10 Jun 2007

The Lessons of the Law

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The ineffable David Broder thinks Scooter Libby’s 30 month sentence may have been the result of an unreasonable prosecutorial vendetta, but he still believes that this kind of injustice is nonetheless salutory in affirming the principle that anyone –at least any Republican– can be a victim of our legal system, and as a warning to inner city youth to avoid public service.

Quick! someone on the left tell me again why Bill Clinton’s perjury should not have served as an occasion for the reaffirmation of the universality of the Rule of Law and as an edifying and instructive example of crime and punishment for the young.

And exactly what lesson does the comparison of Sandy Berger’s wrist slap of a $10,000 fine, increased to $50,000 by the judge + two years probation and 100 hours of community service to Scooter Libby’s $250,000 fine + 30 months teach?

Despite the absence of any underlying crime, Fitzgerald filed charges against Libby for denying to the FBI and the grand jury that he had discussed the Wilson case with reporters. Libby was convicted on the testimony of reporters from NBC, the New York Times and Time magazine — a further provocation to conservatives.

I think they have a point. This whole controversy is a sideshow — engineered partly by the publicity-seeking former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife and heightened by the hunger in parts of Washington to “get” Rove for something or other.

Like other special prosecutors before him, Fitzgerald got caught up in the excitement of the case and pursued Libby relentlessly, well beyond the time that was reasonable.

Nonetheless, on the fundamental point, Walton and Fitzgerald have it right. Libby let his loyalty to his boss and to the administration cloud his judgment — and perhaps his memory — in denying that he was part of the effort to discredit the Wilson pair. Lying to a grand jury is serious business, especially when it is done by a person occupying a high government position where the public trust is at stake.

Knowing Judge Walton a bit, I was certain that he would never be party to allowing a big shot to get off more easily than any of the two-bit bad guys who used to show up in his courtroom for sentencing. When he goes to his next school session, he wants to be able to tell those young people that no one is above the law — and mean it. You see, Walton is not just in the business of enforcing the law. He is also committed to steering youths in the right direction. This case will help.

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