washingtonpost.com
What Was Bush Thinking?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, July 5, 2007 12:58 PM

President Bush apparently doesn't feel that the American public deserves a detailed explanation of why he chose to commute former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence.

He issued a short written statement on Monday and spoke briefly about the matter on Tuesday, insisting that he felt Libby's sentence was "excessive." White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's press briefing on Tuesday was a farce. (See below.)

But Bush and his aides have nevertheless said enough to generate a few broad hypotheses about what Bush was thinking -- all of which raise more questions than answers.

If you take the White House's position at face value, then Bush felt that the sentence -- which followed federal sentencing guidelines for perjury and obstruction of justice -- was unjust. In that case, why isn't he doing anything about those guidelines?

Another possibility is that Bush felt there were circumstances the judge did not take into consideration. What could those circumstances be? Is Bush saying that, yes, Libby lied, but he should be cut some slack because he did so for noble reasons? If so, what might those reasons be?

There is, of course, a third possibility: That the commutation and all the expressions of concern are just a delaying tactic, and that Bush intends to pardon Libby at the end of his term if Libby's appeal fails. That theory was bolstered by Bush's assertion on Tuesday that he wouldn't rule out a pardon in the long run. If Bush "respects" the jury verdict today, why raise the possibility that he won't 18 months from now?

The Coverage

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jim Rutenberg write in the New York Times: "Before commuting the prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr., President Bush and a small circle of advisers delved deeply into the evidence in the case, debating Mr. Libby's guilt or innocence and whether he had in fact lied to investigators, people familiar with the deliberations said. . . .

"Because the deliberations were so closely held, those who spoke about them agreed to do so only anonymously. But by several different accounts, Mr. Bush spent weeks thinking about the case against Mr. Libby and consulting closely with senior officials, including Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff; Fred F. Fielding, the White House counsel; and Dan Bartlett, Mr. Bush's departing counselor.

"'They were digging deeply into the substance of the charges against him, and the defense for him,' one of the Republicans close to the White House said.

"The second Republican said the overarching question was 'did he lie?'"

Stolberg and Rutenberg's story doesn't say. But they point out: "Both critics of the administration and supporters of Mr. Libby viewed him as a fall guy in the case."

In other words, Bush thinks Libby got a raw deal, because he was just doing his job.

And just how extensively were Karl Rove or Vice President Cheney involved in those deliberations? Stolberg and Rutenberg write: "The process was delicate. Karl Rove, the chief White House strategist and one of Mr. Bush's closest and longest-serving aides, had been implicated in the leak investigation, and it was unclear how extensive a role he played in the deliberations. . . .

"Aides to the vice president have said he regarded Mr. Libby's conviction as a tragedy, but people close to Mr. Cheney said they did not know what conversations, if any, the vice president had with the president about the commutation decision."

No one has or will come out and say: "Yes, the president and the vice president talked about this." But the presumption has to be that they talked about it. In fact, the presumption should be that it was Cheney's decision.

Here's how Bill Plante reported it on the CBS Evening News: "And where's the vice president, Vice President Cheney, in all of this? Well, White House officials say they have no idea whether or not he tried to intervene on behalf of his long-time aide, Scooter Libby. As usual, the vice president left no fingerprints."

Amy Goldstein and Robert Barnes write in Wednesday's Washington Post: "President Bush held out the possibility yesterday that he eventually may pardon I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby as the White House sought to fend off Democratic outrage and conservative disappointment over the president's decision to commute the 30-month prison term of the vice president's former chief of staff. . . .

"'As to the future,' the president told reporters, 'I rule nothing in or nothing out.'

"Libby's defense team, however, indicated yesterday that the White House has provided ample help for now. William H. Jeffress Jr., one of Libby's attorneys, said a request for a pardon 'is not anything that is imminent. We are focusing on the appeals.'"

