Catchin' up with Scooter Libby
Basically I spent the week with a family in a tough neighborhood, one of the roughest I've ever seen. The gist of my story is exploring the struggles of "good" people trying to tow the line and live to high standards in a "bad" situation. I don't mean to be cryptic, but that's all I can really give away until I finish writing the project. I hope to finish writing it next week.
Anywho, I'm catching up on news. Really. I haven't paid much attention to what's been happening around me because I haven't really been in a position to listen to radio or catch a TV newscast and I didn't have my laptop with me 'cause it might have been stupid for me to have that thing where I was hanging out. I've called my wife each afternoon to see how she's been doing and I've been hearing about things like kids getting kidnapped and Lewis "Scooter" Libby getting his prison sentence commuted.
My first reaction to the Libby thing was annoyance. But it wasn't fueled by any partisan feelings. I just have a deeply ingrained distaste for even the appearance of impropriety when powerful or powerfully-connected people are involved. I confess if it was Average Joe getting a commutation I probably would have shrugged it off, unless he was a (fairly and honestly) convicted murderer, rapist, etc.
My second reaction was that however distasteful an action, it was the president's legal right to commute Libby's sentence. Most US presidents, at the end of their terms have commuted sentences and issued pardons to dozens - even hundreds - of people at a time. Plus, it's disingenuous for critics to act as though this was unheard of. Former President Clinton was impeached - tried by Congress - for lying. It really isn't a partisan issue.
Still, my third reaction was that it was a bad PR move on the part of President Bush, because he'd made such vehement promises early on in the investigative process to punish any member of his administration found to have played a role in the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Libby didn't play a direct role. But prosecutors believe he lied about having knowledge of other people's roles. A jury agreed. Now what?
Finally, I think the president should have let the appeals process play out. If an appeals court - or a new jury, upon a new trial - declined to spare Libby then President Bush could have stepped in. Jumping in at this point in time under the pretense that Libby's prison sentence was too harsh sent a very bad message to impressionable kids.
While people on both sides of the political aisle blustered about partisanship influencing the president's decision and Libby's punishment being too harsh or too light, or just right, I believe they ALL missed the point that this commutation sent a message (just like Congress did w/Clinton) that high government officials are not important people to this country. They're not saints. They're not super heroes. They're not even necessarily nice, or good-looking, or smart in some cases. But we've always held ranking officials up on a weird sort of pedestal. Even if we knew nothing about them we respected their positions, their titles.
So when we consider that a plastic-filled rapper like Lil' Kim was "important" enough to receive a year-and-a-day federal prison sentence after being convicted by a duly seated jury of lying to grand jury investigators about her knowledge of a shootout outside a New York radio station involving members of her entourage and members of a rival clique. I think she ended up serving 10 months of it.
I'm kidding about that "important" tag, of course. When some school kid in a Jetsons costume opens a 1990s and early 2000s time capsule 50 years from now, I assure you Kim's CDs will not be in it.
But then there was Martha Stewart. She was "important" enough to serve five months in prison and six months of house arrest for being convicted of lying to the government, among other things.
Again, I kid with the "important." Martha Stewart seems to be a smart business person, and powerful, and hard-working, etc. She makes some mean silverware and dishes too. But, like Lil' Kim, nothing Stewart has ever done has involved the operation of the highest offices of government.
In both Kim's and Stewart's cases, as in Libby's, prosecutors emphasized the importance of the defendants doing some prison time so that a message would be sent that lying to Uncle Sam is not kosher.
So, regardless of which party is your favorite and how many past presidents of both parties have pardoned bad people and commuted prison sentences, if a rapper and a domestic business powerhouse are important enough to do time for lying to investigators and prosecutors isn't an aide to the Vice President of the United States at least as important?
BTW, fellas, once you pass the age of 50 it's time to lose nicknames that end in "er" or "ie." My fam quit calling me Jamie by the time I turned 16. I wish they'd quit sooner. I had a boss at a college job whom everyone called "Rickster." I had a co-worker at that same job called "Boomer." Both men were over 50. It ain't cute.