Off the Hook -- Again

The conviction and impending prison term of I. Lewis Libby wasn't much, really -- not in the grand scheme of things -- but it was something. After all, this is a man who was once the right hand of Vice President Richard B. Cheney. In other circumstances -- say, in the administration of a duly elected president -- the conviction of a top White House aide on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice would have been a super-duper big deal.

But amid the misdeeds of Bush the Younger, a little lying to a grand jury about what you did, at your boss's behest, to discredit an administration critic (so named, ironically, for accusing the president of lying) is not so spectacular as to warrant a couple of years in prison -- a fate that does not bode well for a guy who goes by the name "Scooter."

My fellow liberals are seething today at the news of the get-out-of-jail-for- (well, not quite) "free" card handed Libby by President George W. Bush last night, after the latter, in his statement of commutation, termed Libby's two-and-a-half-year jail sentence "excessive." As for me, I confess to the contraction of a case of something like ennui, perhaps better described here in our nation's capital as "outrage fatigue." In fact, this far into the second illegitimate term of Bush the Younger (for I truly believe he and his cronies stole Ohio in 2004), I would have to diagnose myself with COF, or "chronic outrage fatigue."

I have become incapable of expressing, with any force of conviction, my outrage, which now finds expression in my taking to my bed and praying for this administration to pass into oblivion without further incident. Alas, when at last I rise from my sick bed, I find them still here, still in power, and likely to remain so for years to come -- at least in the judicial branch, where the appointees of an illegitimately seated president have gone about turning the nation's law on its head.

How else to explain to myself why I have not felt compelled to join in some spontaneous street demonstration of the people's indignation at the executive branch actions of sanctioning torture, spying on U.S. citizens without warrants, holding prisoners offshore and without charge, disbursing U.S. tax dollars to religious institutions, supporting a constitutional amendment that will deny marriage rights to a specific class of citizens, and looting the treasury for the enrichment of mercenaries and defense contractors?

There are plenty more such outrages, of course, but why go through the whole tiresome list? None, in fact moved me, or anyone else, for that matter, to spontaneously take up a banner and march in the streets, or relentlessly hound anyone willing to listen about why this wrong (pick a wrong, any wrong) must be righted. No, I admitted defeat, I suppose, when George W. Bush took his first oath of office in 2001 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building.

In truth, that sense of defeat grew from the bitter seed of the Iran-Contra scandal, a large and blatant contravention of the U.S. Constitution with which all involved -- including a vice president named Bush -- got away. Hearings? You want hearings? Let me tell you about hearings. There were hearings, star-studded and sometimes shocking, that amounted to nothing, thanks to a combination of the reckless granting of immunity to such central witnesses as Oliver North, and the later pardons of six key players by Bush the Elder, who was quite implicated in the scandal.

Not only did George Herbert Walker Bush get away with his role in providing, in defiance of law passed by Congress, aid to the anti-leftist insurgency in Nicaragua (paid for with dough earned from the illegal sale of weapons to Iran in exchange for the evil-axis member's release of U.S. citizens it had taken as hostages), he pardoned his alleged co-conspirators in full. One of these co-conspirators, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, hadn't yet been tried by Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh for lying to Congress about the matter, but Weinberger's private notes contained references to Bush the Elder's "endorsement" of the project. Of the pardon, the New York Times' David Johnston wrote in January 1992, "But in a single stroke, Mr. Bush swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh's effort, which began in 1986."

And all this before the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, which began with a lie about a sex act, as opposed to a lot of lies about the circumvention of the U.S. Constitution that characterized the prior administration, or the usurping of power by the executive branch, in contradiction to the U.S. Constitution, that characterizes the subsequent one. No wonder I'm tired.

In the grand scheme of things, the jailing of Scooter Libby wouldn't have been much, but it would have been something -- evidence that someone representing this traitorous dynasty of mediocrity had been called to account for something. Tomorrow will mark the 231st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, wherein our nation's founders enumerated among the sins of the despot King George III the following: "He has obstructed the Administration of Justice..." The list of complaints goes on to include the deprivation of trials by jury, illegitimate trials conducted "beyond Seas," the erection of "a Multitude of new Offices" staffed by "Swarms of Officers to harrass our People," and "render[ing] the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power."

In the Declaration's preamble, however, a passage (lesser known than the famous lines about self-evident truths) shrewdly assesses human nature in the face of despotism. It reads, "...all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

I think I need a nap.

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