Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Ace of Wankers

Jack Balkin reminds us of the president's ace - the pardon power - and Robert Parry tells us, among plenty of other things, that Richard Cohen has long been a wanker. He quotes from a 1992 column about the pardon of Casper Weinberger:

“Liberal” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen spoke for many of his colleagues when he defended Bush’s fatal blow against the Iran-Contra investigation. Cohen especially liked Bush’s pardon of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who had been indicted for obstruction of justice but was popular around Washington.

In a Dec. 30, 1992, column, Cohen said his view was colored by how impressed he was when he would see Weinberger in the Georgetown Safeway store, pushing his own shopping cart.

“Based on my Safeway encounters, I came to think of Weinberger as a basic sort of guy, candid and no nonsense – which is the way much of official Washington saw him,” Cohen wrote. “Cap, my Safeway buddy, walks, and that’s all right with me.”

This was the basic view of much of the establishment "liberal" commentariat. Here's a Capital Gang segment from Feb 17, 2001, which includes a flashback to an episode from January 2, 1992, after the pardon of Weinberger:

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

On Christmas Eve 1992, then lame-duck President George Bush issued a pardon to former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and four other officials in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal. Independent counsel Lawrence Walsh immediately announced an investigation of the former president on the grounds that he was pardoning people in a case in which he was personally involved. This was the reaction by your CAPITAL GANG on January 2, 1993.


HUNT: Mark, as Cap Weinberger suggests, is this a personal vendetta against President Bush?

SHIELDS: No, it isn't Al. First of all, let's get a couple of things -- a couple of basics straight. You cannot have, on a sustained basis, a free government as long as the executive is somehow exempt from the rule of law. Now at what level, is it GS-12, GS-18, at which an executive employee of the federal government of the United States says, I'm going to do what I think is in the best interest of the country rather than what the law says?

NOVAK: The idea right now, under the constitutional powers of the president, in what was the greatest act of his presidency, he pardoned these people. And now this man, Judge Walsh, out of control with snide remarks -- well, I'm glad he's got a good lawyer -- is saying, we don't have any chance to get the people that we were persecuting, but we're going after the president of the United States.

HUNT: I thought the pardon of Weinberger was justified, despite the fact that he misled Congress.

For one thing, he was on the right side of what was, let's face it, a disgraceful...

NOVAK: What did he mislead them on?

HUNT: Let me finish, please -- a disgraceful policy. But to then give a blanket pardon to Clarridge (ph), to George (ph), to Elliott Abrams (ph) -- people who clearly lied, there wasn't any mistake in the -- they were liars.

NOVAK: Not true.

HUNT: I think that it was an unconscionable act, and all it does is pinpoint George Bush's untruthfulness about this whole issue.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, does the Weinberger pardon, eight years later, stand the test of time?

HUNT: Better than some of the rest of us, Mark.

Yes, I think it does. I think it was a good pardon. We shouldn't forget George Bush's -- the former George Bush's complicity and duplicity in an illegal operation, but I also welcome Bob Novak's indignation over out of control, zealous prosecutors. For a minute I thought he was talking about Ken Starr.

The point being that Weinberger was, basically, one of the good guys and even if he broke the law no big deal. Even if we buy into the notion that Weinberger was one of the angels somehow, it doesn't change the fact that one reason to indict him was, of course, to get him to flip which he had made fairly clear he had planned to do.