Friday, July 6, 2007

Body blow to justice


During six years as Texas governor, President George W. Bush was no softy on criminals. He approved 152 executions, more than any governor in modern history. Even a mentally impaired inmate, who had been beaten severely in his home and been poorly defended, did not give Bush pause when the doomed man asked for a reprieve.

In his autobiography, "A Charge to Keep," Bush was unbending about convictions. It wasn't his job, he wrote, to "replace the verdict of a jury unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair." (Italics added.)

Except, of course, when it's a loyal White House official. I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice while engaged in a cover-up to protect the president and Vice President Dick Cheney in their attempts to destroy a critic of the Iraq war, Ambassador Joe Wilson, by illegally unmasking his wife's role as a CIA operative.

Bush's sole public justification for commuting Libby's 30-month term was that it was "harsh," though it was well within federal sentencing guidelines and no more harsh than punishment for others convicted of the same crimes.

President Bush could still give Libby a full pardon so his record is clean and he can regain his license as an attorney.

The president has shown utter contempt for the justice system since taking office. Freeing Libby from a short prison term was merely more abuse of presidential power and derision for the presidential oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."




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