Speculation is running rampant over to whom, if anybody, President Bush will issue a last minute pardon as his time in office expires. It is at least as likely that Bush will not issue any 11th hour reprieves, given that he has issued fewer pardons than any recent two-term president. But everybody has their favorite candidate. Even this guy:
“I hope he pardons Scooter [Libby],” Richard Armitage, a former Bush official, told the Financial Times.
How nice that Dick Armitage, former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell and the original source for Robert Novak’s column, which identified Iraq War critic Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, wants to see Libby get a pardon. Of course, if Armitage had shown as much concern for Libby, or anybody but himself, before the investigation into who leaked Plame’s name to the press, Libby would not need a pardon to begin with.
Novak’s artivcle spurred a media frenzy to determine the identity of the Administration official that revealed Plame’s name to Novak. The theory was that the White House had conspired to out Plame as punishment for Wilson’s New York Times op-ed claiming that Bush had lied about one of the justifications for invading Iraq. Armitage knew that theory wasn’t true. He knew that he was Novak’s source, and that Plame’s name was revealed, “accidently.” But he said nothing publicly, and let Libby and Rove, not to mention President Bush and Vice-President Cheney twist in the wind.
Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation, not the leak. Special Prosecutor Partick Fitzgerald never charged Libby with the leak. That was because from the very first days of the investigation, Fitzgerald knew that the source of the leak was Armitage, and that there was no conspiracy. In other words, Armitage made sure to cover his backside legally by talking to Fitzgerald, while he protected his reputation in public with his silence. Fitzgerald, knowing the name the investigation was supposed to uncover, continued his investigation anyway, and ended up convicting a man for having a faulty memory.
Scooter Libby has seen his sentence commuted by President Bush, which makes his outright pardon unlikely, and all the more tragic. Libby will have to live the rest of his life with the stain of a felony conviction on his record – a fact that could have been prevented if Dick Armitage had the courage and decency to come forward and admit publicly that he was Novak’s source. One would suspect that his hope for a Libby pardon is the product of a guilty conscience. But Armitage’s actions in the Plame affair have shown that he is a man devoid of one.