MAYBE BUSH IS WITHHOLDING A LIBBY PARDON -- BUT NOT FOR THE REASONS YOU THINK
(This theory seemed brilliant early this morning just as the caffeine was kicking in, but it started to seem preposterous about thirty seconds after I hit PUBLISH. What the hell, though, I'll leave it up.)
I've predicted that President Bush would wait for the next three-day weekend and pardon Scooter Libby just as that weekend began. I'm beginning to wonder if I was wrong.
Clearly the Bushies are preparing Scooter fans for disappointment: Bush told an interviewer he wants to let the system work ("I'm pretty much going to stay out of it until the course -- the case has finally run its final -- the course it's going to take"). And a story has appeared in Newsweek suggesting that Bush won't pardon Libby because Libby doesn't fit the Justice Department's criteria for pardons, which, we're told, Bush follows scrupulously. And, of course, many people think the pardon won't happen until late in '08 because it's politically risky.
But here's a theory for you: What if Bush is planning to hold back and act as if his hands are tied in order to sustain the right's sense of outrage so they'll be that much more motivated to vote Republican in '08?
Think back to to the Clinton impeachment -- specifically, to what happened just after the Senate failed to convict. Anyone remember? Democrats tried to get a vote on censure -- and the GOP's Phil Gramm blocked a vote. After the Republicans failed to throw Clinton out of office, they didn't want him to suffer a milder rebuke -- they wanted to be able to run against Democrats in 2000 with the argument that Clinton had gotten away with it. It worked like a charm.
I think maybe Republicans and rightists want to play the grievance card again. I think they may even want to link this case directly to the '08 race. Remember the Crooks and Liars clip of Rush Limbaugh I excerpted yesterday? Here's a part I left out:
...But you got William Jefferson now, who ought to be under indictment -- he's on the Homeland Security Committee. You got Sandy Burglar, with a slap on the wrist, who's going to get his security clearance back just in time to join the Clinton administration in 2009.... Politics is one thing. Sending somebody to prison is another.... This is the kind of thing that causes all conservatives to circle the wagons -- [the] left behaves like this with their willing accomplices in the media. We shall see.
That ties it all together -- the evil Clinton cabal on the verge of a return to power, the amoral Democrat Party, the complicit liberal media, and poor Scooter. A horrible double standard; a monstrous injustice.
So maybe Bush is letting the base think he's the bad guy as part of a tactic (Rove's?) to motivate the same base voters to vote GOP in '08. Hey, why not? Bush never has to run again, and whoever's running in '08 for the GOP will pretend to be a completely fresh face. Is that really so implausible? Is it crazy to think that that's at least part of the strategy? Don't Republicans always run as if they're the embattled insurgents pinned under the jackboot of entrenched power, no matter how many branches of government they control?