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Pardoning Scooter Libby -- Still a Bad Idea

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In a rather shocking move, Barack Obama's General Counsel Robert F. Bauer adds his voice to the chorus calling for Scooter Libby to be pardoned, but he believes he is coming at it from a different angle than the Libby apologists:

To Bush's antagonists on left, a pardon would be only another act in the conspiracy -- a further cover-up, a way of getting away with it. But this is the entirely wrong way of seeing things. A pardon is just what Bush's opponents should want.

A pardon brings the president into the heart of the case. It compels him to do what he has so far managed to avoid: accept in some way responsibility for the conduct of his Administration in communicating with the public about national security and in its treatment of dissent. If the pardon would be politically explosive, then this is what the administration's critics, hungering for accountability, have been waiting for. The case against this government on the larger charge of abuse of power is diminished, made even laughable, by resolving into a 30-month sentence for an obscure figure named Libby.

This may be well and fine for a Presidential candidate trying to massage a potential pardon into position as a campaign issue, but it's an extremely cynical argument, and I really can't imagine what the Obama campaign was thinking . This is about the rule of law, not political posturing. And as much as all the "liberal progressives" Bauer is preaching to at arms' length would like to see Bush publicly tied to the scandal, at this point in time we'd rather see some respect for the judicial process.

Scooter Libby has a way to go free, and that's to go to Patrick Fitzgerald and say that Dick Cheney ordered him to leak Valerie Plame's identity to Judith Miller. That's what the 30 months in jail is designed to elicit.

Libby did not just "lie," he obstructed justice. He's not some poor patsy, some innocent scapegoat, a good soldier just doing his job. But that's how the clubbish DC elite seem to see him, and in his willingness to ignore Libby's culpability in the situation and the penalty he should most assuredly pay having been found guilty by a jury of his peers Bauer shows himself to be yet another DC lawyer with little regard for the judicial process that has managed to be successfully carried out despite tremendous opposition from those it threatens. There isn't all that much daylight between himself and the Libby apologists currently screaching in horror because "things like this just don't happen to people like us."

As my co-blogger on Firedoglake, former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith says:

This isn't some political machination point -- this is a conviction on multiple felony counts by a duly constituted jury which reviewed copious evidence and reached a unanimous verdict after weeks and weeks of trial. And a defendant who was just given an enhanced sentence by a federal judge who pointed out that the rule of law must apply equally to every person -- including public officials, whose conduct ought to take into account their fiduciary obligation to the public. If Obama's chief counsel wants to throw that out to score some political points, then Obama ought to clairfy what his commitment is to the rule of law and upholding the constitution before he should even be considered a viable candidate for President of the United States.

If you want to tie Bush and Cheney to the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, it needs to be done in the appropriate legal context. We already have a judicial system, fragile though it may be at the moment. We believe in making it work.