Tuesday, October 25, 2005

No Quarter

   It appears - if nothing else - that Scooter Libby may have committed obstruction of justice in his testimony before the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's identity.

   "Treasongate", it seems (for now, at least), is probably only Perjurygate (if that).

   By this, I don't mean to diminish the gravity of misleading a prosecutor, but rather to note the vast distance between a crime for which the highest penalty is death, and one for which a year or so in prison is closer to the norm.

   Indeed, I have absolutely no tolerance for those who would play forbidden games with the fact-finding processes of the legal system. (In my line of work, wasting the time, money, and human resources of involved parties angers me more than just about anything.)

   If the facts bear out that Scooter Libby, or anyone else for that matter, lied to Special Prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald (or even unwittingly led him around the proverbial garden path), then the culpable persons need to quit the White House and ensure that their doors not hit them on the way out.

   I was unwilling to countenance Clinton's attempts to obstruct justice; I was unwilling to overlook Martha Stewart's attempts to do the same; I will be unforgiving of those indicted for attempting to do so here. Where I would normally sit back and wait for all the evidence, the cases here are just too easy to make if they are all like Scooter Libby's. I'm not inclined to think that they all will be, but I suspect a fair number will be fairly straightforward.

   I have heard some defenses from my side of the aisle that demostrate tenuous reasoning when read in full and hypocrisy when condensed into sound-bite length:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) outlined the strategy on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, when moderator Tim Russert asked her whether White House spokesman Scott McClellan's previous denials that anyone in the administration had anything to do with the leak of covert operative Valerie Plame's name to the media lacked credibility.

"Tim, you know, I think we have to remember something here," Hutchinson admonished. "An indictment of any kind is not a guilty verdict, and I do think we have in this country the right to go to court and have due process and be innocent until proven guilty. And secondly, I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. So they go to something that trips someone up because they said something in the first grand jury and then maybe they found new information or they forgot something and they tried to correct that in a second grand jury.

"I think we should be very careful here, especially as we are dealing with something very public and people's lives in the public arena. I do not think we should prejudge. I think it is unfair to drag people through the newspapers week after week after week, and let's just see what the charges are. Let's tone down the rhetoric and let's make sure that if there are indictments that we don't prejudge."

   But, if those on the Right can't have it both ways, then neither can those on the Left; fair is fair, after all. Shifting the issues here to preserve the present moral (and political) highground serves no one well. Even assuming for sake of argument that the adminstration lied about everything in the run-up to the Iraq War (an argument that I think is still rather less than ironclad, but I'll indulge it for sake of demonstration), this case is no more about about that deception than Clinton's was about oral sex. (I might argue that it is even less so, but I am really short on time.)

   It's about how someone acts before a grand jury. Under oath.

   It's about how one individual seeks to subvert the judicial process and - by extension - We, the People.

   I don't really care what the subject of the investigation is. Tell the truth (or plead the Fifth, if that option is available), but deceiving a grand jury -- regardless of reason -- is simply never an option.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What that woman said on Meet the Press....

No republican would ever, in a million years, have said it about Bill Clinton. How hypocritical can a person be? I mean, was she even listening to herself?

--me

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Libby said...

Point well taken Exile, but I still maintain that lying about a consenual sexual activity between two adults is a lot shakier ground to even begin an investigation. Clinton may have lied, as any man might trying to hide his infidelity from his wife, the White House lied about something far more serious and that has had serious reprecussions on this country in too many ways to detail in comments.

Frankly, I can't believe, after all the information that has now come out from so many different sources, that you have difficulty in accepting they deliberately lied to take us to war.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Bostonian Exile said...

And yours is well taken, too, Libby. Here's a small clarification of the distinction I was trying to draw in my haste this morning.

First, the Clinton investigation started long before the "consensual sexual activity" you noted, rather like your own pursuit of the administration's march to war started long before Scooter Libby was called to testify. Now, I don't mean to equate your blogging efforts with Ken Starr's investigation (I'm sure such a thing would be insulting to you, and that is not my intent); I'm just laying out a timeline.

Second, as many have said (including you, if memory serves), "It's not the crime, but the cover-up . . . ." Engaging in consensual sexual activity: not a crime. Lying about it during a deposition under oath: well, there is enough to charge there, but I'll acknowledge that conviction will depend entirely upon the specifics. Discussing with the Vice-President the identity of a CIA operative, when both parties to the conversation have the required security clearances: not a crime. Leaking Valerie Plame's identity: probably not a crime (based on what we have heard over the last week, but that could change). Misleading the grand jury about either of those thing: Indictable, with perhaps a greater likelihood for conviction than above.

Third, to further point two, the charged crime (as the leaks suggest -- again, subject to change) has at best a tenuous tie to the "calculated deception to take our country to war" as you call it. If he were covering up that fact by mistating the date on which he knew of Valerie Plame, I would have no quibble. But even if I accept that proposition as absolute truth, Scooter Libby's action did not tend to cover up that scandal. The cover-up here is of something much more mundane. And that is what I meant by "shifting the issue."

Fifth, I can understand on a human level as to why Clinton wanted to lie to save his hide at home. But on an intellectual (and professional) level, I find the rationale fully unacceptable. Though Paula Jones's suit ultimately proved fruitless, she was entitled to fair discovery during the proceedings and no matter how great a legal mind Bill Clinton has, it was not his prerogative to pre-emptively limit it, but that of the judge in the case. Would it have been permissible discovery? That's perhaps a debatable question, but it was not Clinton's question to answer in the negative.

Lastly, I recognize your disbelief. In my defense, I have some nagging doubts as to intent to deceive; I'm not saying that it didn't happen, but I need to see more that is suggestive on that point, and I am open to authentic sources that tend to address that concern directly, and I always have been. Also, despite the numerous sources, they have quite a way to go to approach "ironclad" status in my book. They don't need the proof to have a 1 in 7.8 trillion chance of being wrong in order to sway me, but there are fair gaps I would yet like filled. As you know, I have budged in the past, and can do so in the future with the right evidence.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Bostonian Exile said...

Good God... My "short" clarifications never are, it seems.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Don Phelps said...

How has the Republican Party survived over the years. Since the civil war they've been totally rotten. They're either totally corrupt, or ignorant, cheap, and psychotic, and/or fascist. They loved George lll the king, and they've hated democracy, they hate poor people and they're a collection of ass-kissing suck-ups. Even the decent one's, who are rare, are dumb as hell.

7:27 PM  

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