Questions the Press Should Ask

In Tuesday's column, Obstruction of Justice, Continued, I proposed some questions reporters should be asking, and encouraged you readers to send me more. I was deluged. Here are just a few:

* What if anything are you doing, Mr. President, to cause or encourage Libby to tell the truth? (Richard Tolin)

* How can you expect average Americans to believe that this was anything but a payoff to Libby for keeping silent? (Gloria S. Ross)

* When the president made all those remarks about finding the leaker and firing any one who leaked, didn't he already know who the leakers were? (Jim Domenico)

* Did the President examine other perjury and obstruction cases and the penalties resulting therefrom in reaching his conclusion that the punishment for Libby was "excessive"? Has the President directed his DOJ to survey other perjury and obstruction cases so that he would be able to commute other "excessive" penalties in the interests of justice? (Kevin Toh)

* Will you authorize the public release of the transcript of your and the Vice President's interview with Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald? (Anonymous)

* Who composed your commutation statement? Did it originate in the Vice President's office (i.e., David Addington), or did your White House counsel help you draft the statement? How much influence did the office of the VP exert in making this decision? (Don Greenwood)

* Isn't Bush concerned now that current aides will push the limits of legal behavior thinking that they too will be able to call in a presidential favor if they get in trouble? Has the president reinforced the ethical standards on White House staff in light of the Libby trial, and if so, what did he say to them? (Jack Peterson)

* Why won't the president/administration issue a public, written apology for the damage done to Valerie Plame and her family? They praised Scooter Libby as having provided years of public service. What about someone who worked behind the scenes to ensure the security of the country and is then forced out due to the malicious acts of administration officials? (Will Stroup)

* Why do you think you are in such a superior position to make a sentencing judgment as compared to an experienced judge (especially since your personal relationship with the criminal may impair your objectivity)? What factors did you consider that the sentencing judge did not that compelled you to the judgment that the sentence was excessive? Would you be critical of a sentencing judge taking these same factors into consideration in future cases when deciding whether to impose a sentence outside the guidelines? (Thomas Janzen)

* Did the White House or the office of the Vice President or their lawyers communicate with the attorneys for Libby before the defense team decided to not require Cheney's testimony at the trial? (Larry Keefe)

* If Libby's convictions are upheld on appeal, will the process under which he is considered for pardon be that which you have used for all other cases, or will he get special handling as he did in this commutation? If the appeals process has not run out by the end of your term of office, will you pardon Libby even though it violates the standard protocol for consideration of pardons? (Charles)

* Does President Bush believe that obstruction of justice and perjury should only be prosecuted if the alleged crime being investigated is successfully prosecuted? Does Mr. Bush believe that the fact that no one was charged with violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act mean that no such violations actually occurred? ("litigatormom")

* In your decision to grant clemency to Mr. Libby, did how much did you consider your obligation to what was good for the entire country? (Jon)

* What message might this send to other staffers who are faced with telling the truth or protecting their bosses who have ordered them to break the law? What example does this set for young people making decisions about ethics or morality? (Geoffrey Patrissi)

* How is it possible at one and the same time for Bush to refuse to answer questions for years on the basis that the legal process is still ongoing, but also give Libby a get out of jail free card while the legal process is still ongoing? How can it be wrong to comment on the matter while it's ongoing, but right to intervene? (Jon Krueger)

Snow's Tour de Farce

There is, of course, something somewhat naive about the notion that even the best question will get an honest answer from the White House these days.

Dana Milbank writes in Wednesday's Washington Post: "Lewis Carroll had nothing on the Bush White House of 2007.

"The president and his aides have been trending toward the margins of reality for some time now, but with this week's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison term, the administration's statements dissolved into nonsense.

"President Bush, fielding questions yesterday after visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed, declared that 'the jury verdict should stand' -- and then, in answer to the same question, said he was open to vacating the verdict by granting Libby a full pardon.

"Logic suffered a more serious challenge when Bush press secretary Tony Snow, in his briefing, made the following points about Libby's case:

"· That Bush wasn't 'granting a favor to anyone' but that the case got his 'special handling.'

"· That it was not done for 'political reasons' even though 'it was political.'

"· That it was handled 'in a routine manner,' yet it was also 'an extraordinary case.'

