Rich Lowry

Practically everything else in American life has been dumbed down, so why not constitutional crises? The braying over President Bush's commutation of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence is that Bush has undermined the rule of law and the Constitution.

The Founders would be bemused at this, since -- inconveniently for the Scooter-must-hang left -- they included the pardon power in the Constitution. There it is in Article II, Section 2: The president "shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons." They didn't include a proviso that the power shall not extend to persons vilified by left-wing bloggers as the personification of "the case for war."
Bush can hardly create a constitutional crisis by exercising a plenary constitutional power, and doing it in a way that has become almost routine. The first President Bush pardoned former CIA official Clair George (convicted of lying to Congress), former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (indicted for perjury) and former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane (pled guilty to withholding information from Congress). Like the current Bush's commutation, these Iran-Contra pardons violated the Justice department guidelines. And somehow, the republic survived.

President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of former Arkansas operator Susan McDougal (jailed for myriad offenses); former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros (caught up in an interminable independent-counsel investigation about whether he lied to the FBI); former CIA Director John Deutch (in the midst of a plea bargain over his mishandling of classified material); and eight people connected to the scandal around former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (all of whom had been convicted of or pled guilty to illegal acts).

This leaves aside Clinton's truly egregious pardons and commutations: sixteen Puerto Rican terrorists over the opposition of the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Prisons; the international fugitive Marc Rich; one man convicted of mail fraud and perjury and another convicted of cocaine trafficking, each of whom had paid $200,000 to Hillary Clinton's brother Hugh Rodman to represent them..

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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