There are fewer members of the Washington establishment that I detest more than Richard “Dickface” Cohen. I noticed yesterday evening that he’s finally soured on his hero John McCain, but I’m willing to predict that within a few weeks he’ll have decided that McCain has somehow regained his honor, and that Obama has committed some unforgivable transgression of campaigning, and at this point Cohen will happily resume shilling for the Arizona senator. Cohen is as much of a turncoat liberal as Joe Lieberman, and soon enough he’ll return, tail between his legs, to genuflect at the altar of power.
One of the most sickening episodes during the Bush administration, one that betrayed so many members of the Washington press as nothing more than sycophantic lapdogs for the establishment power structure, was the conviction of Scooter Libby and the commutation of his sentence by President Bush. Among the litany of abuses of the basic principles of both democracy and constitutional government, this was the one example that stood out to me as an unmistakable signal that our system of representational government, as articulated in the Constitution, was in dire jeopardy.
I’ve seen a number of lists of questions that the press should theoretically be asking Sarah Palin, if they ever get a chance to query her outside of a very strictly controlled setting (such as Charles Gibson’s interview, which was surprisingly adversarial). But I’ve got one question that’s been bugging me that I’d really like to see someone ask John McCain: “Did you think it was appropriate for the President to commute the sentence of convicted perjurer Scooter Libby, and would you have done the same thing?”
The Film: The Bourne Ultimatum
The Song: “Extreme Ways”
The Artist: Moby
The facts of the Scooter Libby conviction were relatively simple. During the investigation of the exposure of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame (and yes, she was fucking covert), Libby had told FBI investigators that he learned of Plame’s status from Tim Russert (who, in a shocking inversion of standard journalistic practices, acknowledged that all his conversations with potential sources were presumptively “off the record”), and not from Dick Cheney. He repeated these claims before a grand jury, thus impeding Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into to the ultimate source of the leak. Libby was convicted on four of five counts (making false statements to federal investigators, perjury, perjury again, and obstruction of justice) by a jury. Once Judge Reggie Walton (one of my judicial heroes, second only to Judge Michael T. Sauer, who once pulled a great white shark from the ocean with his bare hands and used it beat a grizzly bear to death) began deliberating Libby’s sentence, he was inundated with letters from Libby’s friends and colleagues, most of whom implored the judge to show leniency towards the convicted felon.
Shortly after Judge Walton discounted all the letters of support, caustically questioning the motives of many of the authors, and sentenced Libby to a comparatively lenient sentence of 30 months in prison, President Bush declared that, “I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.” In my opinion, any Congress, when faced with the proposition of the President commuting the sentence of a convicted felon who may possibly have committed his crime at the president’s bidding, should have impeached the President on the spot, without hesitation. Here’s why: when Congress fails to do so, they open the door for any President to order any crime committed on his behalf, with the prospect of zero consequences to whomever carries out the prescribed action. All the perpetrator has to do is maintain silence, suffer a conviction, and then waltz free as soon as the President declares the sentence “excessive.” Even Nixon didn’t have the balls to attempt something so brazen, but President Bush showed no hesitation to spare Libby the prospect of imprisonment and Congress (controlled by the Democratic party) meekly submitted to the President’s will.
What would Jason Bourne, or Michael Westen of Burn Notice, have done if their cover had been blown for nakedly political purposes? I’m certain that retribution would be swift, harsh, and appropriately brutal. And what was Richard Cohen’s reaction to all this fuss? He declared, “this is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.” I find that for a political commentator to make such a statement makes about as much sense as a San Fernando Valley pornography director shooting his films in pitch darkness.
The Bourne films have been a fun series. Moby’s song “Extreme Ways” has been used at the end of all three films, and this is my favorite closing of the three. The Bourne Ultimatum ends the same way that The Bourne Identity began; with Jason Bourne floating motionlessly underwater. It’s a nice circular way to bring the trilogy to a close, and although there has been some talk of making additional films, I’d prefer that they leave this series well enough alone.
Jason Bourne’s thoughts on Palin.