Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rove: "I think every day about what Libby has had to go through."

Karl Rove has taken to the airwaves today to reassure us that the story of "a contentious relationship" between the president and the vice president, over the fact that Bush declined to pardon "Scooter" Libby, is simply tabloid exaggeration.

He also reminds us that "Scooter" Libby is "a wonderful, wonderful person" and that Rove thinks every day "about what he's had to go through".

It's a further example of how the law applies so differently when dealing with ordinary Americans than it does when dealing with the country's political class.

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England’s rate is 151; Germany’s is 88; and Japan’s is 63.

The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

The GOP is normally keen to see criminals put behind bars, but it makes a sharp distinction when the person that a court has found guilty and wants to jail is one of their own. At that point all the rules change and one is asked to sympathize for what poor "Scooter" has "had to go through".

Forget the fact that "Scooter" Libby was found guilty of the exact same charge which the Republicans had insisted made Clinton unfit for office; when done by one of their own perjury became something slight and almost whimsical. Indeed, the very fact that he had been prosecuted was used as an example of how "partisan" and "political" the entire prosecution must have been:

The Plame investigation was urged by the Bush CIA and commenced by the Bush DOJ, Libby's conviction pursued by a Bush-appointed federal prosecutor, his jail sentence imposed by a Bush-appointed "tough-on-crime" federal judge, all pursuant to harsh and merciless criminal laws urged on by the "tough-on-crime/no-mercy" GOP. Lewis Libby was sent to prison by the system constructed and desired by the very Republican movement protesting his plight.

But our political discourse and media institutions are so broken and corrupt that Bush followers (and their media enablers) feel free to make the completely-backwards and fact-free claim that the Libby prosecution was driven by "partisan" and "political" motives -- as though it was a mirror image of the Clinton persecution driven by Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and a purely partisan Republican prosecutor -- because they know that there is no such thing as a claim too false to be passed on without real objection by our vapid, drooling press corps.

It is for this reason that Barack Obama is reticent to pursue Bush, Cheney and others for war crimes. Because the GOP - backed by large numbers of the American press corps - really do believe that they are, and should be, above the law.

That is why both the president and the vice president could both appear on national television and so casually admit to war crimes. They do not believe for a moment that the law should apply to themselves.

And that is what Rove is lamenting when he talks of what poor "Scooter" has been through. He thinks it a partisan injustice that Libby was ever even accused of a crime, never mind convicted. For the law, in Rove's mind, should not apply to people like himself.

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