The Libby Pardon: Dancing Around the Central Issue

I am certain everyone on all sides of the Libby-Cheney-Plame affair gets it. But, for some reason, no one says it. Instead they indulge arcane questions of Bush's legacy, poll numbers, comparisons to Bill Clinton's perjury and/or Bill Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich.

It is very simple: Libby has three paths to avoid jail. He may win his appeal. He may get a pardon or a commutation of his sentence.

Failing those, he can sing to Patrick Fitzgerald in exchange for a suspended sentence. Libby knows where all Cheney's bodies are buried. The White House calculation is whether Libby will hang tough: he will never be able to practice law again anyhow, but he could get a multi-million dollar advance on a book deal, and probably find a radical rightwing belief-tank that would take him in so long as he remains loyal. On the other hand, if he does not remain loyal, he avoids jail (wonder how well a man named "Scooter" will fare in prison?), could still get a multi-million dollar advance and could find some belief-tank that will take him, even if it is not first-tier.

The ONLY reason to send Libby to jail during his appeal is to pressure him to sing, and the ONLY incentive to pardon him if he is forced to go to jail is to buy his silence. For all those who say Libby's misstatements were the product of pressure and faulty memory, note this and note it well: Libby's lies were not random, as they would have been if he had just "misremembered". They were all carefully designed to obstruct the investigation from reaching the vice president.

Whether Bush pardons him will shed light on the Bush-Cheney relationship, especially on Iraq. If Bush were indeed a proactive protagonist in the Iraq mess, he will pardon Libby as a co-conspirator. If he were among those who feel duped by Cheney, he may not feel so inclined.

I have written several times in this space about why Cheney should be impeached. It is not because he is challenging Nixon for the title of the most venal individual in high office in US history. It is not because everything he touches fails, it is not even because he misled the country, and it is not even that he lies every chance he gets (why the fractured, "I'm not part of the Executive Branch", if, as was later asserted, the president had exempted him from the Executive Order on document retention?).

Cheney may have broken no law (which is why Fitzgerald could not reach him). But, by outing Valerie Plame (from which Cheney might be able to exempt himself from violating the law by declassifying her status), Dick Cheney provided aid-and-comfort to enemies of the United States, and there was no redeeming rationale for sacrificing her undercover investigation into WMD in Iran. That is a matter SOLELY for the impeachment power.

If Bush does not pardon Libby, and Libby sings, Cheney's operation will come apart. If Bush does pardon Libby, or he somehow does not sing, the Congress needs to move on impeachment.