Also in Rights and Liberties
Dear President Bush: Beware the Power of the Pardon
Sen. Russ Feingold
Memo to Obama: Closing Guantanamo Can't Wait
Charlotte Dennett promised that, if she won her race for attorney general of Vermont in the recent election, she would prosecute George W. Bush for the murder of 4,000 American soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians after he left office.
Unfortunately, Dennett did not become Vermont's attorney general. But it is possible (perhaps very possible) that one or more of our other 49 state attorneys general will take up that case after Jan. 20. Hopefully, that AG will appoint -- as Dennett promised to do --famed criminal attorney Vincent Bugliosi (author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder) as special prosecutor.
However, there will be no prosecution or trial of George Bush -- or Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Condoleezza Rice, or any of the others who deliberately deceived America into a war that should never have been waged -- if Bush decides to pardon not only his accomplices in crime but also himself.
We know that a president can pardon anyone, for any reason, and for any federal crime (except in cases of impeachment), not only after a conviction has been handed down in trial, but before any trial has even taken place, indeed before any charges have even been filed -- as Gerald Ford infamously pardoned Richard Nixon for Watergate; as George H. W. Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, Elliott Abrams and various CIA officials accused and/or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra affair; as Bill Clinton pardoned his brother, Roger, for drug trafficking and financier Marc Rich for tax evasion (after Rich's wife made a significant donation to the Clinton Presidential Library); and as current President George W. Bush more recently commuted "Scooter" Libby's prison term.
So -- can Bush do it? Can he pardon himself before leaving office?
According to attorneys whom I asked, there is no definitive legal answer.There is no case law on the subject and not even much legal analysis of the possibility. All there seems to be are three law review articles that analyze the self-pardon power with arguments for and against its legality. (I am convinced by the arguments against its legality, but given the present Supreme Court, who knows?).
You might be interested in a much less troublesome -- and perfectly legal -- route that Bush can take to avoid prosecution.
He can simply pardon Cheney (and everyone else) and immediately resign. Cheney then becomes president and pardons him. Short, sweet, and -- after consulting with an attorney -- perfectly legal.
Would the entire country freak out over such brazen self-dealing? No doubt. Would Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., care? Not a bit. After all, given the choice between a trial for high treason and murder (resulting in a possible death sentence) versus millions of people thinking badly of them (which 82 percent of the public already does), the answer is obvious.
But though the public might rise up in horror, politicians on all sides would secretly breath a sigh of relief. Especially Democrats. In fact, it is my guess that Obama and virtually every Democrat in Congress is secretly praying for Bush to "self-pardon" himself. Not because they wish him to escape justice, but because they don't want the politically dangerous, nationally divisive, and ultimately thankless task of having to administer it.
If Bush pardons himself, or gets Cheney to pardon him, he will let the Democrats off the hook, freeing them from the growing importuning of millions of Americans whose rage at Bush and Cheney will only grow greater as more and more insiders come forward to reveal the truth.
My only question is -- why is no one even discussing this?