"· That 'we are not going to make comments' on the case, even though Bush had already issued a 655-word statement commenting on the case."

Kenneth R. Bazinet writes in the New York Daily News: "It took White House mouthpiece Tony Snow 40 minutes and four explanations to say Vice President Cheney both did and didn't have a role in letting former top aide Lewis (Scooter) Libby skate without going to prison. . . .

"'I'm sure that the vice president may have expressed an opinion ... and he may have recused himself; I honestly don't know,' zigzagged Snow."

Here's the transcript of Tuesday's ludicrous briefing.

Asked why Rove was still working at the White House despite Bush's claim that any leakers would be fired, Snow suggested vaguely that Rove's role was still somehow the subject of further investigation. Would that it were so.

"Q Tony, you didn't answer the question about Karl Rove, though. So why wasn't Karl Rove fired?

"MR. SNOW: The reason I said that is because you're asking a question that still may be arising -- may be a subject of inquiry and ongoing --

"Q How many years is it going to take? I mean, the President made that statement in 2004.

"Q Fitzgerald said it's over.

"Q Fitzgerald said it's over.

"MR. SNOW: Well, Patrick Fitzgerald is not the one responsible for making a final decision on appeals. And I believe that --

"Q -- other special prosecutor?

"MR. SNOW: I believe that the Libby team, at this point, still has before the court an appeal.

"Q The President didn't wait for the appeals.

"Q What's the point of the statement --

"MR. SNOW: No, no, no, the point was that some of these issues -- it certainly does, because these are things that may come up as questions within the context of further trial.

"Q How does this square with the President saying, anybody who leaks in my White House, anybody who doesn't follow the law, is not going to work for me?

"MR. SNOW: Well, once we get -- once we get final determination on that, we'll deal with it. By the way, Karl was not accused of breaking any laws. He was not, in fact, indicted on anything. So you've got -- there's a lot of contention in this, but you also need to stick with the fact record.

"Q The President set a lower standard first. He didn't say about breaking the law, he said involved in leaking the identity. So you've changed the standard --

"MR. SNOW: No, no, no, I was just -- I was responding to that particular question. Again, when we get final clarity on this through the judicial system, I'll answer the question."

And blogger John Aravosis writes: "So after four years of pretending that this case mattered, that this crime mattered, that this leak mattered, the White House is now suggesting that leaking the name of an undercover CIA agent for political gain is business as usual in Washington, DC. Watch the video below, it quickly becomes clear that the White House's new position on this crime is that it wasn't a big deal - and they're not saying that Scooter lying wasn't a big deal, rather, they're now saying that outing a CIA agent wasn't a big deal."

Snow himself writes in a USA Today op-ed this morning: "The Constitution gives the president the power to grant clemency in a wide range of cases, at his discretion, with no restrictions. In the final hours of the Clinton administration, this unfettered authority was embodied in a mad rush to push through pardons with dizzying haste -- 141 grants on Clinton's final day in office, part of 211 in the final nine weeks.

"In contrast, no president in recent history has made more careful use of the pardoning power than George W. Bush: The president believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government."

Sentencing Guidelines and Precedents

Richard B. Schmitt and David G. Savage write in the Los Angeles Times that "records show that the Justice Department under the Bush administration frequently has sought sentences that are as long, or longer, in cases similar to Libby's. Three-fourths of the 198 defendants sentenced in federal court last year for obstruction of justice -- one of four crimes Libby was found guilty of in March -- got some prison time. According to federal data, the average sentence defendants received for that charge alone was 70 months.

"Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld a 33-month prison sentence for a decorated Army veteran who was convicted of lying to a federal agent about buying a machine gun. The veteran had a record of public service -- fighting in Vietnam and the Gulf War -- and no criminal record. But Justice Department lawyers argued his prison term should stand because it fit within the federal sentencing guidelines.

"That Bush chose to make an exception for a political ally is galling to many career Justice Department prosecutors and other legal experts. Federal prosecutors said Tuesday the action would make it harder for them to persuade judges to deliver appropriate sentences...

