The Libby Indictment: A View From A Great Distance

On Friday, Fox News’ Chris Wallace calls into Howie Carr’s talk show and the two of them spend 10-15 minutes kicking around the news. During yesterday’s chat, a few notions about the Libby indictment came out, and started me thinking about a few things that I’ve noticed seem a bit odd:

1) From what I’ve heard so far, Libby is being indicted for lying about how he told the truth about a liar.

2) Apparently, the strongest evidence against Libby is the contradictions between he told investigators and his own notes taken at the time, notes that he provided the investigators. So, in essence, he “hung himself out to dry” by telling a different story from what he had documented, then turned in.

3) None of the things that Libby has been indicted for occurred before the start of the investigation. In other words, as of right now there was apparently no crime committed in the actions that triggered the investigation.

4) It looks right now like Libby was guilty of being either stupid, arrogant, or both. There was nothing criminal that needed covering up, but still he managed to obfuscate and obstruct enough about nothing to get his own ass in a sling.

Some people are looking at the Libby case in a historical context. They point out the case of Sandy Berger, convicted of stealing and destroying classified documents, and punished with a $10,000 fine and loss of his security clearance for three years. Or Bill Clinton’s own plea-bargain on perjury charges, costing him is license to practice law in Arkansas. Others even bring up how five of Clinton’s cabinet officers were criminally investigated, with two indicted and one convicted (and a third apparently escaping indictment only by dying in a plane crash).

I think it’s valid to bring those cases up, and to keep them in mind in the Libby case. But I’m going to disagree with a lot of those with whom I normally side. I think that it was a disgrace that Clinton and Berger got off so lightly, and to give Libby a break based on that would merely perpetuate the dilution and corruption of our legal system. Perjury must be taken very seriously, and the price for committing it must be high enough to discourage it from happening.

That being said, I don’t think that Libby should face the maximum penalty. As I pointed out above, there appears to be no crime at the core of the coverup. He merely obstructed what was looking like his exoneration.

But perjury is perjury, and must be taken very seriously. And so a man who, by at least one account, is a genuine hero, must pay the price for his misdeeds. Should he be convicted, I hope he is granted mercy at the sentencing.

I find myself having to hope for it, because I cannot in good conscience argue for it.

(Cross-posted at Loaded Mouth, just for sheer mischievousness)

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