Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mercy for Libby?

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen lays out the principled case for going easy on Lewis Libby, while avoiding most (though not all) of the partisan fact-bending emanating from that camp.

He starts out in unpromising fashion, railing about Patrick Fitzgerald making "a mountain out of a molehill" at "the urging of the liberal press." He also tiptoes up to the line of claiming positively that there was no underlying crime.

But he does not cross it. And he quickly admits that lying to a grand jury is not a trivial thing. He then proceeds to skewer the various enablers and cheerleaders in the case, which arguably did more damage to the media than the administration.

His concluding lines:

The rest of us ought to consider what Fitzgerald has wrought and whether we are better off for his efforts. I have come to hate the war and I cannot approve of lying under oath -- not by Scooter, not by Bill Clinton, not by anybody. But the underlying crime is absent, the sentence is excessive and the investigation should not have been conducted in the first place. This is a mess. Should Libby be pardoned? Maybe. Should his sentence be commuted? Definitely.

I disagree that the investigation shouldn't have been conducted. And arguably, Libby's lies are why this didn't turn out to be a bigger deal than it was. But I'm sympathetic to the argument that 30 months is an excessive sentence for an otherwise straight arrow convicted of an essentially political crime. Still, the man did lie, and some punishment is deserved. Pardon? No. Commute immediately? No. Let him serve half the sentence, commuting it as Bush is leaving office. That would seem to serve the needs of both justice and mercy.

Update: Cohen participated in an online discussion of his column in which he manages to muddy his point a bit. A particularly on-point exchange:

QUESTION: ... If somebody consciously and intentionally lies to a Federal prosecutor and a grand jury, isn't it appropriate for them to go to jail? Even if the prosecutor has no business having asked the question in the first place? Tell the truth or take the Fifth -- either is fine -- but intentional lying simply isn't acceptable in any witness, let alone a high-ranking government official.

Do you disagree with this basic observation? If so, please explain. If not, how can you still argue that Scooter shouldn't go to jail? I suppose you can simply disagree with the premise that Libby consciously and intentionally lied, but the jury made that determination, and that's what juries are for...

COHEN: I don't quarrel with the jury. In fact, let me just say that my own reading of the trial was that he was guilty. I don't believe that he forgot. But I do believe that while it is impermissible for anyone to lie to a grand jury -- I'm not quarreling with that -- I'm just saying that when you get called before a grand jury and you are a target, there ought to be a crime involved.... If he lied to a grand jury it wasn't because he made money illegally or took bribes or some other crime, it was because he was covering up for embarrassment or because he mistakenly thought he had committed a crime. So fine, convict him. But 30 months is excessive.

So he admits Libby lied to cover up something, but he thinks the sentence should be commuted anyway. That's really odd logic.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see that a liberal columnist is finally having some effect on you regarding Libby. I sure haven't been able to.

I still don't believe his inconsistencies under oath were LIES. It's LIES if one CHOOSES to believe they were lies. It's LIES if one WANTS them to be lies. Tim Russert had inconsistencies in what he told the FBI when questioned versus what he said on the stand. And yet, I didn't see anyone calling it LIES. Russert was given the benefit of the doubt by both the jury and others. Most of the other reporters involved also had inconsistencies in their memory of events. No one called it LIES. But because Fitzgerald desperately wanted a WIN, he chose to consider them LIES from Libby.....because he desperately wanted to get someone within the administration on something.

I STILL contend that Fitzgerald should face the same fate that Nifong just met. They BOTH are guilty of prosecutorial misconduct and possible criminal charges, IMHO. Fitzgerald was charged with finding out if a crime occurred and to find the leaker IF a crime occurred. From Day One, he KNEW who the leaker was----asking him to keep quite---so that he continue his witch hunt unbothered by those who would have surely questioned it at the time. He also claimed that Libby was the initial leaker to Judith Miller. This claim was later PROVEN to be false when Armitage said he also told reporter Bob Woodward BEFORE Libby's conversation with Miller----making Armitage the first leaker to a reporter. Also, Robert Novak said that even Armitage never told him the name----just said that Wilson's wife worked there at the CIA and had sent him to Niger. Novak then.....ON HIS OWN....did some research and found her name (Valerie Plame) on the "Who's Who" list as the wife of Joseph Wilson. Then he called up his source in the CIA and they CONFIRMED that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA.

This investigation should have never advanced forward once Fitzgerald KNEW who the leaker was and that no law was broken in the process.


6/20/2007 3:40 PM  

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