Posted by: mutantpoodle | July 5, 2007

LA Times fumbles Commutation op-ed; fails to read own front page

homersimpson36-777805It’s usually the Wall Street Journal op-ed writers who clearly don’t read the first-rate reporting that takes place on virtually every other page if its paper.

Yesterday, it was ones working at the LA Times.

In one of their more idiotic editorials, they tried to split the baby and wound up killing it:

Bush is correct that Libby’s sentence of 30 months in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice was harsh; a shorter sentence ordinarily would have been appropriate for a first offender and an unlikely recidivist. Yet a federal appeals judge let the harsh sentence stand for the same reasons that Martha Stewart spent five months in prison for similar but lesser offenses: No meaningful investigation is possible if high-placed people can get away with lying to investigators. And prison time is the only meaningful deterrent to perjury by the rich and powerful.

Here’s the test of my letter in response (with handy links, if you want to check them out):

Your editorial (“Lucky Libby”, July 4th, 2007) on President Bush’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence for Perjury and Obstruction of Justice begs two questions.

First, do you read your own paper? On page A1 on the very same day of your editorial, Richard B. Schmitt and David G. Savage reported that Libby’s sentence wasn’t at all excessive, when compared to those who were convicted of the same crimes as Libby and were not friends with Dick Cheney. And the same arguments you cited in your editorial – first time offense, service to community, and unlikely recidivism – fall on deaf ears when not uttered by a uniquely well-connected individual.

Second, do you actually know what the Federal sentencing guidelines were in this case? Notwithstanding the probation officer’s report recommending 15 months in prison, the mandatory enhancements associated with Libby’s crime made the minimum sentence 30 months. In other words, Libby got the lightest sentence possible under the Federal Guidelines (which Bush normally pushes to extend!), and yet that was “harsh”?

A jury and judge applied justice in this case, in the form of four guilty verdicts and the lightest sentence possible under the guidelines, and completely in keeping with sentences for similar crimes prosecuted by Bush’s own Justice Department. What, of those facts, made you conclude that a shorter sentence “would have been appropriate?”

[Thanks to Emptywheel for the sentencing info.]

I am stunned that allegedly well-informed people can swing and miss this badly on a topic. I completely get that if you think Scooter Libby was railroaded (and I believe you need to have blinders completely covering your eyes to do so, but it happens) then a pardon is in order; if you think he perjured himself, then he should do time. And before you say he got a raw deal, maybe you should look and see what normally happens in cases like this, where the underlying crime is as serious as, say, treason, before making spouting glib, reasonable-sounding hogwash. I think all the hand-wringing about Scooter doing time has to do with how much like him so many of the hand-wringers are: educated, smart, and elite. Scooter is one of them, and folks like them don’t go to jail.

This also points out the strangeness of Bush’s action – unless it is, as I believe, part of an attempt to prevent Scooter Libby from ever being pressured to tell the truth about who did what with respect the the destruction of an intelligence asset of the United States.

Don’t think so? Angry Black Bitch lays it out:

If it walks like a payoff and talks like a payoff we need to call it what it is. President Bush commuted Libby’s sentence and took away the legal pressure of looming jail time that would have… might have…oh, fuck it y’all know that motherfucker was gonna talk if he went to jail.


What I don’t get is how anyone can truly be shocked that the same President who subverted the rule of law to go to war would subvert the rule of law to protect the people who helped him subvert the rule of law to go to war.

It’s like sitting down to chat with a dawg and then getting frustrated that all she does is bark.

I swear, I am going to move on from this topic, as soon as the tide of idiocy recedes.


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