Profile in Non-Courage

The only good thing about Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s absurd jail sentence is that Libby may still win on appeal and/or have Patrick Fitzgerald declared illegal or unconstitutional.

Still, today’s Wall Street Journal editorial is entirely correct in blasting Bush’s “profile in non-courage”:

This [commutation] will stand as a dark moment in this Administration’s history. Joe Wilson’s original, false accusation about pre-war intelligence metastasized into the issue of who “outed” his wife, Valerie Plame, as an intelligence officer. As the event unfolded, it fell to Mr. Libby to defend the Administration against Mr. Wilson’s original charge, with little public assistance or support from the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell or Stephen Hadley.

In no small part because of these profiles in non-courage, it was Mr. Libby who found himself caught up in prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s hunt for the Plame leaker, which he and his masters at Justice knew from Day One to be State Department official Richard Armitage. As Mr. Fitzgerald’s obsessive exercise ground forward, Mr. Libby got caught in a perjury net that we continue to believe trapped an innocent man who lost track of what he said, when he said it, and to whom.

Mr. Bush’s commutation statement yesterday is another profile in non-courage. He describes the case for and against the Libby sentence with an antiseptic neutrality that would lead one to conclude that somehow the whole event was merely the result of Mr. Libby gone bad as a solo operator. Here is how Mr. Bush addressed it in his statement yesterday, which may now stand as history’s take-away from the Libby trial:

“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. . . . The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.”

Mr. Libby deserved better from the President whose policies he tried to defend when others were running for cover. The consequences for the reputation of his Administration will also be long-lasting.

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