Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bush Commutes Accountability

"Scooter" Libby will not go to jail, but his felony conviction stands - for now. He'll pay a fine and go on probation pending an eventual late-term pardon by the president. This is simply the latest example of the Bush administration's refusal to accept accountability for major mistakes, some of which are likely crimes.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice because he lied in court about the events surrounding the "outing" of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA agent. When a person is convicted of perjury, the facts must support the contention that they knowingly misstated the truth when under oath. I would argue that Libby,as an attorney, had a heightened obligation to tell the truth, and that his punishment for not doing so should be severe. President Bush, by commuting Libby's sentence, is declaring that lying in support of his administration's objectives is no big deal.

Most Americans have no idea of the extent to which the activities of senior administration figures are managed and documented. Time and specificity are precious when the issues being addressed affect the interests of the United States and all its citizens, so appointment calendars, phone logs, meeting minutes,and email copies are essential to the smooth operation of the White House. "I don't remember" is an unacceptable answer to any question about activities that have occurred there, but Libby made this claim over and over again. He flat lied. Why? Because the truth would have been more embarassing to the administration than the spectacle of Libby's trial and conviction. Now his loyalty has been rewarded.

This sad episode points out an inconvenient truth about our government, one that,once again, most Americans do not understand: that integrity is not a prime prerequisite for those in politics. We tend to assume that those who are elected or appointed to high office are honorable, when in fact they are only as honorable as those who manage to place them in these positions. When government is operated on the premise that "the ends justify the means", honor is subordinated to expediency. In Libby's case, the objective of justifying going to war with Iraq was worth breaking the law about safeguarding clandestine agents and then lying about it. Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence confirms this. Honor was expendable.

This administration has been characterized by obfuscation and untruth. Powell, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Michael Brown ("Great job, Brownie"), the sucession of press secretaries, and Alberto Gonzales have each uttered, regarding major issues, boldfaced statements that that unbiased citizens would consider false. Libby is simply the latest to be trapped by his own words. Consequently, I would argue that President Bush believes lying is appropriate if it's deemed necessary to implement his policies or justify his actions. As my own boss once said, "You are who you hire." History will show that this president had a mighty disregard for truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I keep waiting for the meltdown. I don't think he's a very stable individual, and I think eventually the house of cards will come tumbling down and he won't be able to handle it. Denial and Paranoia seem to be his only coping mechanisms.