Monday, July 02, 2007

Scooter Libby and the war on excess

Bush has issued a statement about his commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence. It’s rather weasely, listing arguments on both sides (“Critics of the investigation have argued... critics point out... critics say the punishment does not fit the crime... Others point out...”) and then failing to spell out which of those arguments informed his decision. All he actually says is that the sentence was “excessive,” which allows him to say that he “respects” the jury’s verdict, it’s just that stoopid judge who got it wrong.

The word excessive is actually rather non-specific. My computer’s dictionary defines excessive as “more than is necessary, normal, or desirable,” which are three quite different things. So was the sentence excessive because there should never have been a trial for obstruction because no one was charged with leaking Plame’s name (one of the things critics “point out”), or excessive because Scooter was a great guy whose “years of exceptional public service” (one hopes that the way Scooter “served” the public was an exception rather than the norm) merited mercy, or excessive because Bush considers the offence trivial? He doesn’t say wherein lies the excess.

Since some of that exceptional public service was conducted when he had the title Assistant to the President (which he held at the same time he was Cheney’s chief of staff), it was especially incumbent upon him to distance himself from Scooter’s actions rather more clearly.

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