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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What's Hillary's angle in refusing to commit to refuse a pardon to Scooter Libby?

My working assumption is that everything that Hillary Clinton says and does is motivated by Hillary Clinton's desire to be elected President in 2008 and, secondarily, re-elected in 2012. That is the path to power, and power is all she cares about; everything else, from her soul to her marriage to the price of tea in China, is secondary.

This working assumption comprehensively and coherently explains 99.8% of everything I have read or heard that she has said in public since, oh, July 1991.

I credit her with the capacity for deep, cunning thought, and I do indeed think that she has learned — which is to say, learned to be more ruthlessly effective and more effectively ruthless — over the last decade and a half. I don't think she is a tenth as politically nimble and instinctive as her husband. But it worries me when I hear or read something from her that doesn't fit my working assumption — because it makes me think I might be missing something important.

So can perhaps you, gentle readers, explain to me why on June 19, 2007, Hillary Clinton pointedly refused to commit to refusing to pardon Scooter Libby?

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the wife of a former president who was criticized for his eleventh-hour pardons, declined to weigh in yesterday on a potential pardon for Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Clinton and nearly all other major Democratic presidential candidates spent yesterday wooing labor unions and liberal groups at a series of forums and events in Washington.

Clinton’s remarks came at a presidential forum during the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Leadership Conference.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, created a firestorm in 2001 by pardoning Marc Rich, a man whose ex-wife had contributed substantial money to the Democratic Party and the Clintons.

"I would think there would be enough to be said about this without me adding to it," said Hillary Clinton in response to a question by moderator Chris Matthews of MSNBC about the possibility of a Libby pardon.

When Matthews called her out for a "political answer" and pressed her, he was shouted down by several members of the audience, who asked for a "real question."

Clinton added: “A question that’s really about the people in this audience … and not what goes on inside of Washington."

I just don't get this. The first thing I thought when I read this was, "Wow, exactly how naïve was Scooter Libby when he called Tim Russert in the supposed hope that Russert could exercise a moderating influence over Chris Matthews?" But the next thing I thought was, "Why on God's green earth would Hillary — even if she wanted to tweak Matthews' nose and "differentiate" herself from the field of Democratic candidates — pick this issue to do that?" (Secondary question: Why'd the union audience support her on this?)

Can you actually imagine President Hillary Clinton pardoning Scooter Libby? I mean, putting aside all the crazy conspiracy theories (e.g., "Scooter has the photographs of Hillary in bed with Vince Foster on the weekend before Foster's 'suicide'"), what possible reason would Hillary have to be at all decent to a loyal Cheney minion like Libby, especially given the sensitivity on pardon issues in general that she ought to have, simply as a triangulating focus-group driven wind sock?

So let's presume, for purposes of further analysis, that she's insincere in suggesting that she's open-minded. Why didn't she just say, "Hell, no, I would never in a million years pardon Libby?" Stated another way: What is the upside for Hillary Clinton in refusing to go on record now against a Libby pardon? Even if she wasn't before a hard Hard Left audience, a MoveOn.com audience — why pass up an opportunity to condemn the Bush/Cheney Administration?

She doesn't do anything by accident. There is a play here; somewhere in a tabbled, color-coded briefing book (numbered copies, printed on poison-laced paper whose antidote is only passed out at Hillary08! staff meetings every evening), this answer was pre-scripted, along with a rationale for it. I just can't suss it, and it's bugging me. Help me out, gentle (devious, suspicious, astute) readers?

Posted by Beldar at 08:24 AM in 2008 Election, Politics (2007) | Permalink


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(1) boris made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 8:42:27 AM | Permalink

Perhaps she just wants the credibility to say "see these political investigations like Ken Starr and FitzPatrick Fitzgerald are just bad news and there will be no more of them".

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 8:49:51 AM | Permalink

If there's anyone in the world who understands the dangers (legitimate and ill-) of independent counsel to a sitting president, it's Hillary. But it can't be that which is driving her now.

No, no. She would no more ever say in public that she was against the principle of "special counsels," indepedent of DoJ control, than she would ever, as President, actually permit a genuinely independent special counsel to be appointed to investigate her or anyone connected to her. "I'm pardoning Libby as a symbol, because I intend not to permit any more political investigations of the sort that snared him" — that just ain't gonna happen, because it could too easily be portrayed by her enemies (from the left and right) as her anticipating that she or someone close to her will be the subject of corruption allegations. ("Of the sort that snared him and Bill," she might as well say. That isn't something she wants to talk about in that amount of detail anymore, she wants to blow it off as "old news.")

