Archive - Jul 4, 2007

There's No I In Scooter

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Happy Independence Day. And in honor of independence, allow me to help you stay independent from people saying stupid shit. Specifically, people saying stupid shit about Scooter Libby. SCOOTER'S IDIOT FRIENDS SAY THE DAMNDEST THINGS!

"My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting." - George W. Bush

There are a few things about this that we have to establish as crystal fucking clear. And the first, and most important, is that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is not suffering and will not suffer. Not now. That litany of "harsh punishment", which you will hear repeated by many people soon (if you haven't already) is purest bullshit.

The fines? Please. I know $250,000 seems like a lot of money to the rest of us, but if you really think Scooter Libby is going to be wondering whether to buy food or pay his electrical bill as a result of this, you're insane. Yes, it's a large fine. If only Libby were connected to wealthy and powerful people who could lay their hands on that kind of money. If only Libby weren't ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. That assumes he even has to pay it all, up front, right now, while he appeals.

Probation? Consequences of having a felony conviction on his record? He'll have to be extra careful not to get busted for drunk driving for a couple of years, I guess, but other than that, what are the consequences? Are potential employers going to run a background check on Lewis Libby and be SHOCKED to discover he's a convicted felon? No. Everyone knows, and as we've seen all too clearly, there is a large pool of people more than willing to overlook Libby's felony conviction already. If G. Gordon Liddy can be a radio talk show host, I. Lewis Libby will land on his feet.

The same goes for his reputation, only more so. We are at this point because a vast communal fiction has been built up around Scooter, and Bush's commuting of the sentence is part and parcel of that fiction. As long as that fiction - components of which include "no underlying crime" and "politically motivated" - remains intact, then Scooter Libby has an entirely fictional reputation he can turn to whenever he needs it.

Shed no tears for Scooter Libby. Even if anything being said about his horrible tribulations were true, he's still coming out of it with a better life than you have.

"His decision to commute Libby’s sentence but not erase his conviction was exactly right. It punishes him for his perjury, but not for the phantasmagorical political farce that grew to surround him. It takes away his career, but not his family." - David Brooks, in the New York Times.

And that's the other thing we need to nip right in the fucking bud. Let's not pretend that President Bush saw an injustice, wrestled with how best to balance the rule of law and a political circus gotten out of hand, and made a wise, middle-of-the-road decision. Because crazy people pretend that.

What Bush did is what he does. He protects himself first, his associates second, and constructs a minimally plausible framework in which to justify it, knowing that there are people like David Brooks out there who will repeat it and maybe even believe it.

Remember what the new standard is, people. As long as someone in a suit can provide an explanation for how an action is legal, right, or just, that action cannot be proven to be illegal, wrong, or unjust. That is the rule under which we operate. Someone, somewhere, comes up with an explanation and gets a guy in a suit to recite it on TV. The explanation may not hold water, but that doesn't matter, because nobody will ever even consider trying to pour water into it. That would be rude.

That's the ultimate lesson of Scooter Libby, right there. A court may have convicted him. A judge may have sentenced him. But as long as there's one dickhead in a suit with the power to say he doesn't have to go to jail, and a whole other passel of dickheads in suits to nod knowingly and agree, then the jury and the judge didn't actually determine anything. They're just part of the show.