PASSION DISTORTS PERSPECTIVE. Nowhere is that more evident than in Rep. John Conyers' inquiry into the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence.
Yesterday, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee wasted a calendar day holding hearings on “The Use and Misuse of Presidential Clemency Power for Executive Branch Officials.” Apparently afflicted with the glut of inside the Beltway gut-feeling policymaking, Conyers confessed he launched the inquest under “the suspicion was that if Mr. Libby went to prison, he might further implicate other people in the White House.”  Chief among his witnesses was former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who testified that the president’s “own involvement in this unseemly smear campaign reveal a chief executive willing to subvert the rule of law and system of justice that has undergirded this great republic of ours for over 200 years.” Conyers also invited Ohio State University law professor Douglas A. Berman, who condemned then-Governor Bush’s refusal to commute the death sentence of a former client of Berman’s in 1997, on the grounds the convicted murderer had been abused as a child.
As Wilson’s comments demonstrate, the Left has treated the Libby commutation as a constitutional crisis.  However, there are genuine legal outrages involving those who have killed Americans in the name of jihad – and these outrages have interested Rep. Conyers not in the least.
President Bush decided to commute Scooter Libby’s jail sentence after Judge Reggie Walton ordered Libby to begin serving his 30-month jail term immediately. Although Libby was a first-time offender with no risk of flight or recidivism; although Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew there was no underlying crime before beginning his investigation; although all the witnesses contradicted themselves; and although the jury admitted confusion about the crime and the standard of evidence necessary for conviction, Libby could not remain free on appeal.
A much different scene prevailed for Lynne Stewart, the terror lawyer convicted of passing on fatwas from “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman – the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing – to Egyptian jihadists.
Clinton-appointed U.S. District Court Judge John George Koeltl waited nearly two years after conviction before sentencing Stewart. Last October, he opted to break with guidelines that should have landed her in prison for 30 years, sentencing her to only 28 months – two months less than Libby. Explaining his uber-clemency, Koeltl gushed, “Ms. Stewart performed a public service, not only to her clients, but to the nation.” He then left her free on appeal.
Immediately afterward, Stewart told an adoring crowd of supporters, “he gave me time off for good behavior, and he gave it to me in advance of the sentence…he said that my extraordinary work meant that I could not get a sentence that the government wanted.”
Some have complained that Scooter Libby has been insufficiently penitent. However, at her post-trial press conference, Stewart showed defiance and contempt. “I'd like to think I would do it again,” she thundered. “I know I committed no crime. I know what I did was right.” She proved that with her testimony, which endorsed “popular revolution” and acknowledged, “You can't always separate out the combatants from the non-combatants.” Accidents will happen….
Leftists have also stated that Libby’s probation, $250,000 fine (which he paid out of his own pocket), and loss of his law license were insufficient punishment. However, this appeared to be a motivating factor in Koeltl’s unwarranted sympathy for Stewart. “The end of my career truly is like a sword in my side,” she wrote to him.
She demonstrated exactly how great a sword this was in an October 20, 2006, interview on PBS’s NOW with Bill Moyers:
I walk into a restaurant and people send over bottle of wine. I walk down the street and people give me a thumbs-up. The cab drivers – I rarely pay a cab fare.
Not only did she deserve clemency – she entertained similar feelings about the 9/11 hijackers: “do they deserve punishment for the deaths of these people? Probably. But for me, I'm a lawyer. If they come into my arena, I defend. I don't prosecute, I defend.” This is an act of incredible mercy on her part, as she insists, “I, too, was a victim of 9-1-1.” Read the transcript or listen to the audio
The heavy cross of her punishment has included numerous interviews, including an episode of New Jersey Public Television’s Due Process. She is currently the object of a glowing biopic running on Robert Redford’s Sundance Channel. It shows the Mafia/terror lawyer’s love for poetry and has already drawn a rave review from the New York Times (“brilliant”).
Last month, she introduced Cynthia McKinney, who may be running for president on the Green Party ticket, at “An Evening of Revolutionary Love,” a political fundraiser held at St. Mary’s Church in New York City (attention People for the American Way!). McKinney concluded her remarks with a grammatically challenged homage to the terror enabler. Calling Stewart a “true heroine,” she seemed to forecast a pardon in a McKinney presidency:
Let me close by saying that to be in the same room, on the same stage…at the same event with a woman I have read about in the newspaper and admired from afar – and I’m talking about you Lynne – I mean, it’s like, how many high points in your life can you get?…Thank you, Lynne, because I know it’s not easy…Thank you very much, because you have been more than a friend to me, and I hope that I can reciprocate the kind of love and support that you have shown to me, because it’s true extraordinary.
(See the full 38-minute video here.)
Between Stewart’s speaking engagements and films, she’s soldiering along with her own growing merchandise line. You can order Lynne Stewart t-shirts, a putatively exculpatory booklet (produced by the National Lawyers Guild, complete with a statement from cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal), and a DVD.
All this persists as Stewart is a condemned criminal and accessory to jihad, the helper and enabler of a terrorist who tried to inflict 9/11 eight-and-a-half years early.
The difference between Lynne and Libby is the president has the power to commute sentences; the Clinton-appointed judge who ignored sentencing norms was elected by no one. Scooter Libby had to pay $250,000 and will serve two years probation; Lynne Stewart has yet to serve a day in jail for her crimes, though she was convicted twenty-nine months ago yesterday, the day Conyers exerted the full power of his office to find out why Scooter Libby was still free.
John Conyers has his priorities. Unfortunately, the safety and well-being of his nation is not among them.
1. Conyers added, “There was some kind of relationship here that does not exist in any of President Clinton's pardons.” Apparently the name Susan McDougal eluded the good
Congressman.2. Upon hearing the news, Sen. Chuck Schumer also steamed, “the principles our forefathers fought for was equal justice under the law. This commutation completely tramples on that principle.”