From Throwing Sand in the Umpire's Eyes to Throwing Out the Umps
By Margie Burns on 7/2/2007, 8:05pm PT  

Guest blogged from D.C. by Margie Burns

The total commutation of Libby’s sentence should put an end to any questions, if any remain, about whether the Bush-Cheney cabal is completely crooked.

Briefly: the published statement for public consumption that the president found Libby’s sentence “excessive” is transparently false. If he had merely found the sentence excessive, he could have commuted it PARTLY. Two and a half years could have been reduced to two, or to one and a half, or to one year. It could have been drastically commuted to six months, or to three months.

That did not happen. Instead, George Walker Bush elevated smarmy propagandists like Byron York over federal judges. He elevated Charles Krauthammer over three U.S. Circuit Court Judges appointed by three former presidents. (Not that Krauthammer’s first reaction after Libby was indicted was to defend Libby. Au contraire: Krauthammer took the line, on ABC’s Inside Washington, that Libby’s actions were the work of one man, namely Libby. Neocon loyalty at work – until the echo chamber pulled Krauthammer back in line.) Bush elevated rightwing talk show hosts, the creepy National Review, Fox television and Rupert Murdoch's media empire and the now-moribund PNAC over the U.S. justice system.

Typical for him, that.

We won’t finish paying for the wholesale erosion of the justice system for a while. And there is scant consolation that Bush will also pay. Nobody in his right mind thinks that Mr. Libby is the object of widespread public adulation. Even the opinion polls show otherwise. At the moment, even the large media outlets are claiming merely that Libby’s getting off will please the president’s “base” – a term used far more often than it is defined. Personally I would take even that claim with a grain of salt. If the “base,” as that term is generally used, includes devout Christians and/or social conservatives, neither of those groups is going to be thrilled to see Libby relieved of all discipline. For one thing, neither group was ever all that sold on Libby, surmising accurately that Libby was never going to go to the mat for them either.

The hurried and abject quality of the commutation does suggest pressures on the president, and maybe even some kind of ultimatum. But the easy hypotheses are too easy.

1) As already suggested, I do not necessarily buy that the “base” demanded and got Libby’s walking. 2) Influenced at this stage by the informed writing of Elizabeth de la Vega on this topic, I also don’t believe that Libby could easily have helped mount a court case against Bush et al.

But undoubtedly information in Libby’s possession would amount to evidence for impeachment. And it was probably useful to Bush to puncture one immediate source of an impeachment threat virtually right in front of Vladimir Putin's eyes. Furthermore, disclosure of Libby's information would undoubtedly lead to equally damning information in the possession of other administration personnel.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, a good prosecutor with a good team, early on compared the defendant’s actions to throwing sand in the umpire’s face. Now we’ve got the White House doing the same, and doing it openly, and doing it at an even higher level and on a larger scale. This action really should demonstrate, beyond any doubt, the attitude of this WH toward talent and effort.

On the purely local level --- I’m glad I’m getting out of town for July the Fourth. When I first moved to the DC area, I was childless, no dependents; the joke that a good license-plate motto for DC would be “DC: motto: No Radiation Sickness” seemed funny.

Times have changed.

Speaking of radiation, we're the victims of a lack of adequate reporting, to put it nicely, about Bush’s feeble negotiations with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Suffice it to say that “missile shield” means “missiles.” I am always in favor of genuinely reducing global tensions, but there is no gigantic super-plastic ‘shield’ going up, to protect us from missiles. “Missile defense,” to these guys, always means more missiles. Period, final, that's it. So the temporary solution to bring Putin on board with more US missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland – something Putin understandably does not want – is to allow, or help, Putin to base a corresponding expansion of Russian missile power in the Federation countries of the former Soviet Union. It’s much along the lines of the ‘compromise’ that allows Libby to avoid all prison time, placating an entrenched and powerful interest group that always touts itself as representing some larger population.

Bush didn't please the 'base.' He pleased just enough of the entrenched no-talents and propagandists in rightwing and corporate media outlets to buy himself a little more time, trying desperately to stave off wider discussion about impeachment. Meanwhile, that destructively early 2008 primary season sucks all the oxygen out of political discussion on the topics we need most to be talking about.