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Just how low will President Bush go?
Just how low will President George W. Bush go? No, Im not referring to his approval rating which currently hovers around the mid-20 percent range making him the least popular
president since Richard Nixon.
Im wondering how low he can go in demonstrating a lack of good and sound judgment in his decision-making process.
There have been a number of examples of less-than-stellar judgment in his decisions: the Iraq war and the manner in which it has been prosecuted; the Mission Accomplished sign on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln; not vetting Bernard Kerick before nominating him for Secretary of Homeland Security; his saying that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is the right man for the job only to replace him the day after the Republicans took a beating in the election; the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court (I had to use at least one example that even those on the far right had to begrudgingly agree with); the Hurricane Katrina response and the Brownie, youre doing a heck of a job statement; the seaports deal with the United Arab Emirates; ad nauseam.
Now add to that list President Bushs announcement Monday that he was commuting the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis Scooter Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted in federal court for perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.
There are some who welcomed the news. Libby supporters have contended that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald should never have been appointed and that there was no underlying crime.
Even President Bush didnt buy those arguments. If he had, he would have pardoned Libby which would have been a complete eradication of the conviction record, making it as if Libby had never been convicted. Bush didnt proclaim Libbys innocence nor did he say the charges should not have been brought. The President, instead, commuted Libbys prison sentence, leaving in place a $250,000 fine and two years of probation
What Bush said, in a written statement released during the long Fourth of July holiday, is that he found the sentence excessive.
Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that 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. They say that had Mr. Libby only told the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place, Bush said in his statement. But he went on to add, I respect the jurys verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libbys sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison.
Reaction to the Presidents decision, as could be expected, fell mostly along party lines.
After evaluating the facts, the president came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct, said former New York Mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
The arrogance of this administrations disdain for the law and its belief it operates with impunity are breathtaking. Will the president also commute the sentences of others who obstructed justice and lied to grand juries, or only those who act to protect President Bush and Vice President Cheney, said New Mexico Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson.
The man who got the conviction, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, reacted to the presidents decision by saying, In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principal guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.
The public has started to weigh in on the decision. In an LATimes.com poll on Tuesday morning which asked, Do you agree with Pres. Bush that 30 months in federal prison is excessive for telling a lie? only 9.4 percent of the 1,734 respondents said yes while 90.6 percent said no. And by Tuesday morning 64,732 people had responded to a CNN.com Quick Vote which asked, Was President Bush right to commute Lewis Scooter Libbys prison sentence? with 21 percent saying yes and 79 percent saying no.
Now those results are a new low, even for President Bush.
To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Kris Passey or Scott Frank e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.