Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A pardon? An insult

The very idea that President Bush would agree to issue a presidential pardon to convicted perjurer Lewis (Scooter) Libby if his appeal fails, and before he serves prison time, may not startle those with a grasp of the Bush administration's wide ranging disregard for and abuse of constitutional rights and laws enacted by Congress.

Yet, the pressure is on to forgive Libby, a man of privilege and unique responsibilities in government. He reported only to President Bush and Vice President Cheney, for whom he lied to a grand jury in a cover-up of Cheney's smear of career diplomat Joseph Wilson and endangering Wilson's wife, a CIA operative, by revealing her name.

Having freely accepted honors as a high-ranking White House executive, Libby had a special obligation to honor his oath and the public trust. He violated both by lying and knowing he lied. Protecting Cheney is an indefensible excuse.

Enforcing a prison sentence would be an enduring example to others that lawlessness has consequences, even for those who consider themselves almost untouchable because of position.

Even now, new scandals involving near or actual lawlessness inside the administration are emerging in the wake of the Libby conviction. The Justice Department apparently fired federal prosecutors for not carrying out political agendas, and dozens of FBI agents lawlessly mined personal information about thousands of Americans without required court authority and in complete disregard for their orders.

A pardon for Libby would merely spread the worst of messages: that government workers who break the law in behalf of political bosses should be given a presidential pass.

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