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Scooter's mistake wasn't the only one made in the Wilson-Plame controversy

July 14, 2007|By ROBERT GARY

The Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame affair was always a tempest in a teapot on the subject of Plame's covert status. Everybody on her block knew that she worked for the CIA, so this fact might technically have been a national security secret, but it was no actual secret. No part of our national security ever depended on Plame being a secret agent.

The Scooter Libby matter was always the fifth quintessence removed from the Wilson-Plame affair, a matter in which no one was indicted, once they found out that Richard Armitage was the source of the "leak." The underlying crime was deserving of no indictment. Whatever obstruction Scooter might have caused in seeking to protect his boss was a very minor obstruction indeed - sort of like the perjury that Bill Clinton supposedly engaged in when he said he "never had sex with that woman," which was not really a perjury at all since he was just going by the definition of "having sex" promulgated by the judge in that case.

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Piddly crime here - no treason was involved, no national security interests, no military secrets - the most metaphysical of perjuries, really the kind of technicality that any of us, but for the grace of God, could be indicted for any day of the week if a special prosecutor had a few years to dig out every imaginable fact about us and everything we ever might have said.

The Department of Justice recommended 15 months for Libby. The judge gave him 30 months. When the judge plays double or nothing, the president can do the same, two misguided guys playing a very dumb game.

The judge should have given Libby six to 15 months, because some jailtime is necessary for perps who plead "not guilty" if they are finally found guilty. Otherwise every single perp would plead "not guilty" just as a matter of "what have I got to lose?"

There's no deterrence from the basic crime because no one is going to be in Libby's position again for, let's say, 10,000 years or so. The case is very rare. The judge's only role should have been to not pour gasoline on the fire - and to give a moderate noninflammatory sentence within the Department of Justice guidelines. That would be our system working as it should.

Thirty months was obviously excessive for the specific crime involved here. That gave the president an opportunity to commute the whole jailtime part of the sentence, which he should not have done. The president should have commuted the jailtime above 15 months, thus making the sentence fit the Department of Justice recommendation.

The big macho man cowboy from Texas never seems to be able to show restraint when it comes to power plays. He does not act presidential; he acts like a child, a petulant, tantrum- prone, extremist child, jealous of his own power and anxious to assert it.

The office of the presidency will be worn down to a nub by the time this nonleader leaves it, having trumped everybody all the time with the raw power of the office, but having persuaded no one that his actions are rational or beneficial.

The office that the next president will walk into will be in tatters, a perfect shambles, the remnant of a burned-out presidency based on overweening pride and a lack of basic talent.

The counter-argument would be that this crime was aggravated by the fact that, but for Libby's untruthfulness, some American soldiers' lives might have been saved by exposing the false premises of the president's war in Iraq at an earlier date.

If the Wilson-Plame matter had been correctly on the public record a bit sooner, maybe the uranium in Niger fraud by the president might have been understood sooner, and maybe the GOP senators now deserting the president in droves might have done so sooner. Thus the war might end sooner, thereby saving some American lives. It is a very serious matter that Libby lied about - not some fumbling he did or didn't do with a female intern behind the copying machine.

All told, the guilty (and we know who we are) should plead guilty, show sincere remorse, if they can muster that up, and try to be a bit more decent in the future.

Judges should be moderate, not publicity hounds. Presidents should be judicious in their use of their power to commute sentences, or people will think they are playing politics with our legal system. We need to put aside the games and focus on doing justice..

Robert Gary is a

Hagerstown resident who

writes for The Herald-Mail.

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