"Sentencing experts said Bush's action appeared to be without recent precedent. They could not recall another case in which someone sentenced to prison had received a presidential commutation without having served any part of that sentence. Presidents have customarily commuted sentences only when someone has served substantial time."

Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times: "In commuting I. Lewis Libby Jr.'s 30-month prison sentence on Monday, President Bush drew on the same array of arguments about the federal sentencing system often made by defense lawyers -- and routinely and strenuously opposed by his own Justice Department.

"Critics of the system have a long list of complaints. Sentences, they say, are too harsh. Judges are allowed to take account of facts not proven to the jury. The defendant's positive contributions are ignored, as is the collateral damage that imprisonment causes the families involved.

"On Monday, Mr. Bush made use of every element of that critique in a detailed statement setting out his reasons for commuting Mr. Libby's sentence -- handing an unexpected gift to defense lawyers around the country, who scrambled to make use of the president's arguments in their own cases."

Hearing Scheduled

The House Judiciary Committee has announced "a full committee hearing next week titled, 'The Use and Misuse of Presidential Clemency Power for Executive Branch Officials.' The hearing will be held next Wednesday, July 11, at noon."

Editorial Watch

The Boston Globe: "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."

Los Angeles Times: "The larger problem in commuting Libby's sentence is the message it sends to his unfortunately unindicted co-conspirator, Cheney."

USA Today: "[T]he message that's left is unmistakable: If you stand in the way of justice, you can get off easy if you have a friend in the White House."

Newsday: "Sparing Libby prison time pleased Bush's conservative political base. And it eliminated any incentive Libby had to reveal the role others, including his former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, may have played in outing Plame. That's good for Bush and it's certainly good for Libby. But it's not the equal treatment that justice demands."

Raleigh News and Observer: "Well, now we know what 'compassionate conservatism' means."

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: "President Bush's decision to reward Scooter Libby's perjury with a pass out of prison is reason enough to wonder whether this White House has any respect left for America's laws, the ones by which the little people live."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Anyone who is surprised that President George W. Bush commuted I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's prison sentence hasn't been paying enough attention to the way this administration does business:

"It wages a pre-emptive war in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. It ignores the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and wiretaps citizens without warrants. It holds prisoners for years without charges or trial, and uses secret prisons overseas where prisoners are tortured in everything but name. It nominates its own unqualified lawyer to the Supreme Court and fires career prosecutors to make room for its own stooges. It ravages the environment and calls it the Healthy Forests Act and Clear Skies Initiative. It walks away from international arms treaties and even claims the vice president isn't part of the executive branch.

"Surely giving Libby a get-of-jail-free card is no big deal."

Des Moines Register: "What is so exasperatingly unfair and hypocritical about George W. Bush's commuting of I. Lewis Libby's prison sentence is the president's utter failure to show similar compassion for the countless criminal convicts handed 'unreasonable' prison sentences on his watch."

Even the conservative Washington Times wasn't happy: "Perjury is a serious crime. This newspaper argued on behalf of its seriousness in the 1990s, during the Clinton perjury controversy, and today is no different. We'd have hoped that more conservatives would agree. . . .

"Had Mr. Bush reduced Libby's sentence to 15 months, we might have been able to support the decision. Alas, he did not."

And from across the pond, the Financial Times: "Mr Bush may feel he has little to lose, in the court of public opinion. His poll ratings are already at historic lows; sparing Mr Libby cannot hurt much. But he is wrong: every time the White House pretends it is above the law, America suffers."

Opinion Watch

Michael Kinsley writes in a New York Times op-ed: "Mr. Libby was questioned by federal investigators pursuing the leaks, he too was caught in a perjury trap. He could either tell the truth, thereby implicating colleagues and very possibly himself, in leaking classified security information (the identity of Mr. Wilson's wife), or he could lie. In either case he would be breaking the law or admitting to having done so, and in either case he could have gone to prison. Mr. Libby, like Mr. Clinton, made the wrong choice."