And even if she said that she intended to vigorously resist "political investigations" like Libby's (which would presume a strange, cold day in Focus-Group Hell first), she'd never actually prove the point by pardoning Libby and thereby pissing off some enormous chunk of the Hard Left base.

A principled explanation is only acceptable if it happens, coincidentally, to correspond with one that benefits Hillary. But it also has to be a principle that, if actually acted upon, would not threaten her, and also a principle that would not easily be susceptible to painting as her appearing to subvert justice.

(3) boris made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 9:08:00 AM | Permalink

My perception is that she is willing to annoy the hard left to establish credibility with the center. This would be a twofer in that case.

A centric focus group may quietly be concerned with Kenneth and Patrick. Happy to see Libby go down, unhappy with the perception of persecution and unwilling to say so openly given the bloodlust of their warrior wing.

(4) Sam made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 10:28:57 AM | Permalink

I'd say she probably wanted "Clinton" and "pardon" to appear together in as little news coverage as possible.

Either a commitment to pardon Libby or committing to leave him rotting in jail would be far more newsworthy.

Also, she's playing the grown-up Elder Statesman (as opposed to the inexperienced kid) and this is a very statesmanlike answer.

(5) Phelps made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 1:05:54 PM | Permalink

There is another angle. Libby had access to documents at the highest level, many of which date back to the Clinton era and are likely to be relevant today.

Perhaps this was a hint about a later possible quid pro quo. A "don't screw this up, Scooter."

(6) Carol Herman made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 3:16:20 PM | Permalink

All the Bonkeys have are their political-legal attempts to get this country into their pockets.

As to Libby, and his travails, IF Bush has to pardon him, which won't come before January 19, 2009 ... It will mean the judiciary has been taken over by politics. Which, I'd point out, has NOT helped the Old Media!

Heck, Dan Rather wouldn't opt to see Libby exonerated. But he's still stuck in the Mary Mapes mud.

As to the judiciary, itself, it seems we get judges without talents. The least we should have are referees. The kinds that even show up at kid's baseball games. Because without them, the game's not worth a fiddler's fart.

That's why the referees, in football, for instance, carry rags in their pockets. That they throw on the grounds. When their eyeballs see beaviors falling outside the rules.

If you wanted to corrupt sports, you'd just corrupt the referees. But you'd be killing franchise businesses worth lots of money. On the other hand? Most people walking into courts these days, just have complaints. Including complaints against their own lawyers.

And, don't get me started on the general public that just hates those subpeonas. To show up for the jury pool. Where the antics are to pick the dumbest.

As to Roberts and ALito. They weren't worth the cost. Algore and John Kerry will go into our history books as having been the better choices; but it was their label. Like a "union label." People saw it and put the garments back on the racks.

Of course, David Tatel can bungle it again. What does he care? He has a "job for life." Tenured buggers.

(7) James B. Shearer made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 4:51:14 PM | Permalink

A possibly relevant factoid, Libby was a lawyer representing Marc Rich.

(8) boris made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 6:22:03 PM | Permalink

oh yeah ... so he was

(9) El Jefe Maximo made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 6:54:35 PM | Permalink

Maybe she wants to keep her pardon options in reserve since, Hilla being Hilla; Bill being Bill; and, their Crew being their Crew. . .you can never know just who you'll need to pardon. She wouldn't want to be called two-faced for boxing herself in on Mr. Libby.

Besides as other commenters note, it dredges up talk about the whole Marc Rich et al business.

(10) antimedia made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 9:30:52 PM | Permalink

Beldar, you're not Machiavellian enough. Stirring up the Libby pot could well lead to retaliatory mud-slinging about things in the Clinton era. Best to let sleeping dogs lie until after she's elected (she hopes - she won't be.)

(11) Carol Herman made the following comment | Jun 26, 2007 10:31:38 PM | Permalink

At about 8:00 PM, Eastern, Just One Minute (JOM) had Rick Ballard putting up the ROBBINS (Team Libby) filing in response to Fitz. It's a doozy.

Of course, Hillary's not the only shark swimming; there are others.

There's also the reality of the Internet. And, ordinary folk no longer wait for Walter Cronkite to come out and pontificate.

The senate's also gone wild.

Even though, here, James B. Shearer wants to note that "Libby is a lawyer."

This reminds me. My "ex" is a cardiologist. So, I'm much more familiar with the world of medicine.

But it's a known fact, in medicine, that if your patient is a doctor; doctor's wife; or member of the family, the case is gonna hit a SNAFU. That's why doctors look for the best in the fields they need, when they, themselves, need care.

