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Fred Barnes Admits Libby Commutation a Purely Political Move

Reported by Marie Therese - July 4, 2007 -

President George Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's 30-month jail sentence - seen by many as the prequel to a full pardon for the convicted felon - was the topic of conversation on yesterday's Special Report. Anchor Brit Hume opened with a report by Jim Angle that made mention of Bill Clinton's pardon of rogue financier Marc Rich. (I suspect the right-wing talkers will abandon all mention of Mr. Rich once it becomes general knowledge that good old Scooter Libby was Marc Rich's attorney at the time.) Bush's decision caused a furor at Tuesday morning's press briefing where the White House press corps finally grew a collective spine and actually acted like real journalists for the first time in a long while. A besieged Snow kept trying convince a skeptical news corps that a fine of $250,000 and probation would really impact Libby's life. He apparently forgot the coterie of rich Republicans who donated money to the Libby legal Defense Fund (more on this below). With video.

Jim Angle started his report by noting hat the President had just visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital, then came out to answer questions about the Libby decision. This, of course, set Bush up as the caring, compassionate President, worried about our military men. Bush proceeded to announce that nothing is off the table as far as Libby goes, including a pardon.

Angle ended his report with one of the four Libby talking points, claiming that there was no underlying crime for the charge. The remaining talking points are

(1) Joe Wilson is a liar;

(2) Richard Armitage was the actual leaker;

(3) Patrick Fitzgerald abused his power as a prosecutor.

In the subsequent All-Star Panel discussion, Fred Barnes was actually hilarious as he tried desperately to defend Bush's decision.

BRIT HUME: "The full pardon option is - would seem to be open but that would become then a contradiction of what he said about the jury verdict, wouldn't it?"

FRED BARNES: "Not necessarily. I mean, you can pardon for different reasons. One, you can pardon for mercy. You can pardon because you think it's a miscarriage of justice or you can pardon for political reasons. Other Presidents have done this. You know - um, uh - George Washington - pardoned the perpetrators of the Whiskey Rebellion. Thomas Jefferson, you know, [pardoned] those convicted under the Alien and Sedition Acts. This goes way back to the founders. Remember Bush - Bush's father pardoned Caspar Weinberger when he'd been indicted for some connection - I forget what it was - with the Iran-Contra And that was a political - that was the use of the pardon - or in this case the commuting power for political reasons. I think that's what he's done here."

HUME: "So this is political, in other words?"

BARNES: "Yeah it's political. And this is..."

HUME: "This isn't because the sentence was too harsh? This is for politics?"

BARNES: "Well he does think the sentence is too harsh, but, uh, uh, there are lots of sentences that are too harsh. I think he did this because he didn't - uh, for those reasons, but it's a different kind of pardon. You know there's an ordinary pardon and you would have sent that through the Justice Department and they have an office there that tells you whether it meets certain standards or not. He didn't do that. You don't do that with these - uh - these sort of political - uh - pardons and, look, this goes back to the founders."

Panel member Mara Laisson then mentioned Fred Thompson without revealing that the former Senator from Tennessee has a long history as a Washington lobbyist. In February 2006 he signed up to help raise at least $5 million for Scooter Libby's defense fund. She predicted that Bush's action vis a vis Libby would not "move the meter" much on either side.

According to NewsMax:

"As a lobbyist for more than 20 years, billion-dollar corporations paid Thompson for his access to members of Congress and White House staff. During that time he was close to two Senate majority leaders, both from his home state of Tennessee - his political mentor Howard Baker and, more recently, his former colleague Bill Frist.

"During Baker's tenure, Thompson lobbied for a savings-and-loan deregulation bill that helped hasten the industry's collapse and a failed nuclear energy project that cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars.

"More recently, while Frist led the Senate, Thompson earned more than $750,000 lobbying for a British reinsurance company that wanted to limit its liability from asbestos lawsuits.

"That history as a Washington insider is at odds with the image Thompson has sought to convey to voters. When he first ran for the Senate in 1993, Thompson cast himself in the part of the gruff, plainspoken everyman, leased a red pickup truck and drove around Tennessee in his shirt sleeves."

*****

"Since leaving the Senate Thompson has continued to have close contact with powerful Republicans, including members of the Bush administration. That includes acting as the president's point man in guiding Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts through the Senate confirmation process in 2005.

"Thompson also helped run the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Fund Trust, an organization that set out to raise more than $5 million to help finance the legal defense of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, who was convicted in March of lying and obstructing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity."

COMMENT

on Tuesday, as I was driving back from a wonderful five-day Music Teachers' Convention, I tuned my car radio to the Ed Schultz Show on my local progressive radio station, KQKE, 960 the Quake. Within two hours, Schultz received calls from several self-avowed conservatives who were absolutely furious with Bush.

One of them was disgusted that Bush refused to pardon the two border patrol agents who received 12 years' sentence for shooting an illegal immigrant, yet he bent over backwards to take care of his friend Scooter Libby. Two others said they were going to leave the Republican Party, even though they had voted for George Bush. A military guy who had been in Iraq and worked in intelligence said that he was angered by the outing of a CIA agent. He wondered how many operatives had been killed as the result of the revelation that Brewster Jennings, Valerie Plame's "company," was a CIA covert operation. Another caller was a police officer who was incensed at the argument that there was no "underlying crime" for the obstruction and perjury charges. She noted that obstruction and perjury are crimes in their own right. There was one caller who repeated verbatim the Limbaugh-FOX talking points. However he was overshadowed by the anger and disappointment of the other callers.

I believe that in his efforts to save his own skin, George Bush may have alienated a lot of core conservatives and thereby consigned the Republican party to political oblivion for the next forty years!