June 07, 2007
Despite disagreement on a variety of issues, the vast majority of voters don’t like being lied to and do want their government to uphold the principle of equal justice for all. In the case of Scooter Libby, convicted of lying to federal investigators and the grand jury and obstructing justice, it is meaningless to ponder whether he was the first to disclose Valerie Plame’s status or simply a confirming source.
More to the point, what spooked him into lying about his part in the disclosure, and why were so many administration operatives chattering about Ms. Plame in the first place? How can motivation and causative factors ever be determined in any investigation if major players fail to tell the truth? Truthful testimony is a defining feature of our courts no matter what intervening issues are in play; as a lawyer Libby could not have failed to absorb that concept.
For his defenders, many of whom have written letters to the judge pleading for leniency in Libby’s sentencing - - such upstanding examples of virtue as Richard Perle, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and a raft of surrogates out of the vice president’s office who claim no underlying crime was committed - - the question remains, why lie if there was nothing untoward about what took place? Mary Matalin, an advisor to Vice President Cheney, included in her letter that Libby loves children and they love him, a quality that is intended apparently to set him apart from people who hate kids.
There is nothing so disingenuous and deceptive this administration will not try in the pursuit of its agenda, nothing it will not do to protect the insiders who scramble around the White House acting in ways that undermine our institutions and distort the basic values that define us as a people. That being the case, Libby will probably be pardoned, something he no doubt counted on from the start. But though his wrongful acts may be excused by the president at some future date, a pardon will not be able reclaim Libby’s innocence or restore public confidence in the way our government operates.
One of the reasons there is such widespread popular disapproval of the Immigration Reform Bill now making its way through Congress, aside from the fact that it is so ponderous and probably unworkable, is that it addresses the “illegal” immigrant issue as if being illegal in this particular instance were just a side issue. It drives people of diverse backgrounds and persuasions crazy to think that some criminal behavior is punished or at least regarded with disapproval while undocumented workers are accepted with a wink and a nod. And local populations know, what many politicians are often unwilling to acknowledge, that their taxes fund benefits for illegals and that employers welcome the opportunity to pay less for their labor which in turn drives down the wages of American workers.
And while it may be true that some jobs would go unfilled without immigrant labor, there are others that would certainly be grabbed if wages were fair, accompanied by decent working conditions and some benefits. As one caller to a morning show suggested, there are displaced Katrina victims who would love to return to New Orleans and fill those construction jobs that are being farmed out to foreign workers by firms with generous government contracts. And here in Connecticut, the men who line the streets waiting to be hired aren’t here to pick lettuce. Some of them may of course end up with landscaping jobs, but others who work in construction, for example, certainly lower wage expectations for locals.
The basic problem when politicians step over the line and go unpunished, or when government fails to attend to the needs of its citizens is that such intransigence engenders a tremendous loss of public faith. There is more to governing than building up an army and sending troops into battle as should have become obvious by now. And while there have been no attacks on our soil recently, the world has become a far more volatile place since 2001, a condition to which we have contributed. And there is something so totally illogical about not protecting our borders or monitoring more precisely who comes here that even the most disengaged among us understands the hypocrisy and stupidity with which these issues are currently being addressed.
Most of the current Republican presidential candidates are trying to out-tough one another in condemning radical Islam with bellicose, though often ignorant, assessments of who the terrorists actually are and what it will take to defeat them. But something more than fear tactics and twisted rhetoric will have to emerge on all sides of the political spectrum to re-engage the public trust. Corruption, unequal justice, incompetence and profound ignorance have done great damage to our country at home, and our ill-conceived foreign policy decisions have been equally destructive to our image and influence abroad.
It will take a new administration and many new faces in Congress and in the departments that make policies affecting our daily lives to create a happier political climate. Candidates will have to support by deed as well as word the rule of law. It is not a good sign that Fred Thompson donated to the Scooter Libby defense fund; even though he just plays a district attorney on TV he must be aware that perjury is unacceptable in our system of justice. He, and every other candidate, needs to take note of the electorate’s growing impatience with corrupt and duplicitous politicians.