If Walton didn't crap all over Wells, I'd have thought Libby was gonna do okay, because he had some knowledge on how to pick a better Lawyer; over the usual crap most people hire.

But Walton couldn't have been angrier at a defense counsel, than what he put Wells through. What kind of professional jealousy is that?

People, by now, have noticed, that when Kofi Annan got to the top spot in the UN, he just lifted the darn ladder up in the air. Seems Walton has a similar behavior going; as there was no courtesies shown to a member of his own tribe. Though both of them needed to have the doors pried open. just to get to where they were.

Now? Well,Libby's stayed cool. And, it seems events are turning. (As Mark Steyn is also pointing out that in Chicago, the case against Conrad Black, is also more a persecution than a prosecution.)

And, Robbins? WOW. Can he write well. If whateverit was Walton and Fitzgerald were up to, it now seems Robbins just "blew all the smoke away."

I cannot imagine even goofball judges missing the opportunity to give Libby a chance to stay out of jail, on bond.

We shall see how out of touch some people are in the real world, though.

And, I think Libby will be vindicated. Hillary president? Nope. I don't believe that at all. Though she's harder to blow off the nomination stage than Howie Dean. Things will get interesting. In the world of self-interest, judges for life don't have to worry. But polical keisters in fancy chairs? They've been known to go flying home. LBJ. Daschle. I can name, names.

What happens next? We have to wait. (While I don't think this increases the subscription rates for the old media at all.) Heck, did you see? Brian Williams lost more viewers than Katie Couric. Ah. Because he had more. To lose.

(12) nk made the following comment | Jun 27, 2007 12:09:09 AM | Permalink

Obama. He is in Fitzgerald's radar if not sights yet through Tony Rezko. Rezko is under indictment for Chicago-style corruption and Obama has been hand-in-glove with him for a long time. Hillary does not, in any way, want to have anything to do with Fitzgerald especially if he takes down Obama for her. She will still need the black vote.

(13) Carol_Herman made the following comment | Jun 27, 2007 11:53:35 AM | Permalink

I'll bet. Hillary could care less about Obama; and if he runs into Fitzgerald's shredder of decency, or not.

But I think Fitzgerald's left enough "re-play" tapes around, that he'll remain famous, long after Libby is set free.

There's also the matter of Robbins. Up at the Appellate level. Now, I'm an outsider. I've got no use at all for lawyers. And, I give maximum credit to Martha Stewart, who just slammed her purse shut. Figuring "that's the way to go, girl!"

While, just like cockroaches, the judges are always aware when there are cameras in the hallways. SOmetimes? Like on Paris Hilton? A nutty judge will go overboard and create a stir. But, cockroaches can be smarter than that. And, they run as soon as the lights go on.

That's the reason I think Libby, ahead, gets a fair deal.

And, I also think, with all the marketing money in the world, Hillary won't become president.

I'm even reminded how the Soddies paid BILLIONS to Madison Avenue, following 9/11. DIdn't buy them a thing. (What they have, though, is Dubya in their pockets. But that was an investment in millions, during the 1980's, when Bush's Arbusto was going belly up. That's what they bet! The vice-president's son would pay off someday.)

Now, as to "pay offs," you haven't seen it all play out. Because the Soddie's still are liked the least among all the despotic players in the Mideast.

They say sunlight is the best bleach. Here's hoping time will let the bleach work, on our judicial system, which is currently way too political, and beyond repair. Even if we add 12-million new illegals and make 'em "legal." Even in that cesspool, the Bonkeys' and the Soddies can inherit the whirlwind.

(14) DWPittelli made the following comment | Jun 27, 2007 3:04:54 PM | Permalink

Easy. She's not as quick on her feet as Bill. Pardoning Libby is something Bush may or may not do. It never occurred to Hillary that she might be asked whether she might pardon Libby. And when put on the spot with something unexpected, she almost always defers judgment until she's had time to ask Bill or a pollster.

(15) dchamil made the following comment | Jun 27, 2007 5:01:15 PM | Permalink

"refusing to commit to refuse"? Doggone these multiple negatives, thank goodness there were only two of them!

(16) nk made the following comment | Jun 27, 2007 10:09:57 PM | Permalink

On further thought, actually rememberance: Who can mark the limits of night ... or the moods of a woman?

(17) Ted made the following comment | Jun 28, 2007 8:28:56 PM | Permalink

If she approves of pardoning Libby, it peeves the Left for no good reason.

If she opposes pardoning Libby, it reminds everyone about the Rich pardon.

This way she stays out of the issue. It doesn't affect her. She's not going to pardon Libby in 2009, nor is she going to have the opportunity, even if she is inaugurated, to do so.

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