Pardon Me

The pardon

Today the illogical and bully conservative movement are making points that resemble a group of 2nd graders caught spying on the girls bathroom. “But he did it too.” First statement out of their mouths is usually, “But Clinton pardoned 400 people.” Like your mommies told you when you were kids, “Just because your friend jumps off a bridge…..” is still wise advice today.

In the wake of the Clinton debacle I voted for Bush in 2000. Not certain that he was going to make a great leader, but at the time I thought, “How much worse could it get?” Boy I will never ask that again. I felt what Bill Clinton did was wrong and was appalled at the time. He was charged with perjury. I also agree with the critics who say that those questions were not ones the government had a right to ask. But they did, he lied, he ultimately was acquitted. An acquittal that was handed down by a republican held senate. He lost his license to practice law for awhile.

In the end what he was questioned about was not a crime. Lying to the grand jury was. The result of his actions were that millions of potential Americans ended up staining Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress and the American male got to add another term to his vocabulary to insinuate oral sex.

Scooter Libby was convicted in a court. He was convicted of “obstruction of justice”. He was sentenced and was on his way to jail. His crime was undeniable. The jurists came out of the trial and stated that they had no doubts of his guilt during interviews. They believed that there was a greater cover up and that they wished to have heard from the vice president. His crime was part of a ring of deception perpetrated on the American public. What that means is they felt equally moved that more people were also guilty. The prosecutor did not have enough evidence to guarantee a conviction.

Libby was part of a group that sought to bully Joseph Wilson through means more becoming of a dictatorship. Ambassador Wilson offered intelligence that could have persuaded the congress and senate to not send nearly 3,600 US soldiers to their death, send 26,000 of them to be injured, create a new “breeding ground for terrorism”, and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. If the Administration had heeded his information, maybe would cold have spent the money chasing down the terrorist connected to Al-Qaeda. At the very least an avenue of accurate intelligence wouldn’t have been collapsed. Mr. Libby and anybody connected to this criminal act should be considered enemies of the state and not pardoned.

Now that we had a little American Legal history lesson, let us put it in context we all can grasp. Imagine two guys run a red light one gets a $150 fine the other two years in prison. Sound like an imbalance of justice. They both committed the same crime. The truth is one was charged with a traffic violation, the other with Vehicular homicide. The result of two people doing the exact same action had two different impacts. To make it more accurate, I would have to include the guy who was convicted of vehicular homicide was fleeing from police at the time. That shows the difference in intent. Libby was fleeing from the grand jury in order to cover up a crime. Bill Clinton was on the back end of a line of traffic scooting through a yellow light.

The defenders of this actions also state that Richard Armitage was the one who leaked the name. They say that since he didn’t have access to that information through secure venues he couldn’t have violated his obligation or the law. Basically he must have surmised on his own Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status, and there for he did not disclose a known state secret. It is a great defense that stinks like a skunk, but really it is difficult to disprove. Remember we are dealing with lawyers, they are paid to find loopholes like a McEmployee is paid to sell fries. First why would anybody believe him is he didn’t have access to the information. Secondly, why would this lone guy want to go out and take this activity on his own? What was his intent? And if Cheney had nothing to hide, why not come state it in court? It didn’t hold water for the jury, the judge, and the logic.

This action still walks the line as dangerously close to being a violation of the law.
The reason for pardoning was to give a citizen a way to receive reprieve process. The founders had the foresight and understanding to know laws that have sentences guidelines left loopholes or various disconnects between the crime and sentencing. The only sentencing guideline in the constitution is a death penalty for those who commit treason. Sharing state secrets with the enemy would be considered treason.

In old England a lot of trivial crimes carried death sentences. These crimes cold easily be brought against their political rivals or movement leaders. The downside is that they could easily be proven against friends and cohorts of the monarchy. So in those cases the Lords had the ability to pardon.

