By Paul Begala
07/03/07 "Huffington Post" -- -- Tough enough to execute Karla Fay Tucker -- and then laugh about it. Tough enough to sign a death warrant for a man whose lawyer slept through the trial -- and then snicker when asked about it in a debate. Even tough enough to execute a great-grandmother who murdered her husband -- after he abused her. A friend of mine at the time asked Bush to commute her sentence, telling him, "Betty Lou ain't a threat to no one she ain't married to." No dice.
Mr. Bush is tough enough to invade a country that was no risk to America, causing tens of thousands of civilian deaths and shedding precious American blood in the process. Tough enough to sanction torture. Tough enough to order an American citizen arrested and held without trial.
But if you're rich and right-wing and Republican, George is a real softie. As George W. Bush demonstrated in giving Scooter Libby a Get Out of Jail Free Card, he is only compassionate to conservatives.
What does it say about America in the age of Bush when Judith Miller spends more time in jail over the Valerie Plame smear than Scooter Libby?
One thing it says is that Mr. Bush and his partner in crime, Dick Cheney, believe they are above the law. The commutation of Libby confirms the belief that Mr. Libby lied to the FBI, perjured himself to the grand jury, and obstructed a federal criminal investigation in order to cover up the role Bush and Cheney played in smearing Joe Wilson and ruining the career of his CIA operative wife.
The arrogance of the act is astounding. In commuting Libby's sentence, Mr. Bush did not follow his own Justice Department's guidelines, which do not recommend commutations unless the convict has begun serving his or her sentence, and has dropped or exhausted all appeals. Of course, Mr. Bush is free to disregard those guidelines, as President Clinton did when he pardoned Marc Rich. The Rich pardon was wrong, in my opinion. But Marc Rich was a fugitive financier; Clinton did not benefit at all from Rich's crimes. Scooter Libby is a Bush-Cheney operative who may well have been doing Bush and Cheney's bidding when he obstructed the investigation into how and Valerie and Joe Wilson were smeared. (By the way, like many Democrats I spoke out publicly against the Rich pardon -- which Scooter Libby helped to arrange. Let's see how many Republicans have the character to speak out against this injustice.)
It's interesting that we still have the capacity to be shocked by the extra-legal acts of this crowd. They came to power by stealing an election, by staging a near-riot to stop the counting of ballots in Miami, and by virtue of a Supreme Court edict that has joined Dred Scott in the judicial hall of shame. From that day to this Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have held the rule of law in contempt.
And we still have 567 days to go.