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Few surprises for Bush watchers

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We greeted the news Tuesday morning with slow head shakes, laconic eye rolls and cynical grimaces. Nobody was particularly incensed. And nobody was surprised. On Monday evening, President Bush commuted Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s 30-month prison sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame affair. Plame, of course was outed as a covert CIA agent after her husband Joseph Wilson penned an op-ed in The New York Times laying waste to the administration’s claim that Iraq was buying yellow cake uranium from Nigeria. Columnist Robert Novak was the first to reveal Ms. Plame’s status as a covert agent in print, but the primary source of the leak has been traced to the White House – in particular to Karl Rove and the office of the vice president, Dick Cheney, where Scooter Libby was at the time chief of staff. Libby took the fall in the ensuing hearing, which also surprised no one in the YES! Weekly offices. Guys with names like “Scooter” will always take the fall for politically savvy, well-connected and Teflon-coated power mongers like Rove and Cheney. And it’s worth a couple sentences here to explore the themes of hypocrisy and irony in this case. The clarion call to patriotism and blind obedience from the White House in the years following 9-11 is at odds with revealing the identity (and endangering the life of) an actual patriot who put service to her country before all else. And for a couple of guys who are so consumed with maintaining their own privacy – destroying visitor logs, retaining secret staffs, dumping years’ worth of White House internal e-mails – they have very little respect for the privacy of our nation’s covert operatives – the ones who are against them, anyway – and also the American people, whose phone conversations they’ve been listening to for years. But the real point of interest here is that by commuting Libby’s sentence, Bush has committed yet another atrocious political blunder. The guy’s about as popular as garlic candy right now with members of his own party, particularly the ones gunning for his job, who are scrambling over each other in order to distance themselves from him. About the only supporters he has left are the ones who vote Republican because they believe it’s un-American not to do so, comprised mostly of the law-and-order crowd and evangelical Christians, neither of which have historically shown a lot of tolerance for lying under oath, let alone inhibiting our ability to fight terrorists or committing subterfuge on the American Way. Just ask Bill Clinton. But the funniest thing about this is that Libby probably didn’t deserve the 30-month sentence to begin with. He didn’t spring the leak – all he did was lie to protect the ones who did. But try telling that to the legions of scorned Republicans who believe that bearing false witness should not only be punished in the almighty kingdom of heaven but also here on earth.

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