Libby's B*tches

The headline above crystallized yesterday while in the produce department, though I've had this burbling around my head for the last day or two.  The greengrocers have a whiteboard where they write their specials du jour, and a saying. Yesterday's saying was a quote they attributed to Ambrose Bierce: "Loyalty is a trait of dogs." That quote was just thrown out there, no reference or anchor to anything, next to the list of specials.

Loyalty is a trait of dogs, but it's just one of them.  Dogs are, if nothing else, creatures of habit.  Anyone who's had one knows that. Walk the same route every morning, check and mark the same spots, you know the drill.  And in his dealing with convicted criminals seeking mercy, George Bush has been nothing if not habitual.  There has been no mercy shown and, indeed, he has sent many to their deaths while mocking their very pleas for mercy, and deriding their actual rehabilitation.  And, his conduct toward sentencing has been exactly the opposite of merciful, most recently exemplified by his sending his minion Fredo over to Capitol Hill to demand an end to below-guidelines sentencing, by making the lower end of the guideline range a mandatory minimum.  

Moreover, Bushie has never been "loyal" to his subordinates.  He's been exactly the opposite - he has told the American public any number of times he listens to his generals and then takes their advice but, in reality, he fires those who tell him anything other than that which he wants to hear.  He abandons principles of law, policy and action long-held by US administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, so as to implement his own ideas. Tell him other than he wants to hear, and you're looking for a new job.

Bushie's history is factual, well-known and has been well-recited.  So, it provides us a starting point from which to examine his conduct relative to the Libby commutation.  

The most striking point is that the Libby commutation is directly contrary to all of Bushie's history, behavior, attitude and inclination.  It is a total and radical departure from all that he is.  Everyone has noticed this, but no one seems to be asking the central question.

The point then becomes - why?  

We cannot claim to not have seen some recent groundwork being laid for the commutation.  I'll examine it in as little detail as I think I can get away with, because I want to get to my main point.

First, two weeks ago, there was the series of articles on Deadeye Dick Cheney, telling us in unprecedented detail just how evil, manipulative and controlling he was.  How much he was the moving force behind all of the "Bad" things which the current administration did. War, torture, more-or-less-deliberate bureaucratic bungling, environmental disaster to garner votes.  You name the crime - against law, morality or common sense, Deadeye was behind it.  Moreover, the series was thoroughly - though substantially, anonymously - sourced.  There was unprecedented commentary from insiders in the Bush administration.  Hard-sourced vignettes about meetings or actions where Deadeye and Bushie were two of the four participants, and the unnamed source relating the story was one of the others.  And, yet, we know from hard experience - the Wilsons being only one example - that this is an administration which sets out to destroy leakers in detail. And this is even truer of the Vice President - the central villain of the WaPo stories.  

Yet there has been no sudden series of personnel shakeups within the Administration, no series of leaks or stories targeting the obvious administration figures who surely had to have been behind the unnamed sources in the articles, and no dead bodies (literal or figurative) turning up.  Why?

Then, last week, a puffy article or two on how liberated Bushie feels now that the finish line of his term is in sight.  Feeling free to really pursue the policy goals of his politics, and to explore the nature of good and evil in the modern world.  To ask the deep questions he's never asked before.  To sit with thinkers and philosophers and discuss Meaning, Truth, Beauty and how to achieve them through Politics, like the sunshiny rug and Chippendale/Hepplewhite chairs and sofas in the Oval Office were the Agora of ancient Athens.  I mean, pull up a tree and sit in the shade while we talk, guys....  Why?

And, lurking back there was an argument made - I forget where it was, but it was one of the cases involving this Administration's conduct, and recently.  I think it was in the context of Libby's sentencing hearing in mid-June, but I could be wrong on that.  It could also have been in connection with the US Attorneys' scandal.  Matters not "where" - "What" is the key here.  The Administration's lawyer (if it was in the sentencing hearing, it would have been Scooter's lawyers) argued to the Court that the accountability the Administration worked under, was to the voters at the polls. That sounded really great.  It reaffirms all those warm, fuzzy cuddly ideas everyone's been fed since day one of Civics class, about how the voters are primus inter pares and all the rest.  And yet no one looked at the argument carefully - they just swallowed it whole.   Unsaid and unchallenged by anyone was the argument's explicit statement:

in his second term, the President is accountable to no one, because he will never have to face the voters again.

