym -- but unlike ex-Amb. Wilson, we have no intention of making ourselves seem foolish by talking about it in public.

At least until we get the jungle gym.

SIDEBAR: From Conor Clarke, a pointed reminder for James Carville and other, even-less-principled professional wailers who are rending their garments and gnashing their teeth over the severity of Mr. Libby's sentence -- you are now mourning in America because of Morning in America:
After all, the man responsible for the rise of firmer, harsher sentencing guidelines was Scooter Libby's former employer, Ronald Reagan, whose state department employed Libby in the early 1980s. In 1984, Reagan signed into law the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which got rid of parole at the federal level, created a federal sentencing commission to stadardise punishments and establish mandatory minimums - a legacy that still lives on today. Federal sentencing guidelines are the reason Libby must serve at least 80% of his sentence. Good behaviour can't overshadow the Reagan legacy.

The reason for these policies was ostensibly to prevent all those soft-hearted liberal judges from letting criminals get away with short prison terms and slaps on the wrist. And when these laws are challenged - usually under the sixth amendment's guarantee of a trial by jury - conservative Republicans have always defended the guidelines (sometimes successfully, sometimes less so) as a federal prerogative.

How quickly things change when the shoe is on the other foot. All of a sudden, Republicans are defending a different prerogative: the presidential pardon. In their editorial on the subject, the National Review says Libby is a "dedicated public servant caught in a crazy political fight that should have never happened, convicted of lying about a crime that the prosecutor can't even prove was committed." The editorial then goes on to argue that "president Bush has the power to end this ridiculous saga right now. He should do so".

No one here contests that Libby is guilty of lying - the new question is simply whether the punishment fits the crime. Well, many on the left have been asking the same of the sentencing guidelines for the past couple of decades. They had better explain, otherwise we'll be left with the impression that they're just like all those soft-hearted liberal judges.

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