Libby, not Taylor

The White House would love it if the Congressional Democrats made a victim out of Sara Taylor. When the fight is joined over “executive privilege,” let it be on a subpoena to Scooter Libby.

Look, I’m not inclined to try to give Josh Marshall lessons on political tactics; no doubt he’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know on the topic. But Marshall’s suggestion that Congressional Democrats “haul Sara Taylor off to the slammer” strikes me as loony. The public has never heard of her. As far as we know, she didn’t do anything wrong. She’s a reasonably photogenic young woman. And while it’s truly bizarre for the President to claim the power to “direct” someone who no longer works for him to defy a properly-issued Congressional subpoena, putting her in jail while we argue about the problem in court is sure to make her seem a sympathetic character.

On the other hand, if Scooter Libby cooled his heels in jail for a few weeks, only his buddies in the wingnut establishment and the Washington insiders’ club would shed any tears. His trial is over; his factual guilt or innocence of the charges of which he was convicted is not an issue for the Court of Appeals, which will be considering only whether there were formal mistakes made in the course of his indictment and trial.

So call him in, giving him immunity from prosecution for anything he might say (thus barring any Fifth Amendment claim), to ask him whether he was covering up for Cheney and/or Bush when he perjured himself. Let Bush assert Executive Privilege and “direct” him not to appear, and then go argue in court about that. If Fielding tries to raise the question of what legislative purpose is served by the inquiry, the answer is simple: we’re trying to figure out whether to impeach Cheney.

If that’s the issue before the courts, we’re much more likely to win. And if it’s Scooter who’s looking at jail time, we’ll have most of the country on our side.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: