July 3, 2007

Happy Birthday, America--updated

In the cold light of the morning after, I must say that my outrage has not diminished. As AL noted yesterday, this is "one-off" justice, where the rules are different if you have friends in powerful places. And Chris Matthews (yeah, I braved it last night) was shockingly on point when he noted that if the President were proud of this decision, he would have announced it in the Rose Garden, not released through a statement at the end of business. Well, he better be ashamed. He also did this without even consulting the Justice Department and some of his drones say that he is confident there will be no political damage. Joe Biden is calling on all of us to flood the White House with calls expressing our outrage. I am going to do just that. But I understand the man is at 29 percent on a good day.

But my outrage continues when I am reminded how this President has responded to other people--other people who might be facing an even worse sentence than poor Scooter. Think Progress notes that Bush has granted fewer pardons than any other President in the past 100 years. But the worst is how this man, draped in the Bible and "compassion" dealt with Capital Punishment. The man oversaw the execution of 152 people in Texas--more than any other Governor in modern history. Sister Helen Prejean writes about the President as he oversaw this death machine and I found a couple of passages really revealing of just how unjust this Scooter commutation is. Bush refused to even push for the commutation of mentally retarded defendants on Death Row, and of course, he did that by having a morally challenged legal counsel summarize the death penalty cases in thirty minutes. Yeah, that legal counsel was Al Gonzales, and oh, by the way, do you think that the Scooter case got a little more than thirty minutes?

When Bushy was running for office, he had his ghost writer address the issue of the death penalty because, as you will recall, he ran as a compassionate conservative and "Jesus was his favorite political philosopher."
Bush wrote in his autobiography that it was not his job to "replace the verdict of a jury unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair"
But then again, he also criticized the idea of nation-building and interfering with state courts. Prejean also includes the story that I remember well. Talk magazine interviewed the Governor in 99 in which Tucker Carlson asked the man about the Karla Faye Tucker case (first woman to be executed in Texas in more than a hundred years. Bush was evidently a little curt about the famous people who petitioned him for clemency for Tucker after she converted to Christianity.
Bush went on to tell him that he had also refused to meet Larry King when he came to Texas to interview Tucker but had watched the interview on television. King, Bush said, asked Tucker difficult questions, such as "What would you say to Governor Bush?"

What did Tucker answer? Carlson asked.

"Please," Bush whimpered, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "please, don't kill me."

Even Tucker Carlson was shocked at Bush's cruelty. Now, looking back, are we? (That story was overshadowed by another article in the same issue where Hilary Clinton talked about Bill's womanizing. Once again, sex trumps even President Jesus mocking a condemned woman.) And how unbelievable is it that Bush could not care less about the numbers of people sentenced to death but can commute Scooter's sentence before the little traitor serves even one day?

Happy Birthday, America. I feel a little sick.


More on just how morally challenged our President is.
The Washington Monthly: "Taking a step back, however, I keep thinking about a 2001 quote from the president: "[W]e must always maintain the highest ethical standards. We must always ask ourselves not only what is legal, but what is right. There is no goal of government worth accomplishing if it cannot be accomplished with integrity." Six years later, the remarks sound more like a punch-line than an approach to government. It's a reminder of just how big an embarrassment the president is to himself and those around him.

The White House seems to be making a point of emphasizing that the president rejected the rule of law without input from the Department of Justice or outside allies. I'm not sure why this is supposed to make us feel better. The president and his ventriloquist VP got together and decided to fiddle with the sentence of a felonious friend? This is how the chief executive of a democracy is supposed to operate? With two cowards conspiring alone to undermine justice?

Hilzoy's perspective summarized the broader dynamic nicely.

Bush, typically, didn't bother even trying to come up with a decent explanation for what he did. He didn't address questions like: Mightn't this give people the idea that there are two different standards of justice, one for people with powerful connections and another for the rest of us? Is it OK to exempt your friends from the rule of law? Isn't it especially problematic to commute someone's sentence when you yourself might have had a hand in that person's criminal actions? And double especially when no one other than the now-free criminal has been held to account, despite your earlier promises? [...]

His words mean nothing. He wouldn't recognize honor or dignity if they sat down next to him on the bus. He's a narcissistic child with the intellectual curiosity of a limpet, a heart the size of a pea, and a hollow empty void where his character ought to be."

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