But a perjury trap involves questioning somebody under oath about something that is not illegal -- but that most reasonable people would lie about. (Like an embarrassing sexual escapade, for instance.) Questioning somebody about something quite likely illegal that either they or a close associate did -- that's not setting a perjury trap, that's investigating a crime.

Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon: "Bush's commutation of Libby's 30-month prison sentence for four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice was as politically necessary to hold his remaining hardcore base for the rest of his 18 months in office as it was politically damaging to his legacy and to the possibility of a Republican succession. It was also essential in order to sustain Libby's cover-up protecting Cheney and perhaps Bush himself."

Robert D. Novak writes: "When he finally decided he could not be responsible for sending Scooter Libby to federal prison, George W. Bush performed Monday as he had from the start in the CIA leak case. He sought to keep his distance from an incident that excited intense political emotions, making no value judgment other than that the jail sentence was unjustified."

Norman Pearlstine writes on Huffingtonpost.com: "Bush's rationale might have had some merit had Libby been convicted solely of perjury. If that were the case, one might argue that he was convicted of a 'process crime'. . . .

"But that isn't what happened. In addition to perjury, Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice. That was the most important charge against him. Patrick Fitzgerald's summation to the jury and his sentencing recommendation made it clear that Libby's obstruction precluded him from ever determining whether his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney had broken the law and what role the White House had played in outing Plame. . . .

"[T]he commutation of Libby's sentence is a cover-up, pure and simple."

Hunter blogs on Daily Kos: "Scooter Libby, loyal to the last, is getting his pardon on the installment plan. There is little advantage -- and distinct disadvantage -- for Bush to pardon the charges entirely, at the moment, but Bush indeed came through with an impeccably timed effort to ensure Libby faced no actual material consequences from his actions."

Andrew Sullivan blogs for the Atlantic: "I make no apologies for going cable on the Libby story. It's about a presidency above the law, and contemptuous of the justice system. It's about presidential defense of perjury. It's about the murky run-up to the Iraq war, in which the key claims of the administration were subsequently revealed as false. If all that is not a big deal, what is?"

Hilzoy blogs: [I]f George W. Bush is so worried about excessive sentences, how has he acted in previous cases in which a sentence might seem excessive? . . . Here's the short version: Serving twelve years for a rape that DNA testing shows you didn't commit does not get you a pardon. Being represented by a lawyer who slept through large chunks of the trial does not get you a pardon . . . "

Olbermann Calls for Resignations

MSNBC talk-show host Keith Olbermann, in a commentary Tuesday night, called for both Bush and Cheney to step down: "The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the 'referee' of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's analogy. These are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

"But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush -- and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal -- the average citizen understands that, Sir.

"It's the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one -- and it stinks. And they know it."

Libby and Iraq

Michael Hirsh writes for Newsweek: "When it comes to Iraq, or anything having to do with Iraq, George W. Bush is still running a no-fault foreign policy. Iraq is a quagmire, a tragedy of accumulated human errors that may be unparalleled in American history. Yet the president has not held a single member of his national-security team publicly responsible for any of those errors.

"Seen in that light, the president's commutation of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby's 30-month jail sentence on Monday could hardly be less surprising."

Ronald Brownstein writes in his Los Angeles Times opinion column: "Commuting Libby's sentence fits within a flurry of recent administration decisions that directly confront the president's opponents. . . .

"[T]he dominant message of his recent maneuvers is that even at low ebb, Bush hasn't abandoned his pugnacious approach to governing. If he can implement his ideas, he does, whether or not he's built consensus for them. . . .

"The lesson of Libby is that consensus matters no more to Bush today than when he was at his apex. He still responds to power, not argument. Watching Bush shrug off the Democratic outrage over Libby ought to show . . . uneasy Republicans how much their softer words on Iraq will affect the president -- unless they command his attention with a sharp slap of repudiation in the votes on the war that will soon consume Congress again."

Is Probation Possible?

How and whether Libby can actually serve two years of probation, as Bush is calling for, is an open question. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, said in court papers Tuesday that it is unclear whether a defendant who had not done jail time could still be subject to supervisory release, which is what his sentence had called for -- on top of 30 months in prison, of course. He asked the lawyers on both sides to advise him on the issue.

