Monday, July 9, 2007

Bush's Real Fourth of July Message to Nation: Unprintable

Elizabeth de la Vega on Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Libby's 'get out of jail free' deal.

Knowing I could not listen to President Bush's actual voice on what is supposed to be a fun holiday, I turned to the White House web site to find his Fourth of July greeting. We continue to be, the president assures us, steadfastly committed to "America's founding truths" - including, of course, liberty and equality. I think it was the word "equality" that caused me to start choking on my corn on the cob.

Maybe there was some mistake. This web site posting did not even come close to reflecting the president's real Fourth of July message to the nation. That had been quite effectively delivered earlier in the week when Bush announced he was commuting I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence from thirty months to zero months. Apparently confusing his duties as president of the United States with those of a behind-the-plate umpire, President Bush called Libby's sentence "excessive" and threw the prison time out, as casually as if he were calling balls and strikes in a game of sandlot baseball. In so doing, President Bush sent a message to the American people that is as unambiguous as it is unprintable. Expressed verbally, the real message Bush was sending to the people of the United States could have been sent with just two words (the second of which is "you"); expressed physically, Bush's underlying message could have been conveyed with just one finger.

We're not as genteel as Ms. de la Vega: The Chimp's message to all of us was "Fuck you". Just like it's always been.

But, up until July 2, 2007, when he decided to take the law into his own hands, President Bush loved the sentencing guidelines. Bush and the Republicans have, for years, been insisting that the guidelines be applied rigidly - the president was simply not going to have any of this unseemly leniency that was beginning to infect the federal system under his watch. Indeed, in 2003, during the very same period that Bush, Cheney, Libby and the gang were scrambling to squelch the ever-increasing revelations about the president's fraudulent case for war, Bush's Justice Department, then under the leadership of John Ashcroft - and a posse of conservative Republican members of Congress - decided to take on these wimpy judges and make sure that neither they, nor any equally wimpy prosecutors, could exercise any discretion whatsoever with regard to sentencing. Tom DeLay told judges, "We are watching you" and the Bush administration tacked onto a child pornography law an amendment that required every downward departure from the guidelines to be reported to Congress.

Scooter Libby was sentenced in accordance with the sentencing guidelines, to which President Bush has been insisting that prosecutors and judges slavishly adhere ever since he arrived in the White House. The sentencing range required by case law that Bush's own DoJ attorneys have routinely argued for, in cases throughout the country, was 30 to 37 months. Judge Reggie Walton gave Libby the lowest sentence within that range. Legally, the only way the judge could impose a sentence less than 30 months would have been if he had granted Libby's motion for downward departure. Libby had not provided substantial assistance to the government. Therefore, under the rules currently in effect within Bush's Justice Department, Libby had no legitimate ground for downward departure, and Patrick Fitzgerald was required to oppose his motion. If Judge Walton had actually departed downward based on any of these unapproved grounds, Fitzgerald would have been required, per the United States Attorneys' Manual, to report the downward departure so that issue could be evaluated for appeal.

The bottom line is that Bush's commitment to equality, the rule of law and uniform sentencing under the federal guidelines fizzled like a Fourth of July sparkler when it came to his friend.

In other words, well-knowing, despite his repeated assurances to the contrary, that he would never respect any adverse outcome of the criminal case against his and Vice President Cheney's top adviser and friend, the president simply and cravenly waited to reveal his true intentions to the American people until he could wait no longer, all the while hiding behind that very same criminal case.

This extended course of deception does not end the story: The statement Bush made when he emerged briefly from his Kennebunkport estate to issue a reprieve for the wealthy and powerful criminal defendant who happened to be his friend, was, of itself, a multilayered fraud. In his July 2 message, Bush, suddenly Solomon-like, attempted to convince the public that the matter he had been avoiding for four years on the ground that it was a pending legal case is, in fact, nothing more than a political dispute to be resolved through compromise. Clemency, Bush would now have us believe, is a decision to be made by weighing the arguments of "critics" and "supporters" of the investigation as if a pending criminal case could be decided by referendum, or maybe a call-in vote, the way we choose the American Idol. Working from this deliberately false premise, the president then purports to "weigh," as if they were equivalent, the arguments of Libby's defense team, which had already been rejected by Judge Walton and found insubstantial by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, against the actual facts and law of the case.

From the beginning, with regard to the CIA leak investigation, the president has deceived the American people and abused his power in a manner and to a degree that would be awe-inspiring if it were not so disgraceful. His conduct has been a study in perfidy and disregard for the law - the willful betrayal of the confidence and trust of the American people. These are the very definition of impeachable offenses. It is not enough for Congress to ask the public to send petitions and call the White House to "send a message" that the president's conduct will not be tolerated. It is up to Congress to deliver that message, and they know exactly what they have to do.

I think the world of Ms. de la Vega, but boy is she long-winded! There's still more to read.

I think to Bush and his Repugs, 'equality' = IOKIYAR.

No comments: