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Commentary: Libby happy to have friends in high places

  • Story Highlights
  • Martin: It's embarrassing to see Republicans come out full force behind Bush
  • Bush pledged to fire anyone who was involved in leaking Plame's name
  • Martin notes no firings ever happened
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a CNN contributor and a talk-show host for WVON-AM in Chicago.

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Roland Martin says it's embarrassing for Republicans to back Bush over the Libby pardon.

(CNN) -- Any self-respecting Republican who claims to be a law-and-order individual should be outraged by President George W. Bush's decision to commute the prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

It's embarrassing to see Republicans actually come out full force behind Bush (and for that matter, outraged Democrats, who behaved the same when President Bill Clinton pardoned tax evader Mark Rich, whose wife contributed heavily to their party).

Here is a man -- a lawyer -- who was one of the highest-ranking members of the Bush administration, serving as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was entrusted with many of the nation's secrets, yet when Bush's boys got angry with Ambassador Joseph Wilson for berating their decision to go to war, Libby was commissioned to discredit him.

When the issue became a full-blown scandal, an investigation was launched, and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was hired to get to the bottom of the leaking of the name of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, to columnist Bob Novak.

Bush pledged to fire anyone who was involved in the leaking of Plame's name. Yet when it became clear that multiple administration officials were running off at the mouth about Plame to various journalists, Bush did nothing. Bush's chief strategist, Karl Rove, talked about Plame, yet he still has his job. And Libby? He only resigned after he was indicted -- not for leaking Plame's name, but for lying to investigators and obstructing the investigation.

Libby is a liar, pure and simple. But to his Republican supporters, he is simply guilty of getting in the crosshairs of an overzealous prosecutor.

It is true that Fitzgerald never went after the individual who actually leaked Plame's name first (that was Richard Armitage, a top official in the State Department). But that is not the sole issue. His job was to investigate the claims, and according to Bush, everyone in the White House was supposed to cooperate.

Think about it: A number of individuals during the Clinton presidency went to jail for crimes that had nothing to do with Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation. But that didn't prevent Republicans from flashing a David Letterman-like gap-toothed grin when the governor of Arkansas, Jim Guy Tucker, went to jail; and Webb Hubbell, a longtime Clinton friend and a top official in the Justice Department, served time in jail for over-billing law clients by nearly $400,000.

Those crimes were far away from Whitewater, but they were still snared in Starr's web. That's what happens when you appoint a special prosecutor and say, "Root out the crime, and follow the evidence where it leads you."

Bush sounded like a poor sap by suggesting that Libby spending 30 months in prison was "too harsh" of a sentence. The man was fined $250,000 -- which CNN reported he has already paid -- and can no longer practice law. Ooh, big deal. Hubbell had his law license snatched, but that didn't prevent him from collecting $500,000 in "consulting" fees, courtesy of his Democratic pals. Libby will no doubt make a ton of dough on the lecture circuit thanks to Republican sycophants, and will dip his finger in the cesspool of "consulting" fees.

This is a joke, and the only reason Libby got a get-out-of-jail-free card is because Bush wanted to protect one of his cronies.

So, Mr. President, what happened to all of that mumbo-jumbo you said in 2000 when you were running for president -- that you would restore honor and integrity to the White House? Is it right for a top official to obstruct an investigation, to be found guilty, sentenced to prison, and have you spring him from jail because the sentence was too tough?

What's even more galling is that defense lawyers across the nation are fighting the Justice Department over their clients being sentenced to prison for obstruction of justice, and are using the exact same rationale that Bush used to free Libby. Does this mean that we can expect to see the compassionate conservative in Bush come out by directing his legal minions to stop opposing the lawyers? In the words of Whitney Houston, "Hell to the naw."

The president of the United States has the absolute authority to commute a sentence or pardon a convicted individual. Fine. But please, cut the crap about Libby's pain and suffering. He's just another rich guy being taken care of by his equally rich pals.

If it were you or me who obstructed justice, the president wouldn't have given a damn about our wives and children, which he cited in freeing Libby. We would have had to communicate with them through a glass window after our petition for commutation was ignored while Bush played cowboy at his Texas ranch.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the writer. This is part of an occasional series of commentaries on CNN.com that offers a broad range of perspectives, thoughts and points of view. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Valerie PlameLewis LibbyGeorge W. Bush

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