Firedoglake blogger Christy Hardin Smith points out this exasperated-sounding footnote: "If either party believes that it would be helpful to solicit clarification from the White House regarding the President's position on the proper interpretation of Sec. 3583 in light of his Grant of Executive Clemency, they are encouraged to do so."

Bush Hides From His Country

Hey, wouldn't it be nice if the president of the United States appeared in public on the Fourth of July?

Bush held court yesterday in front of an invitation-only audience crammed into a corner of a West Virginia Air National Guard maintenance hangar, giving a speech filled with tired and dubious analogies.

Here's the transcript.

Kelly O'Donnell reported for NBC News: "In West Virginia, before an invite-only crowd, where children, hand over heart, stirred a patriotic mood. . . . [Bush made] little reference to sectarian divisions in Iraq as a cause of chaos there, the president pointed to al Qaeda."

Tim Craig writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush warned Wednesday that the Iraq war 'will require more patience, more courage and more sacrifice,' as he appealed to a war-weary public for time and sought to link today's conflict to the storied battles that gave birth to the nation. . . .

"'We give thanks for all the brave citizen-soldiers of our Continental Army who dropped pitchforks and took up muskets to fight for our freedom and liberty and independence,' Bush said. He added: 'You're the successors of those brave men. . . . Like those early patriots, you're fighting a new and unprecedented war.'"

James Gerstenzang writes for the Los Angeles Times that it was a "reprise of speeches he delivered throughout the 2006 congressional campaign. . . .

"Offering a history lesson on the 231st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Britain, Bush said, 'We were a small band of freedom-loving patriots taking on the most powerful empire in the world.'"

Gerstenzang then notes: "It was not his intent to evoke a comparison to the Iraq war, but some Iraqis who oppose the continued presence of U.S. troops in their country have made similar arguments."

He also points out "there were hundreds of empty seats behind a towering American flag."

More Speech Fallout

As I wrote in Friday's column, Bush's speech last week at the U.S. Naval War College provoked some of the most fascinating, skeptical, persuasive and diverse analyses I have ever seen from mainstream-media reporters covering the same event.

The strong reaction continues from editorial boards.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes: "In the early years of Mr. Bush's presidency, it was the idea of retaliating against al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden that helped keep his approval ratings in the black. It was well into his fifth year before the smoke cleared and the majority of Americans could see that al-Qaida hadn't had anything to do with Iraq -- not until after his administration's botched occupation turned the country into a vast encampment of insurgents, including a group that labeled itself 'al-Qaida in Iraq.' . . .

"At the war college, the president told his audience about 'al-Qaida's remaining outposts' and 'al-Qaida's safe havens' and 'trapping al-Qaida' and 'transit stations for al-Qaida.' He said 'al-Qaida wasn't pleased' about democracy coming to Iraq. And he said his troop surge was working in Anbar and Diyala provinces, because 'Iraqis are beginning to understand that al-Qaida is the main enemy for Shia, Sunni and Kurds alike.'"

"The one problem with Mr. Bush's speech was that it wasn't precisely true. As retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, 'We cannot attribute all the violence in Iraq to al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is certainly a component, but there's larger components.'"

The Louisville Courier-Journal writes: "When President Bush felt the need last week to give a speech on Iraq, his handlers arranged a gig at the Naval War College in Rhode Island.

"That's no surprise. The White House certainly knows the reception he could receive from an unscreened American audience. But reporters traveling with the President noted that this military gathering, while respectful, didn't seem enthusiastic.

"Maybe that's because people in the military dislike lies as much as civilians do."

Impeachment Watch

Howard Blume writes in the Los Angeles Times: "If President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney were ever to be impeached, their foes could cite this Independence Day as a milestone -- the day that the nation's first 'impeachment headquarters' opened its doors in a storefront near the Beverly Center."

Cartoon Watch

Tom Toles, Pat Oliphant, John Sherffius, Rex Babin and Ann Telnaes on Libby and liberty.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive