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Bush not above the law, but above accountability

In commuting the 30-month jail sentence of convicted perjurer Lewis "Scooter" Libby, President Bush did not technically place himself above the law, since presidential commutations are clearly legal. What he did was to place his administration above accountability, and not for the first time. From the hundreds of signing statements on new laws to his refusal to comply with congressional investigations of the US attorneys' purge and the warrantless wiretapping of US citizens, Bush has acted as though the nation had one chance to hold him accountable, in the 2004 election -- and chose not to.

The perjury charges against Libby grew out of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. That disclosure turned out to have been incidental to the attempt to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, a former US diplomat. In a now-famous op ed piece in the New York Times, Wilson asserted that the administration had ignored information casting doubt on the administration's insinuation that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons.

The case of Libby, formerly the top aide of Vice President Dick Cheney, demonstrated that the administration would go to great lengths to suppress any questioning of its decisions. By commuting Libby's sentence, Bush has shown a similar willingness to shield top officials in his adminstration from the consequences of their deeds.