So, there you have part of it:

Bad Cheney.  Good Philosopher Bushie, liberated.  Chorus urging: President is not accountable to anyone, do what you want.

And lurking out there, Poor Scooter Libby, set upon by the Mean-spirited Prosecutor and the Meaner Judge, going off to prison.  With his own chorus, singing how evil it would be to send him off to the hole and demanding a pardon for him.

In reality, the chorus of Libby supporters was really saying: "pardon Scooter Libby, or he speaks".

And Bushie gave him not the pardon, but the commutation that will enable his keeping silence.  This was obviously a very hurried endeavor.  How many have commented on or laughed at the horrible WH lawyering which made a mess of the situation to the point the trial judge ordered a hearing on the sentence and conditions of supervised release, and then included a footnote asking the WH's opinion on what exactly it was that they meant?  And, how many have commented on the likelihood that the pardon will come on January 19, 2009?  And, how many have commented that Bush and Cheney have a lot to fear from Scooter talking, if Scooter should ever find himself locked into a jail cell?

This obviously was, to some degree, set up by the WH's press plantings over the last couple weeks - by allowing Cheney to be vilified, and Bush's profile to be polished, Bush's side of the Admin (to the extent it exists independent of Cheney's) started to build a further firewall against inquiry.  The material:  Evil Cheney - it's all his fault.  The threat:  Libby talking.  The objective:  kick the ball further down the road to January 2009.

But, no one's commenting on the elephant in the living room here.  Regardless of whether Bushie was protecting himself by tossing Cheney under the bus, just responded to Libby's chorus of supporters or he had another Road-to-Damascus moment at Kennebunkport last weekend resulting in his sudden conversion into Bush The Merciful, giving Libby a commutation indicates two things and presages two.

First, the grant of the commutation indicates that Libby, a convicted perjurer, has successfully blackmailed the President and the Vice President.  It's just that simple.  Under any definition one might choose to use, responding to threats of exposure of damaging information by giving something of value - here, a commutation - is succumbing to blackmail.   Bush and Cheney have too much to fear lest their activities be exposed by what Libby knows (or would make up) and would tell if incarcerated.  Granted, Libby didn't do it directly - he had his propagandists and chorus of supporters (makes you wonder about Libby Suppporter and Trial-Attender Fred Thompson, doesn't it?) to do that dirty work for him in a very refined and cultured way. But, at its core it was still: "free him or he tells the dirt on you".

And, skilled, convicted liar that he is, Libby can pick and choose whom to inculpate and how by shaping his story.

It is, indeed, ironic in the extreme that a jailhouse snitch is the one person the President and Vice President need to fear most.  Not for nothing have all the manifold posts on this site derided jailhouse snitches and their tendency to, uh, tell the stories law enforcement wants to hear.  One would have thought Bushie would have learned that lesson well from the multitude of pardon applications he received in Texas in which jailhouse snitches helped put people on death row.  But, it looks like all those cursory clemency reviews and his laughing denials are now just another example of Fredo letting him down, again.  Karma's a nasty wench when the acts you do are nasty.  Didn't any of your education ever tell you that, George?  Dick?

Second, the most powerful man in Washington now is Scooter Libby, a lying felon.  Scooter has the whip hand over both the President and the Vice President, and appears to be exercising it.  He can still choose, any time he wants, to pick up the phone to Fitzgerald and ask to come over for a talk.  And both Bush and Cheney know that.  After all, blackmailers don't go away - they come back for more.  And all this deprives Bush and Cheney of their paramount position at the apex of power.  

We don't know whether Scooter is acting independently of the Vice President's will or control. In reality, it doesn't matter.  Scooter has them jumping to his demands in the manner of a stereotypical dominatrix working her submissive (all I know about that sort of conduct is what I have read about it but, as I understand it, the control relationship is at the heart of the issue). And, Bushie and Deadeye will make up all sorts of rationalizations why they're doing the out-of-character things they're doing, but it all comes down to keeping their new boss, Convict Libby, happy. Maybe when Harriet Grant Libby was allegedly heard to say "We'll f*ck them" after the verdict/sentence, she was referring to Deadeye and The Unit.

Another trait of dogs is that they can be easily trained to do amazing things.  Mine, I can control with the minor gesture of a hand.  And she'll gleefully, happily comply.  She might think, sometimes, that she's dominant and in charge.  She'll even put a paw on my chest or lick my face, thinking she's expressing dominance.  But, I control when, where, how much and what she eats. That's enough, and she knows it.

