Monday 16 July 2007 Party affiliation aside, based upon the polls, most Americans are thoroughly disgusted with President Bush commuting a portion of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s sentence. According to a CNN poll, “Fully 64 percent of all Americans and 69 percent of voters said they disapproved of the commutation. Broken down by party affiliation, 76 percent of Democrats, 47 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of Independents said they disapproved.” Few people were surprised; most felt that it was going to happen. Still, in spite of the perceived inevitability, the news has filled a majority of voters with a deep sense of disgust.
On Monday, July 2, President George W. Bush spat in the eye of the American public when he said, “… I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.” Wait a minute; that does not make any sense when taken in the context of his opening remarks. President Bush opened by saying, “From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department.” Obviously, this was not made clear to Mr. Libby. In spite of Vice President Cheney’s ridiculous claim that the office of the VP is not a part of the executive branch, Libby was a part of the staff, a part of the administration. If Libby lied to the FBI and obstructed the investigation, he failed to fully cooperate with said investigation and the president’s requirement. This is why he is now a convicted felon and will forever be referred to in many circles as federal inmate number 28301-016.
In framing his argument, the president said that those in support of the Fitzgerald investigation “argue correctly” in saying “… our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable.” Still, contradicting his own logic, the president took it upon himself to overturn the sentencing decision of his own appointee, United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton; the trial process; the jury’s verdict, the appellate process and federal sentencing guidelines when he commuted the prison sentence of Scooter Libby.
Many of those who agree with Bush’s decision would like to have Americans believe that this is analogous to President Clinton’s pardon of Susan McDougal. In fact, these two instances are in no way similar. Mrs. McDougal was sent to prison by a judge for civil contempt of court; Scooter Libby was convicted by a jury of his peers on four felony charges. McDougal served eighteen months in jail, including seven weeks in solitary confinement. She paid her debt to society. Libby, after being convicted, walked free. Finally, since Mrs. McDougal had served her time, President Clinton did not receive any personal benefit by granting her a pardon. Many believe that President Bush commuted Libby’s sentence in order to protect himself and VP Cheney from possible criminal or impeachment processes.
Many people continue to ask, “What else was to be expected from this administration?” After all, this is the administrations whose lies are responsible for 3,660 US troop deaths, 35,638 wounded US troops, the death or injury of over 600,000 Iraqis, and $439 billion in taxpayers’ money being wasted in Iraq. While illegally invading sovereign nations under the pretext of spreading democracy, the president tramples on his own constitutional processes in order to protect himself and his friends. This latest act and its rationale are just more of the same. Just when we thought that President Bush could not do another thing to lower the standing of this country in the eyes of the international community, he struck again.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) was correct in stating, “When it comes to the law, there should not be two sets of rules – one for President Bush and Vice President Cheney and another for the rest of America. Even Paris Hilton had to go to jail. No one in this administration should be above the law.” America needs to closely scrutinize the character and judgment of individuals such as former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee), who said, “While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president’s decision. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life,” and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who stated, “After evaluating the facts, the president came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct.”
Americans are thoroughly disgusted with this man who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic, but has proven to be one of the greatest domestic constitutional enemies in the history of this country. Most people have been raised to believe in doing what is right. What do we tell our children and those who look to the actions of our leaders for examples of virtue? Now, all bets are off; the fix is in; the game rigged. The Golden Rule is truly, “he with the gold rules.”
As we have just celebrated the 231st year of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of this nation, we know how the colonists felt. On July 4, 1776 many of the colonists signed on to a document that stated “The history of the present King of Great Britain (King George III) was a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” As our president has illegally wiretapped American citizens, used lies and deceit to place our military and citizenry in harm’s way, and detained individuals without their constitutional guarantees while allowing his criminal friends to walk free, are we not living a similar history?
By engaging in the aforementioned practices, have not President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others in this administration committed the same offenses that the signatories of the Declaration of Independence accused the King of Great Britain of committing? According to the Declaration, “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good; … He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers; … He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power, … and He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.” President Bush’s commuting of Libby’s sentence proves to me that the president believes as King George III of Great Britain believed in 1776, when the colonists charged “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution.”
One of the many things that is admirable about America is that we do not have to follow in the footsteps of the “… Continental Army who dropped pitchforks and took up muskets to fight for our freedom and liberty and independence,” as the president stated in his July Fourth address to the West Virginia Air National Guard. The signatories of the Declaration of Independence understood that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed. Even though our Declaration states, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Today we have a Constitution that allows for the orderly redress of grievances between the government and the governed.
As Americans celebrated the Fourth of July in their back yards and, thanks to his friends in high places, I. Lewis Libby, federal inmate 28301-016, walked free in his, Americans clearly understood how the colonists felt. Remember this as we continue to celebrate the Declaration of Independence, “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Even though it is not King George III but President George II, don’t pick up your musket, pick up your pen. In this constitutional democracy, the pen is mightier than the sword! If you don’t protect your rights today, you may not have any left to protect tomorrow.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is Producer/Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “On With Leon” on XM Satellite Radio Channel 169, Producer/Host of the television program “Inside The Issues With Wilmer Leon” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, DC. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: email@example.com.
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