July 5, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Scooter Libby goes Scoot free

Well, he did have to pay a $250,000 fine, at least. Apologists for President Bush, as well as Democratic partisans, have each reacted in predictable ways to this very predictable legal outcome. In strictly political terms, the decision by President Bush to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence was absolutely necessary, given his weakened stature. He had to take a defiant stand in defense of Dick Cheney's former aide, to make sure Libby didn't spill his guts and to show that he (Bush) was not going to let himself be bested by an overly-aggressive prosecutor (Patrick Fitzgerald). It was four months ago that Libby was convicted, and I repeat what I said in the aftermath: "Perjury is unacceptable, period."

Given that the previous Chief Executive abused his power to pardon or commute, most complaints about this case by opponents of Bush must be taken with a grain of salt. Many people have correctly pointed out the irony (which I mentioned) that Libby once represented convicted swindler Marc Rich, who was pardoned by Bill Clinton on his last day in office. Today's News Leader editorial alluded to that, arguing that all Bush proved with his commutation was that he would look out for his "good old boy" who got caught in a tight spot. I don't go for the "they did it first" excuse which they scorn, and I'm not very happy about the commutation, I just think that Bush did what he had to do.

Just as it was hard to remember what Monica Lewinsky ever had to do with the various scandals related to Whitewater, it is hard for many of us to remember what Scooter Libby had to do with "Plamegate." After all, he was the "fall guy" in that scandal, and probably played a minor role in the White House effort to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson; see Sept. 1.

"Virulent" populism

In today's Washington Post, David Broder takes issue with the commonplace notion that Washington politicians are "out of touch" with average Americans. Instead, he argues, most of the politicians spend too much time and energy placating their constituents, when they should be deliberating on serious national issues: "A particularly virulent strain of populism has made official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion." I disagree with Broder's criticism of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for withdrawing support for the immigration compromise bill, because I don't think it was in the national interest, but in general, his contrarian perspective on the issue of how much weight should be given to popular sentiment is refreshingly healthy.

"Ethical" blogging?

In reference to the upcoming "Blogs United" get-together in Hamptom Roads, Richmond Democrat (J.C. Wilmore) lamented the fact that only one hour has been scheduled to deal with the ethics of blogging. He hopes it "will focus on the most serious ethical problem confronting the Virginia political blogosphere: anonymous blogging." (Emphasis added.) Ah-ha! This is one of the recurrent themes I have addressed over the past several months (see June 21, for example), to say nothing of the recent case of blogging with fraudulent identities which I came upon. It all makes me wonder if "ethical blogging" will eventually come to be regarded as an oxymoron, like "military intelligence." (Cue Alan Alda.)