Oh, don't act so shocked.
It's not that President Bush has commuted Libby's sentencing to no jail time, it's that the door remains open for a full pardon.
Like you needed more evidence of bipartisan/bipolar politics in these United States. Taking notes from a classic definition of American comedy*, the Bush Administration has effectively said, "Tragedy is when your guys gets pardoned for anything of any consequence, despite our best efforts. Comedy is when my guy fucks you all over and we get him off."
The hypocrisy of US politics -- indeed, politics anywhere -- is not new. I came of consciousness more or less around the Nixon Administration, so I like to think my cynicism is a matter of coping with one mean and hard-assed world around me. If my generation has faith in government, that's the notable exception, in my book. What's surprising, nonetheless, is how the baldness and hysterical pitch of what I would call Nixonian politics, or whatever it is that calls itself "conservatism" today, has consumed the Right. There was indeed a silent majority, wasn't there? And then, a far more palpable Moral Majority. And today, the smug punks of who wear Nixon's embarrassment's like a chip on their shoulder, running his same shit today, right in our faces, and for very high stakes.
It wasn't too long ago, in my internal timeline of political movement, that Doonesbury's Honey asked whether Nixon wasn't the aberration of American politics, but its epitome. Now it seems to me the current Administration has simply taken Nixon's lowest notions of the uses of political power and swallowed them whole. Today we got some vomit, yes, but moreso an unsightly precursor to how much more is ready to spew.
Using the present Administration as a lens, we can conclude what Nixon's biggest mistake really was. He had, among his staff, people of conscience. They believed in and wanted power and authority, yes, but some of them also believed they were serving the United States of America by way of its President, not the other way around. The Nixon Administration seems to have left us two prototypes for the future Republican mindset in the forms of John Dean and G. Gordon Liddy. I don't think there's much question today which side of the Republican mind has taken over.
Not too long ago, President Clinton was accused of lying about a sexual relationship, subjected to withering investigations and media scrutiny, national embarrassment, and finally, a ridiculous and partisan impeachment process. The end result: multiple political careers disintegrated almost overnight in the name of one narrow and ultimately pointless political goal. Today, Mr. Libby has been proven guilty of multiple crimes in a court of law. These crimes, whose motives amount to putting political advantage ahead of national interest, have been excused by the inside political community, exerting all the muscle it can to defend him.
How does that work again?
Yesterday in Cadman Plaza, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, I passed a monument of William Jay Gaynor, inscribed with a popular motto oft repeated since the days of our Revolution: This is a government of laws, not of men. It is worth noting that the phrase is pretty difficult to read on the stone. You damn near have to put your nose up to it to make it out. I don't imagine anyone has thought to restore this part of the monument for a while, and for now that seems to be a telling thing.
In his statement, President Bush said, "I respect the jury's verdict, but I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive."
It's a nice idea, the rule of law, not men. I for one would love to have it back.
Tomorrow I will attend the hotdog eating contest at Coney Island, and this year, it will be the highlight of the day for me. I'll watch some professional eater down 50-60 hot dogs, and yet it will only be President Bush's excesses today that will make me feel ill.
*Tragedy is when I have a hangnail. Comedy is when you fall into a sewer and die. -- Mel Brooks