In what has to be one of the better ironies of 2007, former President Bill Clinton is taking issue with President Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's jail sentence. While blasting the President, Clinton said, "You've got to understand, this is consistent with their philosophy." According to the ex-Pres, the current administration "believe[s] that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle." (CNN: Bill Clinton blasts commutation of Libby's prison sentence.)
Wait a moment. What's that saying about people living in glass houses? Well, for the record, I do not approve of the decision to commute Libby's sentence. I don't support what, in my view, was an abuse of power for political gain, and that is how I perceive the entire Plame affair. Granted, Libby was just the fall-guy for it, and there should have been far more heads on the platter than his. There is little doubt in my mind, however, that the commutation of his sentence was nothing more than a pat on the back for taking one for the team.
What is laughable, however, is Clinton's political posturing on this issue while campaigning with his wife. Are you sure you want to drag the issue of presidential pardons into the campaign, Bill? As I recall, the last days of the Clinton Administration saw more pardons than we have seen from any other administration, unless you count the draft criminals - I mean, dodgers - that received Ford's amnesty a couple of decades earlier. In fact, right up there on the hypocrisy meter is Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich (ironically defended by Libby from 1985-2000), the financier who's ex-wife raised considerable contributions for the Clinton Presidential Library. A political pardon for someone that provided a political service? Shocking, isn't it?
Far be it from Clinton to confuse facts with political fodder, however. In the Libby case, the ex-Pres went on to say, "It's wrong to out that CIA agent, and wrong to try to cover it up -- and wrong that no one was ever fired from the White House for doing it." Okay, Bill, I'll give you that one. You're right, the whole situation was an abuse of power at best, although the illegality of the "outing" was called into question and never really proven. (It's almost like the definition of the word "is", but we won't discuss that one again.) The problem is, Libby was never accused of outing the CIA agent. In another twist of irony, Libby was accused of the very same thing that managed to get Clinton impeached - perjury! The only difference between the two is that Libby managed to get himself convicted.
Now, I can't say I'm surprised to see the ex-Pres twist the Libby affair to his wife's political advantage. That, after all, is what politicians do best, and Clinton always excelled at the political game. What does sadden me, though, is the fact that most people have already forgotten about the Clinton pardon extravaganza. Very few people know why Libby was convicted or even what charges he faced. Fewer still know - or ever even understood - what Bill himself was charged with during the impeachment proceedings or why those charges came about in the first place.
Perhaps that's the biggest problem we face as a nation. Politicians and their handlers are masters of spin. Clinton, Bush, Mcauliffe, Rove, well, they're all cut from the same political cloth. They are the consummate illusionists, experts in misdirection, playing to a worldwide audience in a never-ending carnival. What makes them most successful, however, is the willingness of We the People to be deceived. We place these charlatans in office, then sit back for the next four years enjoying the grand charade, but we seem to forget that it's our responsibility to see beyond the illusions, to constantly look behind the curtain. Politicians on either side of the aisle cannot be left to their own devices. They depend on the gullibility of the general public in much the same way as the carnival ring master, and just like the audience that attends the carnival, we willingly oblige. For our system of government to work, We the People must stay involved. It is our responsibility to keep our politicians in check, and on that score, our approval rating must be lower than that of either congress or the current administration. We may accuse them of not doing their jobs well, but I'm sad to report that we are not doing our jobs at all.