One year from now, George W. Bush will almost certainly celebrate the end 2008 - and his term of office - with a festive round of questionable pardons and, possibly, even a few Scooter Libby-like commutations. Questionable pardons have become a holiday tradition for presidents in their last year in office.
Some Republicans will try to say Bill Clinton started it with his pardon of billionaire tax evader Marc Rich. But questionable pardons have been something of a Republican specialty in recent decades.
Nixon pardoned Jimmy Hoffa and George Steinbrenner. Ford pardoned Nixon and the Vietnam draft evaders. Ronald Reagan pardoned two FBI agents convicted of breaking into Vietnam protesters' digs. Most of these questionable pardons came in the middle of terms.
It was Bush the Elder who seems to have started the end-of-term tradition when he covered his own wrinkled old ass with a questionable pardon of Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger for lying to the independent counsel then looking into the Iran-Contra Affair. Once pardoned, Weinberger could not be compelled to tell the truth about his or Bush the Elder's role in selling arms to Iran during the Camelot that was the Reagan presidency.
What a guy.
Now it will be Junior's turn. And there he'll be, spending that last Christmas in the White House with little left to do except cover eight years' worth of potentially criminal tracks.
Bet you this will be one round of legal flim-flammery he won't entrust to the usual legal suspects. No naïve, amateurish, Gonzales-like deliberations for this job. No.
The corruption and chicanery fall way too close to home. These are the guys who flew teams of lawyers into Florida aboard Enron company planes in 2000. The guys who let energy companies shape energy policy. Jack Abramoff's bobos. Karl Rove's slappies. The ones who lied us into a war, borrowed hundreds of billions to fund it, and plan to leave the real work of extracting Uncle Sam's fanny from that meat grinder to the next administration.
Deciding who gets pardons and who gets left twisting in the wind should be a job for a team of tough, seasoned experts. If I were Junior, I'd spiff James Baker a few million to make sure it's done right.
It's a big, subtle job. After eight years on the White House, they're not going to be able to remove every skeleton from every closet or erase every email from the government and Republican party hard drives. If they're not careful, if they're not meticulously thorough, somebody critical is going to be left unpardoned. Feelings will be hurt. Egos bruised. Book deal or grand jury, somebody will tell-all.
So let the speculation begin. Take a moment, hit comment, and enter the George W. Bush Pardon Pool below.
Tell us: Who Bush will pardon a year from now? Why? Who will he throw to the lions? Why?
I'm sorry to say that, in spite of the booming Bush economy, there will be no prizes. But when the man finishes his term with that breathless flurry of pardons you will have the satisfaction of referring your friends back to this post, and saying, "See? I told you so."