I spent eight years wishing the Dick Cheney had been president rather than George W. Bush. Here’s another example where Cheney was right and Bush was dead wrong: Cheney really fought to get Bush to pardon Scooter Libby. Libby wasn’t guilty of perjury. At worst, he had a bad memory. But based on Tim Russert’s own flagrant “memory lapses,” there is every reason to believe that it was Russert’s memory, not Libby’s, that was faulty. Either way, Liby deserved a pardon. Bush didn’t want to take the heat for such a pardon. Either that, or else his refusal to pardon was a passive-aggressive move to punish Cheney’s team for supposedly embarrassing Bush or at least causing unwanted controversy one too many times. Shame on Bush. Cheney was far more loyal to Bush than Bush was to Cheney. I sat in on two private lunches (about ten people at each lunch) with Cheney that had plenty of chances for off-the-record comments and at which Cheney was pressed, even off the record, to put some distance between himself and Bush — but Cheney wouldn’t do so.
On the record, two weeks before the end of the Bush administration, I asked Cheney directly what he thought about whether Libby should be pardoned. Even then, as he privately was pressing Bush to do so, he was circumspect, saying that he had a very high admiration for Libby. Then silence. Pressed, he would NOT go farther, would NOT be disloyal to Bush by publicly giving journalists sympathetic to Libby any fodder with which to further pressure Bush for a pardon.
Cheney is a good man who surrounded himself with strong people. Bush is a man who liked to be surrounded with sycophants. The result of the latter was that Bush was one of the most unsuccessful presidents in decades. The refusal to pardon Libby is symptomatic of a larger illness: Bush’s inability to reconsider original decisions.
Bush’s failure to issue the pardon was a disgrace.