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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Scooter Libby: the meaning of 30 months

Scooter Libby, convicted felon and perjurer, was sentenced to 30 months in prison today. According to the WaPo: "Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since a group of cases that arose from the Iran-Contra affair of the Reagan era two decades ago."

Dan Froomkin explains the immediate politics of the aftermath, including the issue of a push for a presidential pardon:

Ever since Libby was convicted, his supporters have been urging President Bush to grant him a pardon. If Libby remains free on appeal, Bush would probably postpone such a hugely controversial decision, potentially until his last days in office. If Libby is sent to prison, however, that would likely spark an immediate and furious internecine battle within his administration.

Libby has never admitted that he did anything wrong...

Or, as Andrew Cohen notes:

If you are surprised by the tough sentence U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton just handed down to former White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then you haven't been paying much attention to the case, to the judge's reputation for tough justice, or to the nature of the convictions against Libby when weighed against his background as a lawyer and his prominence in government.

"People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," Judge Walton said to Libby as he was sentencing him to 30 months in a federal prison and fining him $250,000.

What goes less reported in the press is this twofold reality. Convicted felon Scooter Libby held three positions in the Bush White House including one, Special Assistant to the President, that reported directly to President Bush himself and not the Vice President. It was in this capacity that Scooter Libby was, as Bob Woodward noted in Plan of Attack, and omnipresent figure in the lead up to the war in Iraq. I wrote this in 2005 analyzing Woodward's book (and James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans):

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby pops up everywhere in the story of the Bush Administration and the war. His omnipresence, of course, stems from the centrality of his boss, the Vice President, but it's even deeper than that. Libby really was everywhere..."the ever-present other guy in the room." It's funny how many of the photos included in both books have Libby in one corner or another. (Of course Libby's presence is not totally coincidental...Libby was very obviously a source for both Woodward and Mann.)

Libby was a former student and protege of Paul Wolfowitz. When Wolfowitz served as head of the State Department's policy planning staff under Reagan he replaced virtually every staffer, and Libby was one of the new hires that formed, according to Mann, "the heart of a new neoconservative network within the foreign policy bureaucracy." It was working under Wolfowitz and Libby that Zalmay Khalilzad authored the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance (must read link) that served, later, in the Bush / Cheney administration, as a strategic blueprint for American military dominance and use of force.

By the time we get to the presidency of George W. Bush and the run up to war in Iraq, Libby literally is everywhere. Which is fitting, since, he held three jobs, including, unknown to many, a position that was directly responsible to George W. Bush, "Special Assistant to the President." From Woodward, we learn that Libby provided the very flawed and poorly-sourced intelligence dossier that Colin Powell used to prep for his speech before the U.N. We also find this passage, about a summary of intelligence Libby had made to key political strategists just one week before Powell's speech:

On Saturday, January 25, Libby gave a lengthy presentation in the Situation Room to Rice, Hadley, Armitage, Wolfowitz, Dan Bartlett and Michael Gerson. Though she had formally left the White House staff, Karen Hughes was there. Karl Rove was in and out of the meeting.

Holding a thick sheaf of paper, Libby outlined the latest version of the case against Saddam. [snip]...He began each section with blunt conclusions--Saddam has chemical and biological weapons, was producing and concealing them; his ties to bin Laden's al Qaeda network were numerous and strong. (Woodward, 289)

The thirty month term handed down by Judge Walton (actually two jail terms in which the first 15 months is served concurrently with the 30 month sentencing)...whatever the potential pardon or course of the appeals process...is a significant turning point in this story.

Scooter Libby is a man who was central to the "big lie" that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a man who, despite the media's silence on this fact, worked directly for President Bush. Scooter Libby is also a convicted felon who will soon be headed to jail for 30 months. In America that still means something. Scooter Libby's lies about Valerie Plame and his work for the Vice President pale in comparison to the lies that Libby helped fabricate that led to our invasion of Iraq.

That has been the real story behind the Plame affair all along. That story is not over.



  • Calling Scooter Libby part of the big lie is like dancing in the streets when you bust a mafia hitman like you just brought down John Gotti. You got a scapegoat and like an easily placated fool you've settled for it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:01 PM  

  • It's pretty clear you didn't read or understand this piece.

    My point is that the media coverage doesn't mention the role Scooter Libby played as "Special Assistant to the President" and Libby's instrumental part in the preparation of the flawed intelligence dossier that Powell took to the United Nations, among other aspects of Libby's work on the "the Big Lie."

    The big lie, or the network of big lies, that lead us into Iraq has been the real, yet less covered, story behind the Plame affair all along. I've been writing consistently on that topic over many posts.

    Calling me an "easily placated fool" only tells readers more about you than me.

    Seems pretty clear to me you have a preconceived notion about writing about or discussing Scooter Libby at all...since your comment doesn't really reflect on the content of this piece.

    Did you even read it?

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 2:30 PM  

  • K/O, it will be interesting to see how well Libbey holds up now that he's actually been sentenced.

    Play time is over. No one can step up now to help him (a pardon will never happen). He'll have to help himself, if he still can.

    It may not be too late for Scooter to make a deal. As you noted, Scooter was very well connected, including direct access to President Bush.

    Will Scooter throw George under the bus to avoid 2 1/2 years in jail?

    One can only hope!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:42 AM  

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