Why laws, principles and the truth matter | NevadaAppeal.com
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Why laws, principles and the truth matter

Kirk Caraway

The commutation of Scooter Libby’s jail sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice has many conservatives cheering.

Yet I see little for any true conservative not blinded by party loyalty to celebrate.

Nor do I give much credence to many Democrats who are whining about Libby’s special treatment.

Did Libby get special treatment? Ask the thousands of people who have served time for committing the same offense. Libby didn’t even apply for clemency, unlike the multitudes who have applied and been denied.

The fact that Libby worked for the vice president should mean he is subject to greater punishment, not less. Our leaders and their staffs should be setting examples, not skirting justice.

By all accounts, Libby is a skilled lawyer who knew the penalties for lying and covering up the misdeeds of others. Yet he blatantly broke the law, perhaps thinking he was above being held to account for those crimes.

Some Republicans have proclaimed that Libby should not be punished because there was no underlying crime. This is the same argument used by defenders of Bill Clinton when he lied about his affair with an intern to protect himself from political embarrassment.

But this begs the question, why did Libby lie? If there were no crimes to hide, then why lie? Remember, this was not some spur-of-the-moment fib that Libby told. The investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA operative had been going on for two years before Libby offered his false testimony, plenty of time to get his story straight.

And Libby’s defense team hinted at the beginning of his trial that there was a bigger crime, that Libby was the fall guy for Karl Rove. But after this shot across the bow of the White House, the lawyers fell silent, offering very little defense. It’s as if they knew that a get-out-of-jail-free card was on the way, as long as didn’t reveal any more secrets. The fix was in, and the last thing any of them wanted was the truth to come out.

There needs to be a tombstone erected to commemorate the fact that, sometime after the resignation of Richard Nixon, those in charge of running our government killed off the concepts of principle and truth in favor of unbridled partisanship.

When Congressional Republicans stood up against the crimes of Nixon and his cronies, they did it on principle. They could have played the partisan card and made believe there were no crimes and helped Nixon ride out the impeachment storm. But the republic would have suffered greatly. As it happens, the party was able to get past the Nixon scandals and came back to power in 1980.

That was then. Trying to find a politician today who would truly stand up for principle is a tougher task than locating Amelia Earhart.

So often we see politicians jettison principles for short-term gains. If the Democrats had stood by the rule of law and impeached Bill Clinton, George W. Bush would never have become president. Voters didn’t jettison Al Gore in 2000 because of his policies. They saw a man with no principles, who would defend a liar one minute, and shun him the next when it was expedient.

For laws to have any meaning, then no one can be above them, not Bill Clinton, not Scooter Libby, not even Paris Hilton.

President Bush says he supports the jury’s guilty verdict against Libby, unless you believe that he might be lying for political purposes. Does anyone want to bet there will be a pardon with Scooter Libby’s name on it come January 2008?

Is there no one capable of telling the truth anymore?

Both Democrats and Republicans keep building upon the pillars of hypocrisy that they have constructed on the ruins of the truth. Pretty soon, there will be no noble cause or just action that will rise above the din of partisanship.

We may divide ourselves into different parties and philosophies, but we are all a part of the same country, and look to the same truth. When truth becomes relative to what political party you belong to, we lose that common foothold on reality, and it’s the country that falls.

• Kirk Caraway is editor of http://nevadapolitics.com and also writes a blog on national issues at http://kirkcaraway.com.