Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How to Set a Bad Example

Howdy folks.

I originally sent this as an email to my Dad a little bit ago, but on a second look liked it so much that, with a couple of edits, I've transformed it into a blog entry.

Caveat: 'Tis easier to understand of what is said below if you've been watching the news, about something other than terror plots in Britain. President Bush did something yesterday...I didn't like. Again.

My opposition to the commutation of the sentence for I. Lewis Libby actually has little to do with his conviction, or what he did or didn't do. He had an appeals process going on, which should have been allowed to go forward with "Scooter" Libby being in jail...why? It's the message the President's action sends - disrespect for the institutions of law which form the foundation of the system we enjoy. Weakening "Scooter" Libby's punishment weakens, if you ask me, the credibility of the office of the president. It doesn't seem that accountability is as important to this administration as the exercise of power is.

What it also does is set a bad example for future presidencies, whether Republican or Democrat. They'll look at the precedent set by this administration and say "Well, if they could do it, why can't we?" Bush did it with signing statements, referring to past presidencies and to Clinton. Don't tell me that a future president won't commute the sentence of a former official in his or her administration convicted for some crime or other, and justify the act by referring to this president's example. It could, and likely will, happen...and this president made it easier for it to happen.

If Hillary Clinton becomes president, and she does something similar - well, Republicans would have difficulty criticizing her from a moral high ground they no longer possess. I don't think Democrats hold it either, by the way.

I like to think I grew quite adept at looking U.S. politics with a sense of emotional detachment, in spite of my attachment to the country overall, while living in Israel. As I've said in the past to others, it is far easier to see the source or cause of a pond's ripples, who threw in the rock that hit the fish on the head, when above the surface, as opposed to when you're underneath it.

My reaction now is undeniably emotional, but my conclusions are unequivocally rational...formed gradually.

I look at a series of events, over time, and see a pattern I don't like. Were there not the chance that a future president would follow the example of his predecessors, I might think differently. But George Washington knew that what he did would set a standard, and every president since has had a keen interest in his own legacy...Bush is human, and no different from past presidents in this regard.

The Founders knew human nature, knew the potential for power to be abused by those who attain it. That's why what's in the Constitution is in the Constitution; that's why there's a Bill of Rights. That's why Libby should have served
some time in jail while his appeal went through. Sure, the Constitution mentions presidential pardons, but it also speaks of the judiciary. The Bill of Rights speaks of jury trials, punishments, etc. There's a process; you shouldn't just flout that.

Whatever President Nixon did, I believe that President Ford was correct in pardoning him, for the effect it eventually had on the Republic. However,
this doesn't end a national nightmare; in the minds of those who are experiencing one, it is likely only to make it seem as if things are worse. Had this sort of thing happened at the end of Bush's second term, I probably wouldn't feel the same way. The perception given off would have been the same, but the message different. Even if it had been a full pardon, rather than just a weakening of a punishment.

One of these days, we need to take a look at that Constitution again, and consider amendments that have little to do with gay marriage, flag-burning, and other things which I feel should be left to the States. And when I say look at that Constitution, I refer specifically to the powers of the president to...pardon, or commute prison sentences. It's just a thought.

What President Bush did for Libby was just as wrong as what that California sheriff did for Paris Hilton, releasing her early to house arrest - it makes it seem as if laws and rulings, findings and convictions, are merely suggestions rather than
requirements. It gives the impression that some are above the law, and others not so fortunate...especially those who might be innocent, but who, when punished, do not count among their friends the President of the United States of America.


Anne & Grayson said...


I am sure you have already seen this.. Makes for interesting, if not sickening reading.

Miguel Borzutzky said...

I agree with you Jeremy it sets up a very bad precedent for future american presidents. Especially the republicans, who´s moral grounds have been severly undermined by Bush´s negligence in Irak and the non-decission of attacking Iran before its too late.