That example is what the founder didn’t want pardons used for. However, they did understand that crimes are not black and white. For example currently there is a young adult in jail in Georgia for 10 years for having sex with a minor. We all agree that child molestation is a heinous crime and should be prosecuted to “the fullest extent”. However the perpetrator in this case had less then 2 yrs in age difference. He was 17 at the time and his consenting partner was 15. (His Name is Genarlow Wilson's and the story can be found here.) This is the reason pardons were created. Everybody agrees that two teens having sex should not constitute a 10 year sentence against the male. The law has since been changed. That is what pardons were meant to be used for.

The pardon of Lewis Libby was closer to the reason the founders hesitated and ultimately gave that power to pardon only to the president. Remember that there were no term limits when the constitution was written and it was always assumed it would be political suicide to pardon somebody that was unpopular. The “lame duck” is one of the few ill side effects of term limits.

This pardon also walks the line because the one reason a pardon can not be issued is in the case of impeachment. This is where the law and justice has been bent over the rail and forcefully taken from behind. Again, the law states that you can not pardon people involved with an impeachment. The vice president and possibly the president would have been impeached if Scooter Libby was forced to disclose what he knew. Libby refused to talk about issues that would have lead to the impeachment of his boss. He did this knowing full well that even if he was convicted, as long as his boss was never impeached, he could get a pardon. Even the jurors said, “the wrong guy was on trial.” The hope was that the fall guy would become a singing bird. He no longer has that inspiration. This is exactly what the founding fathers feared would happen with the power of pardons. That is why they only granted it to the president.

Law enforcement knows the value of getting a conviction of a low level drug dealer to use as leverage to work up the chain. The events have walled up the ability to eventually hold the perpetrators of the misguided intelligence to be forced to answer weather they were criminally fraudulent or just incompetent. This is way there is such outrage over this action. Something went severely wrong in Iraq, and “We the people” want to know why?

You know I have been trying to get rid of this dang parking ticket that I got unjustly for years now. Do you think I could get a pardon?

"The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through." - Alexis de Tocqueville


"Today the illogical and bully conservative movement are making points that resemble a group of 2nd graders caught spying on the girls bathroom. 'But he did it too'.”

Its called precedent. Its a fundamental basis of what is acceptable in our society. Are we now questioning the President's powers to pardon b/c this has occurred on Bush's watch?

The punishment was too harsh. Lets take the PRECEDENT of Clinton being punished for perjury, where in he merely lost his law license. Now can you explain to me how that is not a slap on the wrist but the Libby case is?
Lord of Logic said…
The whole post was about answering that question. Here is a little different take.

First I was equally appalled when Bill Clinton got a "slap" for lying to the grand jury. It certainly was a drive for me voting for a republican in 2000. But the rule of law had run its course. The people who cleared him were the members of a majority republican senate. Many of them would have benefited from Clinton's dismissal. Should Bill have went back and” Begged for more punishment"?

It is not the executive branch’s right to determine precedent on criminal cases. To do so would be in direct violation of constructional law. Then again this administration has not used the constitution for much more then a coaster anyway, and why I voted democratic in 2004.) The truth is they don't have to.

Precedent is when you compare two like cases where the charges and court of consideration is the same. I wrote about this later in the post when I talked about two people running a red light. Bill was simply charged with perjury. Closer to the precedence of Scooter Libby would be that of Martha Stewart, who was charged with, “obstruction of justice”. We all know how that one turned out. The huge difference between the two is this. If you lie under oath about something that isn’t against the law like say an extra marital affair, then you are guilty of perjury. However, if you lie under oath to protect or cover us a crime, like divulging state secrets to the enemy, then you are guilty of “obstruction of justice.” If somebody doesn’t think Libby’s lawyers wouldn’t have used precedent as an argument if it was pertinent then they are naive at best.

The main issue is that the intent of the founders in adding the "except in the case of impeachment" stipulation to the Executive pardon power was to avoid the corruption of the office with a loophole to avoid punishment. If the “justice that was obstructed” that was committed would have lead to impeachment of a member of the executive branch, then a pardon is not legal or allowable by the constitution. Disclosing issues determined to be “secret” by the state is the only crime in the constriction that comes with a sentencing guideline. It is called “treason”, and it is punishable by death. It is at the very least an impeachable offense.

That is why neither Bill Clinton’s own perjury nor any of his pardons are comparable to the Scooter Libby case.

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