That's where Bush and Cheney are now, vis-a-vis Scooter.  And they have no one but themselves to blame for putting themselves there - they came up with the commutation.

They're done.

The two things now presaged?  

Answer me this:  what does it mean about a head of state when he is deprived of freedom of action in this manner - when he has been blackmailed by a subordinate?

I think any political theorist would immediately say - he won't be head of state for long. A lot would likely add "and his fall will be both sudden and destructive". It's also a lot like that scene in Oliver Stone's Nixon, where Tricky Dick meets the kids at the Lincoln Memorial and the girl asks him why, if he's the President, he just doesn't decide to stop the war. He goes into a series of verbal machinations, which she cuts short by telling him: "It's because you can't - you don't have the power to. Right?" And this sends Tricky Dick into a spiral of self-examination which shows him this 18 year old is Right.

Bush and Cheney have to know (more likely Cheney gets it first) that having given in to Libby's blackmail means they will, progressively lose the power to influence events.  Snowballing downhill, this will come slowly at first, but gain momentum.

The second thing presaged?  A lot more trouble on the international scene.  Not for nothing, ex-KGB guy Vladdy Putin surely figured out that, when Bushie took five minutes or so from their meeting time to deal the commutation, that this was Serious.  And, surely he (among many others) has figured out that, if a subordinate can get away with this in dealing with Bush and Cheney, that pair is in no position to do anything to him.  If I can figure this out sitting in my living room, Putin can, too.  Then, we saw the Iraqi hydrocarbon law hit the skids (again) on its tortuous path to passage this past week and the headlines today indicate a possible no-confidence vote for Bushie's puppet Prime Minister.  Any bets on whether these are just coincidences?

No, everyone recognizes now that Bush and Cheney are Libby's b*tches, and there's nothing they can really do which will change that.


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  • Display: Sort:
    Best writing I've ever seen from you, scribe. (none / 0) (#1)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 10:24:44 AM EST
    the most powerful man in Washington now is Scooter Libby

    He knows too much. He had to be silenced. You expressed it much, much better than I am capable of.

    I've said it before, I'll say it once more. I hope Libby doesn't have a fatal "heart attack" or auto "accident".

    We should all wish him the very best of health.

    After all, blackmailers don't go away - they come back for more
    He will be needed.

    And pradoxically he could turn out to be the key the puts America's political powers back on a solid ethical foundation

    exactly! (none / 0) (#2)
    by the rainnn on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 11:55:55 AM EST
    first -- excellent piece!

    i agree just about all of it.

    . . .The Administration's lawyer (if it was in the sentencing hearing, it would have been Scooter's lawyers) argued to the Court that the accountability the Administration worked under, was to the voters at the polls. That sounded really great.  It reaffirms all those warm, fuzzy cuddly ideas everyone's been fed since day one of Civics class, about how the voters are primus inter pares and all the rest.  And yet no one looked at the argument carefully - they just swallowed it whole. . .

    i think this argument was made by lawrence s.
    robbins on behalf of scooter to suggest that
    fitzgerlad's appointment violated article II.

    of course, the argument stands article II on its
    head -- suggesting that if the special counsel
    is not sufficiently accountable to voters, s/he
    has been unconstitutionally appointment.  the
    reverse is true -- it is the executive that
    must be accountable to voters, and that remedy
    is in no way exclusive -- but whatever.

    i agree, scribe -- libby is no liddy -- he is
    in no manner tough enough mentally to withstand
    incarceration, even at camp fed for 18 or so months.

    he'd sing.  and cheney would be indicted.

    game -- set -- match.

    well, a kid could dream. . .

    ack! (none / 0) (#3)
    by the rainnn on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 11:56:56 AM EST
    pardon all the typos -- you get the drift. . .

    Heartburn for Cheney! (none / 0) (#4)
    by BigJ on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 07:51:03 PM EST
    Awesome analysis, scribe!

    I'll be ole Dick knew this too, and was caught between that rock and hard place.  He must have reached for the Pepto thinking about it ...

    Of course, just how could Libby twist this for his own gain and not suffer side attacks from friends of Cheney/Bush?  I don't see him using this.

    Book sales. (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 07:56:32 PM EST
    Instant best seller?