Scooter and Bill

Are folks like me hypocritical in urging Bush to pardon Scooter Libby? The argument goes that those who wanted to impeach Bill Clinton and remove him from office for lying under oath are now excusing Libby for doing the same thing. I don’t think the comparison is valid.

Clinton was at the time president of the United States, the chief law enforcement officer, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Thus it is much more significant when the president lies under oath than when an assistant to the Vice President lies under oath. If the Senate had voted to remove Clinton from office, he would have gone home and resumed the life of a free man.

Libby, on the other hand, was prosecuted in a criminal trial and now faces years in prison if he is not pardoned. Unlike Patrick Fitzgerald, Robert Ray, the independent counsel in Clinton’s case, refused to prosecute him.

The bottom line: Clinton was impeached (a political indictment) and “acquitted” by the Senate; Libby was criminally indicted and convicted by a jury willing to believe Tim Russert rather than him. With Clinton, the Republican Senate preferred to engage in a willing suspension of disbelief (reasonable doubt) in order to avoid installing Al Gore in the White House.

They used to say that perjury is hard to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt,” because it’s impossible to read a person’s mind, which is exactly what Fitzgerald asked the jury to do.

I would, I think, find it difficult to send someone to jail based on conflicting memories, especially when the defendant is not accused of any underlying crime. But I would be more willing to believe the prosecutor’s argument in a similar situation if the penalty weren’t time in prison.

Ann Coulter, despite her entirely gratuitous use of the word faggot in describing John Edwards, is still a terrific columnist. She provides some comparative history of Republican versus Democratic prosecutions.

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