President Bush commuted the sentence of former aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Monday, sparing him from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case.
Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, according to a senior White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been announced.
“My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged,” Bush said in a statement. “I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive.”
The fundamental mistake that the American public, the politicians and the pundits have made over the tenure of President Bush’s reign is to believe that he serves the American people. That he sees himself as their representative, holds himself accountable to the nation’s desires, and seeks to do the greater good.
For years now, people have been confounded by Bush’s indifference to the rule of Law, poll results, the system of checks and balances, international censure, pressure from peers, and the weight of political tradition. Each time he flouts one of these they cry out in dismay, confused and startled. How can an American President act in this manner? Where is his respect for the way things are done? Surely he understands that he must bow to these pressures, that nobody wants him to procede in this manner? Is he insane, over confident, stubborn, or stupid?
The answer is none of the above: Bush is simply self serving. He acts only as he and his close advisors see fit. He owes nothing to anybody; his election was mandate to do as he will. The Presidency to him is not a public office, but simply a source of power. He doesn’t understand the value of the things he degrades: civil liberties, the rule of Law, the system of checks and values, the integrity of our political system.
President Bush is a shallow man. He understands privelage and power. He views the world with Manichean simplicity, and has no true empathy for pain or privation, loss or death. He views tragedy as something that happens to others, whether they be our troops, citizens in New Orleans, or massacred Iraqi’s. His indifference to other people’s pain allows him to be surprisingly resolute in pursuing terrible courses of action. His vaunted strength of purpose stems from an inability to appreciate the toll his policies exact on those involved.
It is not that he does not care, but rather that his concern is an abstract thing, something he feels because he knows he should. This concern is tempered by what he views as the ‘reality’ of things; it’s terrible that our troops are dying in Iraq, but that’s what happens in war. It’s terrible that Iraqi citizens are suffering, but again, that’s what happens in war. It’s terrible that children aren’t being well educated in America, but that’s just how society works. He understands his indifference as pragmatism; he views his indifference as evidence of his toughness, his being a strong leader. It may be hard for the nation to understand why it’s necessary to torture prisoners, wire tap citizens, suspend habeas corpus, increase the surge in Iraq, but they’re lucky he’s at the helm, clear eyed, untroubled, resolute. To make an omelette you have to crack eggs, and Bush sees himself as the ultimate egg cracker. Hence his angry surprise when questioned, doubted, contradicted: don’t people understand how the world works? Don’t they understand how simple it all is?
Is it a suprise that he pardoned Libby? That he’s stonewalling Congress on the USA’s firing? That he has not fired Gonzalez? That he takes so much vacation time? Hardly. Not when you understand him as wholly indifferent. He’s the President, he has the power, and what’s more, he simply doesn’t care.