Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Go Free, Scooter

I was taking a nap when George Bush decided to commute Scooter Libby's sentence. I'd bet that Bush thought most of the country was looking elsewhere, given the Fourth of July taking place in midweek. So Bush decided to reward his good friend: Old Scoot doesn't have to go to prison, after all. He just needs to pay the fine which won't be too hard for him.

Why not give Libby a full pardon? The Republican commentators have already made this into a noble and just and thoughtful gesture: Libby wasn't innocent but the sentence was too harsh. This way he is still punished but can stay with his family.

On the other hand, as Josh Marshall noted, a full pardon would have exposed Libby to possible questioning from the Congress. This way he still has the Fifth Amendment privileges.

There are always several different games people play when they write about events like this one, and the above two paragraphs are an example of one game in two moves, if only inside my head.

Games. Whenever I'm sick of writing about politics it is because of all the games people play while elsewhere real people suffer and die. I get the point of the games: they are strategy and tactics. Think of politics as baseball (with a Mafia flavoring) and you get the strutting games and the top-rooster-of-the-tip games, even if you have no testicles. So in that world the way to write about this event is by asking thoughtful questions about the consequences of Bush's act on his popularity with the Republicans (who wanted Libby pardoned) or the Independents (who probably don't know who Libby is, on the whole).

Or if you want to go all erudite you can compare this case to the Clinton impeachment case, even if they are not really the same at all. Or you can write long posts about how the base of the Democratic party is going to react, given the "witchhunt" they have engaged in. You know, trying to get Dick Cheney or Karl Rove and only managing to get poor liddle Libby who is a kind and thoughtful man.

All these games share one thing: They don't ask whether Bush's actions are morally right. Atrios writes that he is very mad today. He sees Bush's act as "obstruction of justice" and none of the many Democrats he quotes has brought that up.

I see Bush's act in the baseball sense. It's as if the coach of one team has decided to overrule the umpire's decision, and everybody just goes and buys more popcorn.